E335 Lecoultre Valjoux 72 Chronograph
Valjoux 72 is a broad church. Everyone thinks manual Daytona first. But the legendary chronograph calibre is behind much of great vintage Heuer, Universal, Breitling, and Enicar. Lesser known, its widespread adoption even intersects with the history of the esteemed ‘Grande Maison’ Jaeger-Lecoultre. And where V72 meets JLC, it is a bizarre, varied, but undeniably beautiful existence. You’ll find Breguet numerals, Arabics, straight indices, black dials, white dials, textured dials, luminous hands, and blued steel hands, all under one great, slightly overlooked vintage reference: E335.
And if you want an additional layer of cool, this is a JLC made for only the US market, or technically just ‘LC’. Signing dials Lecoultre only was JLC’s standard practice for the brand from 1937 until 1985 for US exports, with a few exceptions, for trademark and subsequent import tax reasons. Perfectly in line with the long running Swiss/American tradition of tax evasion. Every E335 I’ve come across so far bears the LeCoultre signature only. Think of it as a yank Daytona from the watchmaker’s watchmaker. And in that framing, it’s kind of amazing that these aren’t more collected. 35.6mm as well, with these beautiful sharply faceted lugs. This black dial with white tachymetre is very classic, and the straight luminous hands add a sporting edge.
I’m constantly hearing that there are no inexpensive vintage watches left anymore. Now, that’s all relative, point taken. However, this is watch that’s never had a reference points. Barely been mentioned by any of the mainstream watch media, ever. It’s proportionally a dream. Has an unimpeachable calibre, huge brand value, and modern design details. There’s a blank space in scholarship for someone yet to assemble a guide to all the myriad variants. And it’s currently comparatively half as valuable as a 60s Autavia or an order of magnitude less expensive than a 6265, etc. It’s the sort of watch that makes you proud to be a nerdy enthusiast and rewards your efforts. One cannot simply scratch the surface of horology and find great value these days. But if you break out the shovels, things like this are waiting to meet you, like spending XJS money to get an Eagle E-Type back when no one had heard of them.
This example is quite incredible too, if the background weren’t enough. Definitely an attractive iteration with the black dial and white tachymetre, and sporting straight hands that are a bit Rolex-adjacent. Its case is very strong, look at that back and the lugs, perhaps lightly polished but hard to tell without a loupe. The thing even comes with its full set, which is pretty much unheard of as these were never safe queen collector’s picks. It comes from a new social media retailer presence of a well-regarded private collector called Hidden Gem Watches, an auspicious start.