As we hinted on Thursday on WatchTime’s social media, Jaeger-LeCoultre has announced the return of a collectors’ classic from the brand’s archives: a limited-edition chronometer watch called the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic 1958.
The original Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic was created in 1958, designated as the “International Geophysical Year” in which 67 nations from the East and West cooperated, during the height of the Cold War, to undertake a series of scientific explorations of the planet’s unexplored regions. The watch was designed to be a companion on these expeditions, many of which took researchers to harsh terrains and climates, so it utilized the era’s most advanced watchmaking technology. Its manual-wound movement, Caliber 478BWSbr, was derived from military watches and included a stop-seconds function for precise timekeeping; a Glucydur balance with shock absorption for stability through extreme temperature changes; and a swan’s neck index for adjustments. The watch’s most essential component was the soft-iron inner case that protected the movement from the effects of magnetism. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic accompanied the crew on the U.S.S. Nautilus, the first-ever atomic submersible vessel, on its record-setting expedition beneath the North Pole on August 1, 1958, the first submerged transit from one ocean to another via the Arctic ice sheet. The watch’s role in this event has made it one of the vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre watches most prized by collectors.
The modern version of the Geophysic pays tribute to the original, with a few modifications for contemporary tastes. It has a slightly larger diameter (38.5 mm) and is equipped with an automatic movement, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s manufacture Caliber 898/1, considered one of the most precise and reliable available today. Like the historical model, it incorporates the most up-to-date horological technology of its era: stop-seconds function, soft iron inner case, high-precision frequency of 28,800 vph, balance with micrometric adjustment via screws set into the rim, and Spyr gears for smooth transmission of torque in the gear train; and ceramic ball bearings in the winding system that require no lubrication.
The simple, elegant grained white dial echoes that of its predecessor, with a circle of applied hour markers and applied numerals at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock. Jaeger-LeCoultre has also added another subtle, distinctive touch from the original: small dots facing the hour markers, set into the inner bezel ring and filled with luminous material. The dagger-shaped hour and minute hands are rhodium-plated in the stainless steel version, gold-plated in the rose-gold version. The watch is water-resistant to 100 meters and has a solid caseback depicting the JLC logo superimposed on a globe with latitude and longitude lines. Like all Jaeger-LeCoultre watches, the new Geophysic undergoes the company’s renowned “1,000 Hours Control” testing process, whose standards for accuracy and reliability are even even more stringent those for COSC chronometer certification.
Two styles of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic 1958, in three different cases, will be available, debuting in the U.S. in the fall: The stainless steel model (limited to 800 pieces, $9,800) and 18k rose-gold model (limited to 300 pieces, $20,800) have a “crosshairs” motif in the dial’s center. The steel watch comes on a black alligator strap, the rose-gold on a brown one. A version in a platinum case (below), limited to just 58 pieces and priced at $32,200, will also be offered; this one has no cross-hairs on the dial (for greater historical accuracy) and a dark blue alligator strap.