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Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Watches Hands-On

Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Watches Hands-On Hands-On

The recently announced Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic collection for 2014 is not only the beginning of a brand new line within the brand, but is also a re-release of a rare Jaeger-LeCoultre model from 1958. The past several years have seen the release of numerous “homage” timepieces from many of the world’s most prestigious watch manufactures. Some of these have been executed extremely well, becoming instant hits and top sellers; others, not so much.

As a collector and enthusiast of vintage wristwatches, I am intensely critical of “reissue” pieces, and often find plenty of nits to pick with even the most superbly crafted examples. But the one brand that has, without fail, met and exceeded my expectations for honest and thoughtful homages time and again is Jaeger-LeCoultre–and I am not alone in saying so.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Watches Hands-On Hands-On

JLC has set a standard for heritage-inspired timepieces; not by simply copying their historical models, but by modernizing them intelligently and creatively while staying true to the original concept. Pieces such as the Tribute to Polaris, Deep Sea Alarm, and 1931 Reverso are simply masterworks of modern design, and have without question become modern classics in their own right. The fact that each of these pieces would look right at home in a watch box full of timepieces from the mid 20th Century isn’t the only plus. Jaeger-LeCoultre has gone to great lengths to ensure that their modern heritage collections are practical reflections of current wristwatch design and manufacture, utilizing high-end materials and movements, without over-complicating the final product. In other words, they are the perfect combination of practical, svelte design and modern technology–at least that is one man’s opinion.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Jaeger-LeCoultre, a member of the Richemont Group, was one of the brands exhibiting their 2014 line at SIHH this past January, and had a bevy of new timepieces on display, all of which were generally impressive. What we didn’t know was that they were holding back on us: there was another piece in the pipeline that they decided not to unveil until this past week, and that is three new Geophysic watches in steel, gold, and platinum. Its probably a good thing they didn’t show it to us then, otherwise my head may have exploded due to an overwhelming amount of awesomeness at one time. Presented to a limited invite-only crowd of enthusiasts, bloggers, and writers in both New York and Los Angeles is the all-new Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic 1958.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Heritage Design:

The Geophysic 1958 takes its design cues from the original Geophysic model released in–you guessed it–1958. The original model was available for one year only, and is a true rarity on the collector market. The original version was cased in steel at 35mm with two dial options, and featured a chronometer rated manual winding movement (the new version is 3.5mm larger in diameter and features an automatic calibre). The original release was a commemorative model celebrating both the 125th Anniversary of the Manufacture as well as the first “International Geophysical Year,” a challenge sponsoring scientific exploration made by an international panel of governmental science foundations.

1958 was also the height of the Cold War, a nuclear détente between the United States and the Soviet Union. In a rush to build up defenses (and offenses) to one another, both nations invested heavily in atomic submarines, which provided self-sustaining mobile missile platforms that could be positioned close to the enemy shores for rapid deployment. It was believed that the Soviet Union’s northern borders were protected by the arctic regions, however exploration under the ice caps during this time proved that there was no northern continent.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Watches Hands-On Hands-On

The atomic submarine Nautilus was the first to successfully reach the North Pole and surface through the polar ice, which was as much a coup de etat for science and exploration as it was for posturing against our communist counterparts. During these explorations, the Captains of the Nautilus were given original Geophysic wristwatches. The strong magnetic fields in the region would wreak havoc with standard non-insulated measurement tools, so the anti-magnetic properties of the timepiece made it a useful piece of kit.

Ultimately, the original JLC Geophysic firmly encapsulated the “geo-political” vibe of its era in regards to exploration and conflict, and provided perhaps the most straightforward and simply elegant tool for the job. Due to limited production and distribution, these originals are rarities on the collector market, and it is terrific to see a modern homage being brought to market that honors both the design and “emotion” of its ancestor.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Watches Hands-On Hands-On

The New Version:

Getting right into it, the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic 1958 is a 38.5mm men’s timepiece fitted with the brand new Calibre 898/1 automatic winding movement. It is available cased in steel, 18k rose gold, and platinum. There will be 800 pieces in steel, 300 in rose, and just 58 in platinum. Pricing starts at $9,800 for the steel version, $20,800 for the rose, and $32,000 in platinum.

