Watch Test: Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Diving Navy SEALs

In 2011, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced a limited-edition version of its Master Compressor Diving watch designed with the input of United States Navy SEALs. WatchTime got hold of one and put it through our in-depth watch testing gauntlet. Scroll down to see the results of the test, originally published in our print edition, along with photos by Nik Schölzel.

In 2002, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced a new line of sports watches called Master Compressor, characterized by round cases and distinctive protruding crowns. In recent years, watch manufacturers have taken to partnering with various elite military units to emphasize the toughness and professional utility of even their most luxurious sport models. For this Master Compressor Diving watch, Jaeger-LeCoultre teamed up with the U.S. Navy SEALs. The typical Navy SEAL is trained to perform equally effectively in the air, on land, and in the water (hence the acronym, which stands for Sea, Air and Land). His equipment must be rugged and always reliable. At the start of the project, Jaeger-LeCoultre outfitted several SEALs with Master Compressor divers’ watches and took note of their feedback. For example, the testers remarked that the cases and rotating bezels reflected light too strongly and that the surfaces of the watches should be less shiny and more matte. The SEALs also suggested that the construction of the bezels needed rethinking, because they sometimes separated from the cases when the watches were subjected to the SEALs’ tough daily regimens. Jaeger-LeCoultre created a modified version of the Master Compressor, based on their suggestions, at its headquarters in Le Sentier, Switzerland. Called the Master Compressor Diving Automatic Navy SEALs, it is limited to 1,500 pieces, and engineered to be tough and sturdy under all conditions, including under water, to depths of 300 meters. (Click the watch photos for larger images.)

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Diving - Navy SEALs

In addition to toughness and absolute reliability, the legibility of its time display is the single most important aspect of a divers’ watch. Jaeger-LeCoultre deserves praise in this area, because it would be difficult to imagine better styling for the dial and hands. The high contrast between matte black and white, the clear typography of the numerals, and the shape of the hands combine to ensure perfect legibility of the time under all conditions — even without nonreflective treatment on both surfaces of the sapphire crystal. In the dark, the watch glows so brightly and for such a long time that it almost seems as though there were a light source behind it. Jaeger-LeCoultre has applied a new, extra-powerful Super-LumiNova to the numerals, indices, and hands, as well as to the little marking triangle on the rotatable ceramic bezel, which clicks cleanly into place in one-minute increments. Each click is rich and resonant, a contrast with the weak clicks of so many other divers’ watches.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Diving - Navy SEALs -side view
The rotating bezel clicks into place in one-minute increments.


Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Diving - Navy SEALs - buckle
The watch’s pronged buckle offers more security and is easier to adjust than a folding clasp.

The surface of the steel case is entirely matte finished and embellished with a longitudinal, abraded pattern. This gives the watch an attractive technical look and helps to reduce glare. The only downside to the case, from a comfort standpoint, is that the lower edges of the lugs are a bit too sharp. The play between the lugs and the leather strap could also be improved. When the watch is strapped onto the wrist, an unattractive crevice appears between the flank of the case and the matching shape of the strap: an automotive journalist would probably complain about the gap dimensions. If the strap fit more neatly into the case, it would probably be somewhat stiffer, but after a few days of wear it would develop the necessary “give,” and the crevice would be much neater and more narrow.

The choice of a pronged buckle over a folding clasp was a wise one for this watch. The former provides greater security and also makes it simpler to adjust the strap’s length. The high-quality leather strap on our tested watch sheds water, but if you’re looking for even greater water resistance, you can swap it for an optional, linked rubber strap, which gives the watch a very different look.

To read the full review, including detailed specs and test scores, click here. 

This article was originally posted on June 13, 2012 and has been updated.





No Responses to “Watch Test: Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Diving Navy SEALs”

Show all responses
  1. Anthony

    I thought I might chime in on the having have mine for about 6 years now. This is hands down a great dive watch. The lume on it remains incredible even now. Some people complained the bezel was too loose. I didn’t find this to be the case at all. But, lets me honest, this is really just a backup dive watch for diving. Serious divers use other equipment to monitor dive times etc. But, as a backup watch this watch is more than adequate. I found the bezel is actually easy to rotate when your hands are wet and have been in the water for a while. I had a Seiko divers that was way too stiff and my bare fingers just slip over the knurling. The ceramic bezel refuses to be scratched and looks as good today as it did when I bought it, The crystal is very legible and has also escaped scratches. The watch isn’t my in the woods beater watch – I have a Casio for that. But, it is a nice change up from the ubiquitous Rolex Sub or GMT and prefer it to my old Sub anyway. As far as accuracy, maybe I just got lucky but my watch has been pretty amazing at about 1.8 sec/day. But, then again, when before I bought it I asked that the watch be timed – anything less than COSC an I wasn’t going to buy it. I don’t think it was an anomaly. I have a Reverso and it is also running COSC. I also opted for the articulated rubber strap – this is by far the best bracelet I have ever had for comfort and looks. I bought several other expensive OEM straps for the watch and only tried them for a short time before returning back to my articulated rubber bracelet. I will say one thing – if you are small man with a small wrist this isn’t the watch for you, even more so if are thinking about the GMT or Alarm versions of this watch. Some may argue that JLC pulled a marketing stunt with the watch. Maybe they did – but the watch is a great watch, had input from real operators and incorporated their input into a commercial watch that caters to and is a bit of a homage to special forces types. I don’t see that as any diffferent than A. Lange & Sohne making a watch honoring various watch makers or celebrating various events in history. The difference is I can relate to this watch, being a US Army Ranger. This watch will be staying with me until I die.

