We recently featured an exclusive hands-on look at the new for 2013 Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra-Thin Perpetual calendar watch. We were excited both by the price and aesthetics of that sexy and slim perpetual calendar with its classic design. That watch represented one of the three pillars which we consider to be the strengths of Jaeger-LeCoultre as a brand. The other two pillars are sport watches, and wildly complicated watches (that may either be sport or classically designed pieces). While I have a lot of love for a Reverso or Master collection piece, my own personal tastes draws me much closer to Jaeger's sport watches such as this new Cermet version of the Deep Sea Chronograph.
What is cermet? It is what it sounds like - an alloy material that is part ceramic and part metal. Cermet was originally brought to my attention by Audemars Piguet, who a few years ago began to experiment with the material on bezels of some Royal Oak Offshore watches. According to Jaeger-LeCoultre, the cermet used on this watch is a "material consisting of aluminum reinforced with particles of ceramic and then covered with a protective coating of ceramics, has incomparable properties of lightness, resistance, and stability."
Fair enough. So cermet is lighter than most metal and ceramic materials, but has the strength and scratch resistance of ceramic. Apparently it is also much lighter than titanium. It also seems to not have the shattering properties that ceramic can experience upon high impact. I've seen highly polished cermet, but on this Deep Sea Chronograph watch, Jaeger-LeCoultre opted for a more matte finish. As a sport watch material, cermet seems like a good way to go, although there are other good materials (this is just one of them).
One thing I am not sure of, and sort of forgot to clarify with Jaeger-LeCoultre, was whether or not the entire watch case is cermet. I believe the black-colored pieces are, but as you can tell, the Deep Sea Chronograph case has a sort of sandwich construction with the dark gray/black sections between between lighter titanium colored sections. My understanding is that these sections are also potentially cermet as the material can be produced to look like metal - but these sections may also be "merely" titanium. In any event, on the wrist the Deep Sea Chronograph Cermet does feel light yet durable. Some will love the bi-color case style, and others will no doubt prefer a more solid color to the case. Jaeger-LeCoultre has a range of Deep Sea watches of both styles.
For me, this was my top watch pick at the 2013 SIHH show at Jaeger-LeCoultre. No, it wasn't the most technically innovative or outstanding watch, but it was on a short list of timepieces that in my opinion are desirable and also come with a price that is within the realm of accessibility. I can lust after a Gyrotourbillon 3 for years but that won't bring me (as well as the majority of other watch lovers) any closer to being able to afford it. Pieces like the Deep Sea Chronograph Cermet, and other versions have that Jaeger-LeCoultre prestige, in-house made movements, and a price that is something we could conceivably save up for, and that is why I get much more excited about pieces like this.
2012 also had a Jaeger-LeCoultre Deep Sea Chronograph watch, and the 2013 version has some minor changes. The movement is the same, but the cermet case construction and size are different. Last year's Deep Sea Chronograph watch was 42mm wide and the 2013 Cermet version is 44mm wide. I personally prefer the larger size, but I know a lot of people who want smaller 40 or 42mm sport watches. 44mm is a good size offering a modern look with the retro-styling that the Deep Sea Chronograph is known for. As a diver, it isn't ultra deep diving, but much of that has to do with it having a chronograph function - so water resistance is 100 meters.
The good looking case feels modern given the material. As I said in the video part of this article, I think Jaeger-LeCoultre hit on a real sweet spot between old and new in this timepiece. As a diver, you also have a rotating bezel as well as a nice looking textile strap. The dial is nicely legible, and offers that sort of attractive minimalist design you see in some of the more popular retro-style dials. Little touches add all the class you expect from JLC such as recessed chronograph subdials, applied hour markers, and a nice texture to the face.
Jaeger-LeCoultre will actually produce two dial variations of the Deep Sea Chronograph Cermet. There will be the standard Ref. 208A570 with the white colored luminant, and the Ref. 208A57J that has a darker colored lume. This latter model is technically called the Deep Sea Chronograph Vintage Cermet, named as such because old dive watches tend to have lume that discolors over time. Another important difference is that the Vintage model will only be available for purchase at Jaeger-LeCoultre mono-brand boutique stores.
Inside the Deep Sea Chronograph Cermet watches are in-house made Jaeger-LeCoultre caliber 758 automatic movements. The 758 is a sweet column-wheel based chronograph with a 65 hour power reserve and a unique "chronograph function" indicator. My only complaint is that JLC decided not to include a date window on the dial. The chronograph function indicator takes the form of a small round window over where the hour and minute hands meet. The window shows either all white, half white and half red, or all red. These various displays indicate whether the chronograph is stopped, paused, or operating. It isn't the most useful feature in the world, but it is cool. And the idea behind it is to allow for divers in murky water (who no doubt will be relying solely on their pricey Swiss Jaeger-LeCoultre luxury watch) to easily determine at a glance what is going on with their chronograph. Though I am not sure whether or not Jaeger-LeCoultre even suggests that using the chronograph underwater is OK. Think of it as an historic throwback complication. Enough said, money is already on the table.
As I keep hinting, my feeling is that Jaeger-LeCoultre's best kept secrets are typically their sport watches. Whether they are retro-inspired like the Deep Sea Chronograph, or modern like the Extreme Lab 2 or AMVOX series, they are well designed, interesting, and certainly come with an impressive value given all that Jaeger-LeCoultre does in-house. On that note, the price for both the Deep Sea Chronograph Cermet, and Deep Sea Chronograph Vintage Cermet is $18,000. jaeger-lecoultre.com