Like the original, the new release has anti-magnetic properties, providing protection up to 600 gauss. While it is unlikely that many of these will see the kind of serious field use that the originals did, it is nice to know that JLC didn’t cut any corners when designing it. In fact, in-house at the brand there was controversy over the re-release of the watch (as there always is when it comes to what models they ought to re-release). We are told that the debate within JLC was intense, and pushed through by those members of their inner team that passionately felt the return of the Geophysic collection would add a welcome character to the overall product line even beyond these initial limited edition models.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Like the originals, the design of the Geophysic is clean and sharp, coupling crisp case design with clean white crosshair dials. The steel and rose versions sport Arabic numerals at 3,6,9, and 12, while the Platinum version features numerals only at 12 and 6, closest to the original design. The design of the hands are modeled after the original as well, and feature the same pre-patinated lume coloration as other pieces in the Tribute collection.

One of the easiest to miss details is the points of lume on the flange ring around the periphery of the dial. This design detail is a modern analogue to the originals, which had a feature which is all but gone even on existing vintage pieces. According to Jaeger-LeCoultre, the original Geophysic watches had small points of lume applied to the underside of the crystal. This was an interesting detail, but what happened is that when the crystal was changed, the factory lume went with it, and watchmakers servicing the watch never applied the lume points to the replacement crystals. For that reason an original Geophysic with intact lume points on the crystal is among the rarest collectible production watches that one will ever find. In order to not make the same “crystal mistake,” (even though crystals today are sapphire) Jaeger-LeCoultre decided to apply the lume points around the dial.

The case is a combination of polished and brushed elements (polished bezels and lug-tops with brushed sides). Despite the slightly larger dimensions of the modern piece, it retains near-perfect proportions and wears very comfortably on the wrist. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; modern timepieces are finally becoming available in a size down from the wrist-monstrosities we’ve been subjected to for the last decade and a half, and the Geophysic at 38.5mm may just be the most perfect execution of the new wave of “sensibly sized” gentleman’s timepieces I’ve seen yet. Kudos to JLC for keeping it under 40mm. Seriously.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Watches Hands-On Hands-On

Final Thoughts:

The Geophysic 1958 is a timepiece that people will either “get” or won’t. In its simplest form it appears to just be a small-cased antimagnetic self-winding men’s wristwatch with a simple dial and a well-known brand name. There is sure to be plenty of pushback on the price by those who aren’t clued in. And that’s fine, because for the rest of us we’re already adjusting our stock portfolios and preparing our checkbooks.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Watches Hands-On Hands-On

The Geophysic is a perfect example of a “true horologist’s” wristwatch. It is precision-crafted to be a versatile, practical, and stunningly simple timepiece while maintaining a bridge to the history and context of its ancestor. It eschews unnecessary complication and exists solely as a thing of great design. My prediction is that the steel versions will ultimately become the most desirable, and many will see regular wear and use from passionate enthusiasts. It is a modern classic in every sense of the term.

Necessary Data
>Brand: Jaeger-LeCoultre
>Model: Geophysic 1958
>Price: $9,800-$32,000
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Does the Pope shit in the woods? (Yes)
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Horologist without a cause.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Would have loved to see the case back design of the original recreated here.
>Best characteristic of watch: Overall case, dial, and hands design is masterful, perfectly proportioned and a fitting modern adaptation of the original.

