Jaeger-LeCoultre were showing strongly at SalonQP 2010, with the new Master Compressor Extreme Lab 2 GMT (Tribute to Geophysic). But alongside that impressive piece, was a gentleman, a desk, and a great deal of very, very small jewels. I was offered a loupe and a guided tour of one of JLC's more mainstream automatic movement - a 938 or similar movement by the looks of the dial on display. All 273 parts! Loupe in hand (well, in eye) I squinted at jewels, cogs, screws, and of course, the more exciting parts of the watch, such as the various bridges, escapement parts and the rotor. But it was the jewels to which I kept returning.
There's a photo* in Peter Speake-Marin's A Passion for Watchmaking that he also posted as a teaser on Twitter: it's of a pile of jewels. Sparkling, pink and utterly beautiful. I'd not seen so many in one place before, and it started something of a minor fascination with these strange, synthetic rubies. The jewels for any watch largely have two purposes: to reduce friction and act as a reservoir for lubricants. To see so many on the JLC stand was just as remarkable.
A finished movement was also on display - without the rotor and it was lovely to spend a few minutes talking about the finer side of horology - actually making a watch. I learnt, for example, that it only takes a couple of hours to take one of these (standard movement) JLCs apart, clean it and put it all together. My host seemed to suggest that there's really only one way all 273 parts can fit together - although I'm not sure it'd be so easy for anyone else. Altogether a fascinating time spent talking about a fascinating brand.
*page 166 if you have a copy - and if you don't, shame on you