  2. Bert Kanne

    Watches are one of the few items men can purchase that relate to many different activities. These include automobiles, aviation, yachting, law enforcement, the military, etc. The best part is, your choices are endless and people comment on it all!

  3. I have owned the chrono/GMT version since 2011. I actually use it internationally and have dived with it (on several occasions). I am not blowing up bridges or setting off timed explosives – so no complaints about accuracy (I have not noticed anything close to 10 sec/ day, but adjust the GMT often). As far as the “marketing” (SEAL) designation, I do also appreciate that “Navy SEAL “branding is hidden from the face and reserved. (for all the reasons listed in the comments) – I still love the design, utility and luminosity of this watch. No complaints. One of my favorites.

  4. Tobias Bertelsen

    Well the gaining of time (12sec) a day is easy to explain!
    You see it is important that a real Navy Seal (camouflaged as a businessman trying obviously trying to buy himself some status through an expensive JLC) shows up BEFORE the mission starts and not after…

    Honestly… these are expensive watches that are made as jewelry for men. If you want precision to the very second every day you will need to have very accurate calibrated timing instruments… How is time on watches measured today anyhow digitally???

    As other people in this thread have already mentioned, perhaps a G-shock is more suited for serious action and activities!

    I myself have had my share of problems with an Omega Speedmaster… I had it for 10 years and it cost me more to maintain the watch during this period than the purchase price. I finally sold it with a minor loss and swore never to own an omega again. The nerve of some of these high end watch groups… However I do like the prestige and have recently purchased a Zenith… hope it will function a lot better than the Omega. I also really want to have a JLC Navy Seal… so I will probably filter the stuff I read on this site to fit my liking….


  5. Roadster

    Over rated…I owned a JLC world extreme chrono…not an accurate brand when it comes to telling time which to me is the whole point of wearing a watch…I sent it out 3x times to JLC in NY and in fact met w their master watch maker/director who was in charge of everything…technically speaking…
    As their advertisement says…”have you worn a real watch?”…
    The answer to that is yes!…its called a BALL world timer diver…

  6. During WWII. Lots of watchmaker made watches for military. No surprise JLC make one for SEALs.

    • JLC provided wrist watches for Royal Australian Air Force aircrews in the mid-Sixties to Seventies. They were a bulky, stainless steel watch and kept good time from what I remember. I liked wearing mine, but unfortunately, had to hand it back when I left the service.

      There are probably better diving watches eg, the Oris seems to be doing okay and is reasonably priced.

  7. As a former owner of this particular watch, i can confirm the test result from the review conducted. My watch was bought brand new from a local AD amd it was already running fast +12 sec ish per day. I took it back to them and they timed it, had similar results with the review above. Afterwards i noticed the minute markers on the rehaut did not align centered to the lume marker at 6, 9, and 12 position. I had the watch sent for servicing via my AD who acknowledged the mis alignment as well. 6 months later it came back, supposedly from swiss as the regional service center did not have the capacity to service the watch.

    Guess what? The movement timing still show similar results, and the watch still gained 10+ secs per day. The rehaut misalignment? Still the same. Nothing was done to fix it. This does not include the fact the wacth came back with caseback scratches too. Long story short, i sold off the watch, took quite a loss, but i’m very happy with the replacement i got, from another brand. I’d never touch another JLC after the experience.

  8. Allen Irwin

    You do not no the history of Jaeger,look at the Reverso and its origins.I am a diver so I am aware of the obuse a divers watch has to take.If this is tested in the most extreme way in development great.And yes I am in the process of purchasing one over a Rolex,and I am a working man not a rich tycoon.Regards Allen

  9. I think it cheapens the JLC brand to do these types of pieces. Its akin to omega pimping James Bond editions of the Seamaster. No real world SEAL is ever going to choose this watch over say, a g shock, to actually take into combat. They might wear one of these when they retire but that’s about it. Leave the pimping of rugged watches to wannabe SEALS to Luminox

Leave a Reply