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  • pinkdela

    Worst characteristics:1.- JLC being so lazy and cheap throwing in a hideous automatic movement where in the past used to be one of the most coveted calibers that ever existed. 2.-using one of it’s most beloved and revered pieces of it’s glorious past as a money cow and a marketing effort, 32k for a platinum watch, really?
    Typically I’m a JLC fan but I have no respect for the team that decided not to make a real tribute to this watch disrespecting the Grande Maison vision of innovation.
    I mean, amagnetic soft iron case back? This is the XXI century! A blown out opportunity to show greatness. This golden launch became a way for collectors to see the true colors of modern watchmaking and it’s merely interest in selling using the hype around watches with

  • outremer

    I don’t see the value proposition here, when you can get the way more sophisticated 15,000 Gauss for 3k less., hommage  or  not. You will have to really love this watch or the brand to buy this one.

  • JLC…gotta catch em all! For fanbois only…

    If I were in the market for a “crosshair” watch I’d go for the Breitling Transocean…Half the price, twice the class!

  • DG Cayse

    Well written Mr. Lamdin. Very nice re-introduction of a very special timepiece.
    The dimensionality of the hour markers coupled with correct sized hands is superb!

  • bnabod

    hold on a second let me read it again, seriously 10Gs for that? the fake patinated lume, the nothing special case back. I am sure the movement is nice but you can’t see it. At this price point I would have my own geophysicist. 
    the whole homage thing even for prestigious brand is a bit out of control

  • I get the feeling this is more of a collector’s watch, not a watch lover’s watch. You can be both, but I don’t know of the original Geophysic watch (and, without insult, I don’t particularly care), and so there is just really nothing all that special here, in terms of watch. It’s a nice, well executed, albeit too small for what is supposed to be a sport watch, right? Or are dress watches now full of lume and anti-magnetic? Are they making caviar dishes from neodymium now?

    Serious, remove all reference to the 1958 watch, but nothing else, and tell me there is $10k and above watch here. And do it with a straight face.

  • Paulrus

    outremer  You can’t be seriously comparing Omega to JLC? Tha’s like comparing Tissot to Omega.

  • Paulrus Although I generally agree that JLC has a higher “cache” as a true manufacture, in this case I think the comparison is apt–i.e. comparing two antimagnetic watches with similar prices (more or less) from two prestigious brands. If he were comparing a seamaster quartz with a gyrotourbillon then yes, it would be a different story 🙂

    OK JLC is a weighty name but Omega is no lightweight newcomer. Just because their average watch is cheaper than an average JLC, and they are more mass-marketed, those facts alone do not diminish their value.
    Also, to go off on a tangent, JLC has had quite a few misses IMO, and apart from 4-5 classic designs (classic reverso, memovox et al.) they are playing the “revival” card a bit too often lately relying on too much fake patina.

    Don’t get me wrong, I would love to own many JLC’s but the “untouchable aura” surrounding the brand may not always be justified. If Bell & Ross add patina they are posers/poseurs. If JLC does it they are just revisiting their historic roots.

    This is not directed at you Paulrus I just took the opportunity to get some things off my chest. 🙂

    End of rant 🙂

  • outremer

    Paulrus outremer It’s a time-only watch for everyday use, in this category the Omega offers a better value, brand recognition included. The Geophysic is expensive by the JLC’s own standards as well,  as the 39-jewel, double-barrel  Master chrono is around 10k. They ‘ve basically taken an existing caliber and design, made it limited, and off we go, I do not see why should I pay 10.000 USD for this otherwise great watch, but that’s just me.

  • Paulrus

    Panagiotis I agree with most everything you said. To me however, the “untouchable” aura of JLC is well-deserved from a continuous history of true watchmaking. Omega, you must recall, until recently was a tarnished brand, but now they’re putting out technically impressive movements and nice watch designs. They have however matched this refound technicality with disproportionate price increases ($12k for an Omega chronograph that wears like a hockey puck?) and I think a lot of people are getting turned off by it.

    Also on the point of the lume, I don’t see as fake patina, but rather a cream colored lume. Wouldn’t it be strange to have white hands on a white dial?

