As most wristwatch history buffs are aware, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s legendary Reverso model began its life in 1931 not as a luxury accessory but as a literal sports watch, its swiveling reversible case designed specifically to be worn by mounted polo players during matches. Few such equestrian athletes would wear the Reverso on the field of play these days, but Jaeger-LeCoultre has not forgotten its leader model’s origins. The latest timepiece to pay tribute to the sport of polo is a new version of the Reverso Tribute Duoface, which sports a Cordovan leather strap handmade by Casa Fagliano, the Argentinian artisans behind some of the world’s finest equestrian boots.
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.
Horological attributes aside, the Reverso Tribute Duoface’s other major talking point is its Casa Fagliano strap, crafted specially for the watch by the family-owned artisanal leather purveyor founded in Argentina in 1892 and operating continuously since. Casa Fagliano uses the same soft and supple leather, and the same long-held traditional techniques, that it does for its world-famous polo boots. The two tone strap marries a light brown shade for the main strap and a darker brown for the foldover flap that attaches it to the Reverso case’s lugs, lined up with the telltale gadroons, adding a light brown contrast stitching to the latter dark area. Notably, according to Jaeger-LeCoultre, each strap in the 100-piece collection has a unique patina imparted by the hand-crafting process, thus making each one slightly distinct from the rest. The caseback is engraved with “Limited Edition – One of 100.” The price is expected to be announced at SIHH 2018.
In 2014, the brand released a limited edition homage to this original model, aptly named 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.
This watch has some serious history. The Geophysic was first built in 1958 for the International Geophysical Year, with its many scientific discoveries and explorations to showcase the technical prowess of the watch brand. The chronometer was given to U.S. Naval Captain William Anderson in 1958, who led the first successful voyage under the polar ice cap surrounding the North Pole onboard the USS Nautilus nuclear submarine.
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 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.
Despite the complexity inside, on the outside it is a classic looking watch that displays hours, minutes, and “True Seconds.” A simple date window is at 3 o’clock. The blue, sunburst pattern dial is enhanced with a white cross, applied hour-markers, luminescent points on the flange and luminescent triple-faceted hands.
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