It has become my tradition in recent years to wear and wrist-test a GMT or world-time watch during my annual pilgrimages to the Swiss watch fairs — Carl F. Bucherer’s Patravi TravelTec II, at Baselworld 2016, and Parmigiani’s Tonda Hemispheres, at last year’s SIHH, being recent examples. This year, Jaeger-LeCoultre, one of the brands exhibiting at the 2018 SIHH in Geneva, was kind enough to provide me with an ideal traveling companion, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Geographic, a watch launched at SIHH 2016 as part of the brand’s 25th-anniversary Master Collection.
The watch has a charmingly old-fashioned appeal, with a modest but still contemporary 39 mm in diameter for the stainless steel case; the thin bezel has a gleaming, polished finish, as do the top surfaces of the curving lugs, while the sides of the round case have a brushed finish. The crowns – one in the traditional 3 o’clock position for winding and setting the local time, the other at 10 o’clock for advancing the world-time city disk in either forward or backward direction — are very petite but fluted for easier gripping, with the tiny relief JLC logo on their rounded surfaces.
The elegantly sloped bezel frames the dial, protected under an ever-so-slightly domed sapphire crystal. The first things you notice about the dial are its understated cleanliness and the admirable restraint shown in its overall design; the navy blue highlights are very judiciously used. In the center are openworked, baton-shaped hour and minute hands and a thin seconds hand with a somewhat wide counterweight. The outer rim of the dial, with its Arabic hour numerals and thin rectangular indices in black and blue, is circular satin-brushed, while the center of the dial has an opaline finish.
Below the central pivot point of the hands, and breaking the plane of the opaline dial center, is a small subdial, with a circular guilloché motif — that makes three distinctly different finishes on the dial, for those keeping score, yet the dial never looks too busy or “over-engineered” — and overlaid by a tiny crosshairs, upon which two minuscule hands display the time in the wearer’s home time zone on a 12-hour scale. An even smaller subdial, with an even smaller hand, intersects this one at about the 9 o’clock point, serving as a 24-hour indicator that reminds the traveler wearing it, once he has set his new local time on the central hands, whether it is AM or PM back in his home time zone.
The city disk, operated by the 10 o’clock crown and viewed in an aperture underneath the subdial, uses blue text for the names of the 24 world cities, each of which which align with a blue triangular pointer as the wearer cycles through them to glimpse the time in other cities around the world. This is a feature that, as always, proved useful to a business traveler in Geneva who needs to keep track of goings-on back in New York, both at home and in the office — though it may have been moreso if the 24-hour subdial wasn’t quite so tiny.
Flipping the Master Geographic over reveals the movement, on display through a clear sapphire caseback, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s self-winding Caliber 939A/1. Comprised of 310 pieces, including 34 jewels, it is wound by a heavy, skeletonized gold rotor adorned with côtes de Genève, oscillates at 28,800 vph and amasses a 43-hour power reserve. Like all movements in Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Control collection, it has undergone a battery of rigorous tests at the manufacture in Le Sentier in order to earn Jaeger-LeCoultre’s “1000 Hours Control” in-house certification — a process inaugurated in 1992 for the first Master Control timepieces but which has since been extended to all of the brand’s models. To earn this stamp of quality, cased watches are tested in six positions over a six-week period to reproduce the conditions they will be worn under, taking into account temperature variations, accidental impacts, power-reserve capacity, and water resistance. The process is even more stringent than the one that the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC) uses to determine chronometer certification (and to learn more about those standards, click here). Of course, like most all of JLC’s in-house calibers, this one is also very easy on the eyes, with its côtes de Genève-finished mainplate, dotted with blued screws, visible through the cutouts in the rotor.
Needless to say, the Master Geographic drew some admiring glances during my days at the SIHH (especially at Jaeger-LeCoultre’s gala event celebrating the launch of this year’s headliners, the new Polaris collection, an event one would of course expect to be packed with aficionados of the brand) and out and about in Geneva. The dark blue alligator leather strap and black/blue/silver color palette made it easy to accessorize with the dressy navy, black, and gray suits that I tend to sport during the world’s most elegant watch salon; this watch looks just great with a suit, period. And every glance at the two-time-zone dial makes you feel every bit the cosmopolitan citizen of the world, whether you’re at an elegant dinner in Geneva or just sitting in your office in New York waiting for the West Coasters to start their workday and return some emails. (I’ve been in both of these scenarios.) Jaeger-LeCoultre has set the price of this interesting and very useful complication (the company has said its contemporary Master Control models will focus on “everyday utility”) at $9,400, just under that oft-intimidating five-figure ceiling.