  • Lkcons

    “……and the Geophysic at 38.5mm may just be the most perfect execution of
    the new wave of “sensibly sized” gentleman’s timepieces I’ve seen yet.
    Kudos to JLC for keeping it under 40mm. Seriously.”
    I have said it before and will keep on repeating my little mantra – “sensibly sized” is directly related to actual wrist size and will hence differ from individual to individual. So for me around 43mm is on the smaller side of “sensibly sized” and I am very comfortable with around 45mm. And I know quite a few big guys who think exactly the same. So, there is no such thing as “sensibly sized” – just sensibly sized for the right wrist. Seriously.

    Me thinks the great houses probably breathed a huge sigh of relief as a result of the recent-ish growth in eastern markets and a massive increased demand for their – dare I say – “smaller to medium sized” products – as they could easily adopt/build on existing tooling/stock and did not need to invest in expensive new machinery – everyone knows how silly a forlorn date window looks in a larger dial because the movement inside is too small, and good new larger movements were IMHO desperately needed for larger cased/dialed watches – but no doubt they will be telling everyone now “Isn’t the smaller case just perfect? Look at how elegant it is!” “Look how good we are at getting our complications into such a small case! Marvelous!” without saying “…Well, it actually looks like shit on the wrist of a big fellow, but who cares? They are not our primary market anymore, so you marketing department just need to convince them that these are “sensibly sized” so no one can really see the king actually has no clothes on and we actually can’t or don’t want to cater to their needs”.

  • mandime

    Paulrus PanagiotisI’m with you Paulrus.  JLC’s are not built to a price point like  other manufacturers, and therefore the intense focus is on performance quality (who else does 1000hr. control?).  Coupled with the fact that no other watchmaker has anywhere near the number of true in house caliber movements (over a thousand, several of which are used extensively by the big 3), that alone puts JLC at the top, peerless design and top level finishing are icing on the cake.  Those looking for value here don’t understand that “value” is already a quality inherent with any JLC, as comparisons with equivalent manufactures should be with AP, or VC (PP and Lange don’t even make anything like this).  I would add that I do admire and respect Omega and Rolex for advancing materials and production technology, and Tag for their groundbreaking R&D projects.  For us JLC fans, we know this piece rocks, but I’m so excited to finally see a new tang buckle design!  Gotta see about getting one for my Reverso.

  • aleximd2000

    sorry not for my taste no date window
    the omega bee watch is much more pretty in my opinion

  • pinkdela In regard to your previous issue regarding comments – we don’t delete any unless they are spam. Having said that, the LiveFyre commenting system we use tries to auto-delete spam and sometimes it catches comments that are not spam. So we need to go in the system and manually approve them. Sorry about that.

  • Fraser Petrick

    [As an agnostic I still try to be respectful; thus the papal reference in the review summary was perhaps an abtw lapse in manners?]

    Otherwise, a beautiful watch.

    For $9800-$32,000 it better be!

    It’s that dollar threshold thing again.   Damn!   Is the watch worth <$33,000?  Or is it that JLC can sell it for that price only  because there’s someone out there willing and able to pay the asking price?

  • Ulysses31

    Sorry, it doesn’t do anything for me.  A few interesting features but nothing that makes it a must have.  There are several more handsome “simple” looking watches than this, which I “get” just fine.  The globe on the case back is craptastically badly rendered.

  • Grinnie Jax

    Its a pity to say, but its obviously a downgrade from 1958 model. The old caseback has better design and looks more interesting due to black insert and overal proportions of Earth and space around it.
    Same for the crown: the old one looks so much better and matches the overall look.

  • halfdodgy

    Simple.  Classic.  Beautiful.

  • I love this watch.

