Over the past few years there has been an undeniable surge in the popularity of ‘vintage-inspired’ timepieces, i.e. new watches that have a decidedly vintage feel to them. In many cases (some people would say too many) there is no direct connection between these modern day products and the ‘history’ they are supposed to be recreating, or at the very least representing. This can be disappointing to say the least and often leaves fans scratching their heads and asking themselves, “What were they thinking?”
Fortunately though this is not always the case and it seems when brands get it right, they get it really right. One of the best recent examples of this is the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic 1958 collection unveiled earlier this year. Classic good looks, robust design, cutting edge technology; there could be no better homage to the original. Of course to fully appreciate that fact you first need to understand a little about its history.
As the name of the modern-day tribute suggests, the original Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic was first produced in 1958 (in fact, it was only produced in 1958, but more on that in a minute.) The unusual name comes from the fact that the watch was made to commemorate the International Geophysical Year (IGY), which was an international scientific project that lasted from July 1, 1957, to December 31, 1958.
This particular project was significant for a number of reasons, not least of which was the fact that it marked the end of a long period during the Cold War when scientific interchange between East and West had been seriously interrupted. In total an impressive sixty-seven countries undertook a series of scientific explorations of the planet’s unexplored regions, leading to a number of important scientific discoveries.
Wishing to recognize and support the efforts of these pioneering men and women (and of course ensure they had a suitable ‘Explorer’ watch to wear on their long journeys) Jaeger-LeCoultre created a timepiece that could withstand the challenges of their various activities. The result was the Geophysic, a rugged chronometer that was shock- and water-resistant as well as impervious to magnetic fields up to 600 gauss. The dial, much like the watch itself, was all about business. No superfluous details, just the time displayed in an easy to read fashion.
Sadly though the original Geophysic was only in production for a year before being superseded by another model, which means only about 1,000 were ever made. That was until this year of course, when Jaeger-LeCoultre officially unveiled the re-issue of the Geophysic 1958.
The Geophysic 1958
This new edition of the Geophysic shares much in common with its predecessor, which is a good thing because that was one handsome looking watch. In total there are three models to choose from, all of which will be made in limited numbers, with the platinum version in particular being limited to just 58 pieces (the rose gold and steel versions meanwhile will be limited to 300 and 800 pieces respectively).
The diameter of the case has been slightly up-sized from the original (38.5mm vs 35mm) and to be honest feels even a little bigger than that on the wrist, although it is definitely more than comfortable for everyday wear. JLC have elected to keep the dial design simple, although they’ve modified it slightly from the original by adding a cross-hair over a textured white dial with pronounced numerals at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock respectively. I personally like this change as it gives the new model a unique character of its own, despite the fact that is essentially the re-creation of an earlier model. Of course if you are more of a purist you can try and get your hands on the platinum edition, which has a dial that is far truer to the original.
Inside is Jaeger-LeCoultre’s highly respected automatic Caliber 898/1, a COSC-certified chronometer that is prized for both its reliability and accuracy. Unfortunately though you don’t get to see the movement as it is covered by a nicely engraved solid caseback. This is not really a big loss to be honest and if anything adds to the authentic ‘vintage’ feel of the watch. Besides, with a dial this good looking you are going to want people to focus on the front and not the back anyway.
The steel watch comes on a black alligator strap and will retail for a very reasonable US$9,800, whilst the rose-gold version is offered on a brown leather strap and will cost US$20,800. For the lucky few who can get their hands on the platinum version (also with a black leather strap), the cost will be higher again at US$32,200.
Whatever version you choose, it’s going to be hard to go wrong with the new JLC Geophysic 1958.
Photography by Adam Priscak for WatchAnish.com