Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Amvox III: The Standard For Luxury Automotive Watch Themes
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Amvox III sets the standard for luxury watches that channel automotive themes; it’s the exception to the rule. From 2004 to 2014, Jaeger-LeCoultre of Le Sentier, Switzerland and Aston Martin of Gaydon, England sanctioned a series of watches – Amvox – that acknowledged nearly eight decades of Jaeger dashboard instruments in Aston Martin road cars. The history was real, and the watches proved as seductive as the wheels. In pole position among this esteemed range was the Amvox III GMT-Tourbillon: the supercar of the Amvox series.
The simple truth is that most luxury watch/automotive co-branding yields a product that does justice to neither partner. There have been enough clumsy attempts to fill the starting grid at Le Mans; Audemars Piguet/Maserati; Blancpain L-Evolution/Lamborgini; Breitling for Bentley; IWC/AMG-Mercedes; Oris-Audi Sport; Panerai Engineered for Ferrari; many more have been stalled on the road.
The luxury watch scene is strewn with polarizing and often counter-productive efforts to broaden product appeal by adding a marque to a maison. With few exceptions, the result alienates partisans of both brands and requires more rather than less energy to market and sell. Amvox was an exception.
By drawing on authentic history rather than the PR industry-standard press conference and a track day, the Amvox – a play on Jaeger-LeCoultre’s “Memovox” alarms – required no apologies or awkward CEO photo ops.
It helped that the watches were superb. 2005’s Amvox 1 wrist alarm and its larger “R-Alarm” sibling were the closest thing to a Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris re-edition until the actual 2008 “Tribute to Polaris”; 2006’s Amvox 2 delved further into the imagery of vintage automobiles while introducing a revolutionary pusher-less chronograph mechanism.
The 2008 Amvox III was designed explicitly to eclipse the growing throng of auto-inspired watches of the late 2000s. It was the most expensive Amvox yet with retail prices spanning $92,500 (Q193C450) to $98,500 (Q193K450); it was the most complicated Amvox yet thanks to an automatic winding tourbillon with GMT function; it was the most exclusive Amvox thanks to total production of 635 pieces against the thousands of Amvox 1 and 2 variants.
Available as a ceramic GMT-Tourbillon with platinum or rose gold accents, the kingpin of the Amvox line was designed to put the likes of Breitling, AP, Panerai, and IWC permanently one lap down on the leaderboard. Jaeger-LeCoultre combined its first-ever round ceramic case with the dial architecture of the Amvox 2, the 2009 Concours International de Chronométrie-winning GMT-tourbillon caliber 9X8 series, and rich contrasting materials.
Each Amvox III dial featured a 270-degree sweep of numerals and indices that recalled vintage Jaeger speedometers; the addition of a tourbillon made ideal use of this intentional gap from the earlier Amvox models. For good measure, the radial date indicator was designed to jump across the tourbillon aperture from the 31st directly to the 1st without pausing to obscure the rotating tourbillon cage. The GMT function was enabled by a stub hour hand at center and a sapphire AM/PM indicator disc below 12 o’clock. When not required, the second hour hand could be hidden and locked in place behind the local hour hand in order to clear the dial of clutter.
Additional automotive imagery arrived in the form of an Aston Martin DB-inspired grille-like latticework beneath the hour track, and the crown’s deeply knurled form emulated the style of vintage Aston Martin gas caps. A complex and substantial strap was crafted from perforated calf skin leather and textile material; contrasting stitching was employed. All told, the look of the strap evoked mid-century automotive upholstery and the kind of driving gloves that Carrol Shelby and Roy Salvadori used to win Le Mans in the 1959 Aston Martin DBR1 race car. JLC appointed each Amvox III with a deployant clasp.
Power House Performance
No automotive-themed luxury watch is complete without a high-performance power plant, and the Amvox III did justice to its namesake. A Jaeger-LeCoultre caliber 988 provided all functions with panache worthy of an Aston Martin Vanquish S. Although generally given to understated and technically refined calibers, JLC’s treatment of the 35-jewel caliber 988 verged on outlandish. Elements of the motion works, date drive, and tourbillon monopolized the dial while a display caseback revealed PVD-coated split bridges.
For the only time in a production JLC watch, the ultra-dense platinum-iridium winding mass and carbon fiber rotor of the 2007 Extreme Lab concept watch were implemented. When combined with unidirectional winding and ceramic bearings, the result likely was the most efficient watch winding system of the 2000s. Caliber 988’s 48-hour power reserve and modern architecture ensured everyday reliability. Each Amvox III was akin to an Aston Martin: an exotic machine robust enough to take to work.
Amvox III models are scarce. 300 pieces were built in each of ceramic-rose gold and ceramic-platinum. A 35-piece ceramic-titanium limited edition with orange accents was built in 2011 for the Jaeger-LeCoultre Paris flagship boutique. The rose gold variant is warmer; the platinum models are more directly reminiscent of automotive hardware; the Paris boutique model is orange-accented and inflected with an irrepressible Gaelic wackiness. All Amvox III models feature refreshingly little co-branding; petit Aston Martin wings on the lower dial and metal caseback are the only explicit signatures.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Amvox series belongs to an onrushing history that has engulfed Aston icons David Brown, Shelby, engine designer “Tadek” Marek, and the storied production facility at Newport Pagnell. Unlike these lapsed legends, the Amvox watches remain to be experienced and enjoyed. Although the Aston Martin-Jaeger-LeCoultre Amvox series has ended, the machines endure. Like Jaeger gauges in vintage Aston Martin cars, the Amvox III remains special, thrilling, and built to span generations.