Mention Triple Calendar Chronographs and I instantly conjure up images of watches made in the 1940’s – the Tri-Compax from Universal Geneve, the Rolex ‘Killy’ Dato-Compax Chronograph, or the Breitling Datora. Looking back, the Forties seemed like a good time for calendar watches. The year 1941 saw the introduction of the first serially produced Perpetual Calendar Chronograph, the Patek Philippe Ref. 1518. No too many had the horological chops to compete with Patek’s 1518 but making a Triple Calendar Chronograph was easier. In the 1940’s and 50’s, most of them were powered by the accessible Valjoux 72c (c for calendar), the Valjoux 723, or the Valjoux 88 movements.
Its popularity seems to have waned by the end of the 1960's and it eventually evolved into the Annual Calendar Chronograph (the first one, Patek's Ref. 5035 appeared in 1996) . The look was distinct though – the month and date in separate apertures at the top of the dial, the date indication (either placed around the periphery or in a subdial at 6 o’ clock, a moon-phase indication, and the two counters of the chronograph – it was probably the original sports-chic watch. And yet there are so few modern examples on the market today.
Jaeger-LeCoultre bucked the trend when it introduced the Master Control Chronograph this year as part of the revamped Master Control line during Watches & Wonders 2020. Now this is one manufacture brand that’s made pretty much every kind of timepiece there is - from the haute de gamme Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel to a no-nonsense diver like the Master Compressor Diving Automatic Navy SEALs (remember this one?). Yet I can’t recall a Triple Calendar Chronograph in their past, though they produced a gorgeous Triple Calendar with Moon-phase indication and teardrop-shaped lugs as far back as the 1940s. The Master Control sits ensconced between the more elegant Master line and the sporty Polaris range. The revamped models this year features movements with technological upgrades like silicon parts in the escapement and titanium screws on the bridges.
The watch is available in stainless steel or ‘Le Grand Rose gold’ – a proprietary new alloy made by mixing palladium to rose gold that results in a more durable metal that holds up well against the elements and the vagaries of time, the new Master Control Chronograph Calendar’s case measures a modern 40 mm in diameter and is 12.5 mm thick. The case has an array of satin-brushed and polished finishes and a sapphire exhibition caseback showcasing the new movement, the self-winding Caliber 759 (More on that later). Both case materials use silvered sun-ray dials.
The watch’s suite of functions are spread out in a pleasing layout: day and month in a double window below 12 o’clock; sub-dials at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock for 30 chronograph minutes and running seconds, respectively. The days of the month are arranged on the edge of moon-phase subdial at 6 o’clock. The flange has a vintage-style pulsometer scale. Generally seen on chronograph watches, the pulsometer scale is used in conjunction with the watch’s chronograph function to measure a person’s heart rate. The scale is usually calibrated to 15 or 30 heartbeats (or pulsations).
Time is indicated by rhodium-plated dauphine-shaped hands and applied rhodium wedge indices mark the hours. On the rose gold version, the indices and hands are in matching rose gold. My only gripe with the steel watch is the tone of the hands and indices - it doesn’t provide for a strong-enough contrast against the silver dial. The use of blued hands (used on the chronograph hands and the running seconds hand) may have been a better choice for the hours and minutes hand. All the indications of the calendar - the day, month, moon-phase, and day - can be adjusted via pushers on either side of the case, the crown is only used to wind or set the time.
This watch is powered by a new manufacture movement, the Caliber 759. A self-winding movement with a gold rotor bearing the brand’s logo, this is based on the Caliber 751 chronograph movement with its vertical clutch and column wheel construction. The movement’s also notable for its use of silicon components in the escapement. Finished to a high quality, movement has a power reserve of 65 hours.
The steel version is paired with a Novonappa calf leather strap that’s comfortable on the wrist and is supposed to develop a lovely patina over time. The rose gold version is presented on a more traditional brown alligator leather strap. A lug attachment and a simple clip for removing and refitting the deployant buckle ensures that the Novonappa strap can be quickly changed, without the need for any tool. With its mid-century style codes and modern movement and case, this is undoubtedly one of the coolest watches launched this year. The steel version retails for $15,000, that’s a lot of watch for the price. The version in “Le Grand Rose gold” is priced at $26,000.