  • marbstiu

    YAWN. bigdeal

  • marbstiu

    pinkdela  it’s a boring watch

  • SMN01

    Very surprised by the venom here.  Clearly many of these posters are neuvo watch people, based on the apparent failure among several of them to recognize that bloated case sizes among contemporary watches is, in fact, a very real issue and also based on comments about such things as a transparent case back, which is one of the most overdone things in current watch making and the ultimate hype to lure the under-informed.  Jaeger-leCoultre is among the VERY top end of watchmaking in terms of the broadly available houses.  Their movements have been installed in some of the finest and most iconic watches in history, and many of their innovations have never been matched or even attempted to be copied (ultra thin?  Reverso?).  With this watch they’ve faithfully reproduced a historic watch that was made for a period of only one year nearly 60 years ago and that is among the rarest and most collectible in existence.  They’ve equipped it with one of their most modern and most technically advanced calibers – one that is a direct lineage descendant of the movement that was in the 1958 original.  They’ve encased it in steel to make it accessible (ask Patek, Audemars, Lange or Vacheron to do that).  They’ve resisted the temptation to bastardize it with a date, or with a transparent case back – making it utterly true to the original.  It is a watch tested and regulated to THE MOST rigorous in-house standard for durability and accuracy (Master Control+).  And on top of all that they’ve produced it in limited quantities.  And people don’t see the attractiveness or the ‘value proposition’?  They want to compare it to an Omega (no disrespect, I own a 3570.50.00 Moon)?  Or a Breitling? Are they kidding me?  Amateurs, absolute amateurs!!!

  • pinkdela

    I saw this rant a few days ago. Don’t want to start a discussion. I just want to be clear in some points.
    the worst asset of this watch is inside. There is nothing groundbreaking inside a very standard movement with current technics of watchmaking. Now the original one was truly impressive at its time. Ands still today with some pieces shows flaws from the manufacturer at the time.
    JLC is indeed one of the most interesting brands that has competitive prices. But don’t you wonder why it’s vintage coveted pieces sell for much more? Here is your answer: done better with a practical purpose. This watch is a marketing piece. If you don’t believe me take a look at the last Antuquorum Geo sold, almost 60k of a redialed piece that JLC bought itself to grow the hype in this re-edition.
    So, no amateurs or venom. Each of is has its own thinking. If you like it. Just support the brand, but don’t mess with the fora here, newbies or oldies we are all here to have fun.
    Oh by the way. They didn’t put a sapphire exhibition caseback since there is nothing to stare at.
    be nice.

  • JorgeBorbolla

    SMN01 Best comment ever, I totally agree with you. This watch is for the real connoisseur.
    Many ABTW readers like 43mm+ watches and they dont recognize an extremely tasteful piece

  • JorgeBorbolla

    pinkdela They didn’t put a sapphire caseback because it wouldnt be true to the original and it wouldnt be antimagnetic. Ceramic ball bearings, Kifparechoc protection, antimagnetic, microregulation, water resistant and realiable as hell isnt enough for you then what is “groundbreaking” for a three hander watch? This watch serve its purpose, a no nonsense dress tool watch.

  • pinkdela

    no sapphire exhibition caseback, because the caliber is quite Spartan looking and boring. You don’t need a solid caseback to make a watch amagnetic. Who asked for a caseback whatsoever. People here were ranting because the original Geo was a groundbreaking piece back at the time. JLC could do better. Look at the new Rolex movement for example. Absolutely interesting and innovative.
    Who said the GEO was a dress watch? It was a sports watch meant to be used in expedition and adventure. Kind sir. Please before posting and rephrase the article do your homework.

  • JorgeBorbolla

    I can see by your comments that you haven’t been a WIS for long. Why put a sapphire when the original version didn’t have one. This is a TRIBUTE WATCH. It should look like the one it’s representing. And Rolex what ? Can’t think of a more spartan looking than a Rolex movement. Also, all Rolex movements have solid casebacks and I don’t see you complaining. Dress watch? The watch itself is a contradiction, it’s a dress/sport watch hibrid that is very versatile. My friend, you are a newb, get your tastes right.

  • Ilow

    Simple, legible, elegant. The last shot comparing to the 1958 does make me wish they had used a domed crystal for a more traditional feel. Love the lume on the flange ring and sword hands.