Words Alex Doak Photography Wilson Hennessy
There had been plenty of car and watch co-branding exercises prior to 2004, and there have plenty more since – but none has ever shared values to such dramatic effect as Aston Martin and Jaeger-LeCoultre.
Despite one being a Midlands car maker and the other being a master of smaller mechanical marvels in the Jura mountains, there’s something about the partnership that just works – from the odd flash of brake-caliper red in a watch dial, to the ‘quietly powerful’ shared philosophy recognised in both brands. Right from the start, this was never going to be a case of sticking two logos on a watch dial or resurrecting some motorsport connection long since consigned to the mists of time. Whenever Jaeger-LeCoultre and Aston Martin combine, there is complete symbiosis.
So, as numb as we might be to the watch world’s endless parade of anniversaries, there’s no denying that we’d feel short-changed should this year of all years – Jaeger-LeCoultre’s 180th and Aston’s centenary – pass unmarked by a new AMVOX watch at the very least. As it turns out, we’ve been spoilt. This year sees the launch of not one but three collaborations, more of which later.
Jaeger-LeCoultre AMVOX7 Chronograph: Titanium 44mm case, automatic movement, vertical-trigger chronograph, alligator leather strap, water-resistant to 50m. Price: £17,400
But first, back to 2004 and the first AMVOX. A revival of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s buzzing ‘Memovox’ alarm watch of the 1960s, the original AMVOX was, in hindsight, a quiet start to proceedings, but the synergies were already clear – from the 270-degree sweep of its speedo-style numerals to the upholstery-leather strap.
Not content with mere aesthetics, however, the watchmakers chose to capitalise on the Aston connection as a spur to new ideas. The AMVOX2 Chronograph that followed in 2005 was a genuinely progressive bit of ‘haute horlogerie’. Doing away with conventional pushbuttons, it consigned start, stop and reset functionality to its sapphire crystal, which, when pushed, vertically triggered the mechanism.
This clever allusion to the ‘Engine Start’ button was the most tangible link ever seen in an industry bustling with ‘carllaborations’ banking solely on dashboard or wheel-inspired designs.
The mastercraftsmen at Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Le Sentier factory near Geneva then subjected AMVOX2 to an overhaul worthy of Bond’s Q-Branch. They succeeded in miniaturising the electronic components of the Aston Martin key fob and integrating them within the existing AMVOX2 movement. Thus, the AMVOX2 DBS, DB9 and Rapide-edition ‘Transponders’ were the first mechanical timepieces to operate as the key to a luxury sports car. It is difficult to imagine a watch more closely or faithfully intertwined with the driving experience.
In between, we had the AMVOX3 tourbillon and an AMVOX7 chronograph with a clever pincer-like power reserve peeking through the stencil dial. There was also a V8 Vantage Roadster edition of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s iconic Reverso, its flippable case drawing parallels with the ‘Baby’ Aston Martin’s new convertible roof, according to the brands.
Jaeger-LeCoultre AMVOX5 World Chronograph: Ceramic and pink gold 44mm case, automatic movement, chronograph and world-time functions, calfskin leather strap, water-resistant to 50m. Price: £19,300
Snap forward to 2013, then, and we find the three anniversary models. First among these is the AMVOX5 World Chronograph Cermet, which could be the most extreme, high-performance progeny of the Gaydon-Sentier Affair yet. Given that this year saw Aston launch its hardest, fastest road car yet – the V12 Vantage S – this feels doubly appropriate.
Arguably the most multifunctional iteration of the AMVOX range, AMVOX5 still manages at-a-glance legibility despite a potentially confusing combination of world-time function and chronograph – all thanks to the hierarchical arrangement of the classic Aston Martin colours. Black, anthracite, white and red work as effectively as they do handsomely.
Eschewing the ubiquitous trend for spiking any car-related watch with carbon fibre and yet more carbon fibre, Jaeger-LeCoultre has, yet again, taken the intellectual route and opted for a case made of titanium and reinforced cermet. Cermet is a hugely avant-garde material developed for high-powered racing engines, and combines performance and shock-resistance with extraordinary lightness. This comes from its core of aluminium and ceramic microspheres, plus 40-micron-thick protective ceramic coating. Crafting this material into the complex AMVOX case shape takes some doing.
Close behind, and just as feature-packed, is the new Master Compressor Extreme W-Alarm Aston Martin – a rare deviation from the well-furrowed Memovox format, updating a robust piece that debuted in 2005. It’s another world-timer, but with watertight compression keys on the pushers, along with a sophisticated shock-absorbing inner case, plus a rich, sonorous alarm that can be set to the minute.
As usual, you’re reminded of the Extreme W-Alarm’s high-octane pedigree by its dial’s intricate surface treatment, evoking the signature latticed grille found
on every Aston Martin sports car.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Hometime Aston Martin: Stainless steel 40mm case, automatic movement, second time zone, alligator leather strap, water-resistant to 50m. Price: £5,800
However, if you’re one of those types who orders the DB9 in sober grey, and prefers something more subtle on your wrist, then the most understated Aston Martin watch yet has been launched this year: the special-edition Master Hometime Aston Martin.
An almost imperceptibly branded watch (for the business traveller who doesn’t like to brag about the dormant V12 beast back home), it features the collection’s characteristic colours of black, white and red – but mostly black. A tiny crimson flash is reserved for the tip of the openwork second hour hand, making the local time instantly readable. And when our discriminating traveller returns? Simply flick the GMT hand back beneath the hometime hand as soon as the plane touches the tarmac.
Quite apart from being thoroughly stylish, sophisticated slices of micro-engineering, all three of 2013’s new pieces are proof – if proof was needed – that the partnership between Jaeger-LeCoultre and Aston Martin is more vibrant than ever. Long may the two-way street between Gaydon and Le Sentier remain open.
Aston Martin Vanquish Coupe
For its centenary, Aston set itself the goal of making ‘the greatest Aston Martin in history’. The stunning Vanquish is the result.
- Engine: 6.0-litre, V12
- Power/torque: 573bhp, 620Nm
- 0-62mph: 4.1 seconds
- Top speed: 183mph
- Price: from £190,000
Available from www.hrowen.co.uk