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