December 13, 2017
by Jason Swire
Swiss manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre has a reputation for being something of a “watchmaker’s watchmaker,” offering every conceivable mechanical complication, often in ways that other brands won’t – or can’t – emulate. You really need to be a lover of the intricacies of mechanical movements, or a “gear head” as we’re apparently called, to fully appreciate Jaeger-LeCoultre. And while high complications like tourbillons and perpetual calendars have an immediate visual or practical appeal, it requires a special type of gear head to get behind the dead-beat seconds complication (or “True Second,” as Jaeger-LeCoultre calls it). The Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic True Second Limited Edition is the latest watch from the brand to cater to this most niche of markets.
Jaeger-LeCoultre have released numerous versions of the Geophysic over the years. The first model was released in 1958 to celebrate the International Geophysical Year. This watch was designed for use by scientists and explorers to be resistant to shocks, magnetic fields, and water. It was intended as a professional tool watch, built to be accurate and durable despite hazardous conditions, and was only produced for one year, making original Geophysic watches now collectible.
In 2014, the brand released a limited edition homage to this original model, aptly named the Geophysic 1958 (hands-on here). This version featured a crosshair dial much like the original, and a well-made but uncomplicated movement in the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 898/1. The model must have sold well, because the brand followed it up a year later with a new permanent collection in the Geophysic True Second (hands-on here), which brought some real watchmaking interest with the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 770.
We’ve gone into depth about this movement previously for those interested, which should be anyone considering a Geophysic True Second, as the movement is really the star of the show here. Rather than re-tread old ground, I’ll focus on what’s new about the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic True Second Limited Edition and where it stands against the competition. Yes, there is competition in the world of high-end mechanical watches which tick like quartz watches, as surprising as that may seem. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic True Second Limited Edition in essence combines the styling of the Geophysic 1958 with its crosshair dial, with the dead-beat seconds complication and in-house Gyrolab balance wheel of the Geophysic True Second. However, where both of these worthy predecessors featured clean white dials, this new limited edition offers an ocean-blue dial with a sunburst finish, adding a modern and more youthful vibe to the watch’s classic styling. Triple-faceted hands and applied hour markers will create a play of light over the dial, and the new color makes the vintage-style luminous pips around the periphery stand out more than they did on previous models.
Aside from the new color scheme and addition of a crosshair motif, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic True Second Limited Edition is otherwise identical to the non-limited permanent collection. The case measures 39.6mm by 11.8mm and offers 5 bar (approximately 50m) water resistance. The same Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 770 powers this watch, oscillating at 4Hz and offering a 40-hour power reserve. Sapphire crystals cover both the watch face and caseback, and the watch comes with a handsome brown calfskin strap. Aesthetic updates aside, this limited edition model involves a slight twist to its distribution and numbering.
Unusually, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic True Second Limited Edition is being offered in a limited series of 100 units which are not individually numbered. The caseback inscription will read only, “limited edition – one of 100.” While this avoids aftermarket price inflation on perceived “significant” serials, it also detracts somewhat from the sense of individuality of each timepiece in a limited run. Even more noteworthy, this watch is being offered online-only, exclusively from the Jaeger-LeCoultre online Boutique – as we have seen more and more brands doing. Prospective owners who would like to try this watch on in the metal before committing to a purchase are thus left in the cold, although you could get an idea of wrist-fit from the identically sized Geophysic True Second.
The dead-beat seconds complication has been something of a rarity among watchmakers, due to the inherent hard sell of a mechanical watch which ticks like a quartz. Despite that, the complication has become more popular in recent years, and the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic True Second Limited Edition does have some notable competitors. High-end options include the Gronefeld One Hertz 1912 with its industrial style and the Arnold & Son DSTB (hands-on here) with a dial-side true-beat mechanism for a much bolder look. But both options cost significantly more than the Jaeger-LeCoultre. Austrian-based Habring2’s Erwin Watch is one of the few dead-beat seconds models with a directly competitive price tag as well as even cleaner styling, for those who prefer a more minimalist look.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic True Second Limited Edition is an unusual watch in many respects. The combination of Geophysic 1958 styling with the Calibre 770’s technical prowess and a brilliant blue sunburst dial makes this an attractive option for fans of the Geophysic collection. If you miss out and decide you’re the sort of person who wants a dead-beat seconds model in your collection, there’s always the non-limited Geophysic True Second, or the more affordable Habring2 Erwin. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic True Second Limited Edition, reference Q8018480 is priced at $9,900 USD. jaeger-lecoultre.com