More times than not, it’s often the case that car people also happen to be watch people, and if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Both fields hold a high regard for extreme precision, excellence, mechanical innovation, and emphasize the crucial importance that the minor adjustments of components like timing belts or escapements hold. At one point in time, a brand that still manufactures watches today once dabbled in automotive projects, and collaborated with some of the most celebrated marques of all time. The brand we speak of is horological giant Jaeger LeCoultre, and their involvement in the production of motoring instruments is accompanied by a compelling story, that more ought to know.
Dash-mounted Jaeger speedometer. Photo courtesy of AHS.

Starting in 1907, Jaeger began collaborating with another firm by the name of LeCoultre, seeing as they held a 15 year contract to produce movements for Cartier, and needed assistance. Then with the first World War underway, Edmond Jaeger was aware that expansion and diversification was necessary for survival during those times, and started producing aviation instruments for English and French pilots, again with the help of Jacques-David LeCoultre’s company. The byproducts of this collective effort became so revered, that even German pilots began using the Jaeger instruments from planes which they had shot down. This notion can be supported by the fact that a Jaeger instrument was found in Manfred von Richthofen’s cockpit, when the notorious German ace, known commonly as the Red Baron, was eventually defeated.
The wreckage of the Red Baron’s plane, where it’s believed that a Jaeger instrument was found.

Following that great success and the end of the war, Jaeger and LeCoultre applied the same standards of quality and know-how to manufacturing similar instruments and instrument clusters, only this time for automobiles. Coachbuilders of luxurious sedans and performance motoring outfits alike responded wonderfully, and by 1920, LeCoultre and Jaeger had made an astonishing 20,000 “counters” for the British market. This would then lead to the establishment of a London based workshop devoted exclusively to this venture, one which is said to have employed roughly 700 individuals in its heyday.
(From left) Edmond Jaeger and Jacques-David LeCoultre.

Though Jaeger’s tachymeters, speedometers, fuel gauges, and other dash-mounted tools may have been made in a London-based facility, they managed to make their way into the dashboards of countless important road and race cars from a variety of nations around the world. Here at Wound For Life, some of our favorite cars that featured such devices include the pre-WW2 Aston Martin Le Mans cars, which frequently won within their class.
A 1935, 1.5 Litre, Aston Martin LWB MKII Tourer. Photo courtesy of Sports Car Digest.

Involvement in this sector would then slow down for a multitude of reasons, namely the death of Jacques-David LeCoultre, and the increasing number of new players in the game. Smiths – another British manufacturer of watches would go on to dominate the dash-mounted*instrument market, though Jaeger clusters would still be seen in the dashboards of various MGs, Lamborghinis, Renaults, Abarths, and Lancias of later years. Without a doubt, this collaboration represents one of the most significant periods in the histories of the two companies, as it would eventually lead to their 1937 merger, making them the manufacture we know and love today: Jaeger LeCoultre.

Feature photo of a Jensen dashboard filled with Jaeger instruments is courtesy of Joerg from the Jensen Owner’s Club Forum.
by The post Lessons In Wristory: Jaeger Automotive Instruments appeared first on Wound For Life.


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