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Jaeger LeCoultre, The Futurmatic Reference E502 Rare 37mm “Porthole”, 1950s

Jaeger LeCoultre, The Futurmatic Reference E502 Rare 37mm “Porthole”, 1950s

Regular price $22,750.00
Regular price Sale price $22,750.00
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This is a very fine and the absolute rarest versions of my most favorite watches EVER: Futurmatic Ref. E502 made by Jaeger LeCoultre (JLC) in the mid-1950s. This iconic reference had a short production run between 1952-1958 and represented JLC’s entry into the self-winding wristwatch market with a complex and innovative movement. Jaeger managed to encase the technology in an elegant and pure watchcase which is instantly recognizable thanks to the elimination of the winding crown. The manufacturer presented the watch as the “world’s first fully automatic wristwatch” because it never runs out of power completely. The crown fitted in the back of the watch is used to set time, not to wind.

The original reference 501 showed the power and running seconds using conventional hands at 3 and 9 o’clock. The rare Ref 502 is also called " Porthole " due to these 2 very small windows which let appear the power reserve at 9 and a turning arrow featuring the seconds at 3.

The watch comes with JLC Caliber 817 movement, 17 jewels, 18,000 vibrations per hour, and 40 hours of power reserve. Some of the innovations in the movement include:

  • A special six (6) hour power reserve, allowing the watch to function immediately when it is put on the wrist rather than requiring it to be wound first.
  • A patented stop-work mechanism that locks the movement near the end of its power reserve, reducing wear on the movement as it runs out of power.
  • The elimination of the winding crown, allowing for a larger and heavier balance wheel that results in a more accurate watch.
  • A hacking mechanism that stops the motion of the balance wheel while setting time, so the user can synchronize the watch with another source to the second.
  • A winding rotor that is suspended both from above and below the movement. Supporting the rotor from both sides eliminates lateral movement, adding longevity to the watch.
  • An antimagnetic balance design with Kif shock protection.
  • A 40-hour power reserve indicator.

The vast majority of Futurmatics were made in 34.5 mm cases with a snap case back. Only a small number of the European models were made in a massive 37mm case and fitted with a two-piece screwed back – a desirable feature for keeping moisture out. They are rare in stainless steel, and I have only seen a couple of them with the “porthole” design … never in this condition.

Along with the Geophysic E168, the Futurmatic is one of the landmark watches made by Jaeger LeCoultre after World War II.  At a time when Patek Philippe and others were introducing automatic movements, JLC released the Futurmatic with some brilliant design features that set the model apart from the competition. 

The current watch, in the rare 37mm unpolished stainless steel case, with a screw-back, is without any doubt one of the rarest and most desirable configuration of Futurmatic one can find. This watch comes with the original mint+ dial. The case and dial are signed. We paired it with an amazing stainless steel bracelet from the 1960s.

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