- Introduction -
The Géophysic is certainly one of these watches which counts a lot in the JLC History, along with the Reverso, the Pilot Watches, the Future Matic, and the Memovoxes ( Deep Seal Alarm, Polaris, E 855 ... ).
It was released in 1958, among a few others like the Memovox Parking and the World Time, to celebrate 2 events:
- The International Géophysical Year ( I.G.Y ).
The purpose was as simple as strong: To offer to scientists of all the world a tool watch, able to resist to hostile places, anti magnetic, reliable and accurate, to help them in their tasks and experiences.
- The 125th Anniversary of the Company, founded by Antoine Lecoultre ( which explains that all the movements housed in the Geophysic show Lecoultre Signature, instead of Jaeger Lecoultre ).
It is important to say that not many Chronometers were made by Lecoultre, then Jaeger- Lecoultre, in the Vintage era, as there are a very few references which bear the name of Chronometers: The Cal 170 ( pocket watch ), the Géophysic, the Géomatic, the Cal 906 ( Ref 24 000-42 ), and we can add the Mark XI, to the list, too.
But, some of the " Grande Maison " calibers ( the Cal 906 and the Cal P 478/ BWSBr ) were housed in the famous Vacheron Constantin Chronomètre Royal, which is a sign of their quality.
JLC had a brilliant idea to advertize on this watch: In December 1958, 2 pieces were offered to the 2 officers in charge of Nuclears Sumbmarines, the Nautilus, and the Skate.
This picture ( and the first one I posted ) are very interesting, as they show the watch, its special engraved case back, and the Box, shaped as a Sputnik, the warranty with the I.G.Y Logo, and the Tag.
Please note that only the 2 watches presented to the 2 Submarines Officers had the engraved case back, and the Sputnik box.
It seems that the other Géophysics came in a box shaped like a book, you could hide in your library.
Here's a picture I found in Zaf's book:
You can read, all around the I.G.Y Symbol : " From the citizen of Geneva to U.S.S Skate Commander James F Calvert ( same for Commander Anderson ) in recognition of the historic conquest of the North Pole in August 11th 1958. "
Here, the complete package, as the Commanders Anderson and Calvert received it:
And, here, the original warranty:
So, the " Raison D' Etre " of this watch was simple, and brilliant:
Playing the card of the Adventure, and Science, which are timeless targets, values.
The Flag of the Nautilus:
The North Pole Map:
The U.S.S Submarine Skate, fighting with the North Pole ice:
This last pic is interesting, as it was used by JLC on their ....catalogue! ( 1958 )
And an interesting text from the 1961 Catalogue, which perfectly sums the importance of the watch:
It is also interesting to see that JLC advertized in a more classic way ( and funny, too! ) on this watch ( 1959 ) :
" A watch which defies the magnetism, but which also magnetizes the clients ".
The Géophysic is not only a tool watch with an interesting story, it is also, and maybe first of all a Chronometer, one of the few JLC Vintage Chronometer wristwatch, and the first of them, with the Géomatic, and the Early 70ies Chronometer, as we will now see.
An...Army of JLC Chronometers:
I / The Case:
The Géophysic came in 2 references, with 2 different cases:
The Ref E 168 in Pink Gold, Yellow Gold or Stainless Steel, whose case is 35mm diameter.
The Ref 2985, so called " Géophysic De Luxe ", whose case was 34 mm diameter ,and only in YG or RG.
There is not only a difference of 1 mm between these 2 references, the bezel, case, lugs, dial, hands, and the presence ( or lack ) of soft iron dust cover are most important, as you can see on a pic I found on a 1961 Catalogue:
As I couldn't already see a Ref 2985 in the flesh, I will only focuse on the Ref E 168, here.
To fully appreciate the Géophysic, I think that the best is to compare it with some other JLC watches, close in size, like the Géomatic ( 36 mm ) or the Mark XI ( 35 mm ).
The Géophysic has a very angular case ( at the lugs ), compared to the Mark XI and to the Géomatic:
The lugs are shorter, compared to the 2 others, the thickness of the case is between the Géomatic and the Mark XI, as well as the crown, which is not signed.
The Rose Gold Géophysic:
Here are 2 pics which will be useful to appreciate the differences ( the Géophysic is at the middle ) :
As you can see, the finish of the case is polished on the upper part, and brushed all around.
Even if its case is a bit more rough than the Géomatic or the Mark XI, the Géophysic is still an elegant and lovely watch, indeed.
There are a lot of things to say about the Géophysic Case Back:
While on the Géomatic, the serial number of the case is outside the case back, on the Géophysic, it is inside.
But, this is not a general rule, as on the Rose Gold Géophysic, the serial number is engraved on the case back, not inside:
On the Géophysic, the center of the case back bears the famous sticker representing the IGY Logo, while on the Géomatic, this Logo is engraved:
So, if we compare the 2 watches offered to the Commanders of the U.S.S Skate and Nautilus with the other Géophysics, the only difference is that, of course, you don't have the text engraved all around the sticker, but the sticker is the same.
Most of the SS Géophysics we see nowadays have lost their sticker, sadly, so if you can find one with, jump on it!
The case back is screwed, of course, and once opened, it lets show the soft iron dust cover:
The soft iron dust cover offers a resistance to the magnetic fields up to 600 Gauss ( from 400 to 600 Gauss, to be precise ), which was one of the " Raison d'Etre " of this watch.
II / The movement.
The movement is one of the most interesting part of the Géophysic.
The Cal P 478 BWSbr is a dign member of the great JLC family of movements, whose roots can be found on the Cal 450 / 470 housed in the Mark 7 Weems ( or not Weems ).
Here ,the Mark 7 Weems Cal 450:
Then, some 5 years later, came the Caliber 488 SBr, which was an improved movement, compared to the Cal 450 / 470:
While the 450 and the 488 SBr share a Breguet hairspring, the 488 Sbr adds a Hack setting system, and a nice finish.
So, the Cal 478 BWSBr may be considered as the direct descendant of the 488 Sbr, or better said, an evolution of the 488 Sbr.
If you compare the 488 with the 478, aesthetically, the 488 is decorated with Cotes De Genève, while this is not the case for the 478.
Actually it is a very nice movement, as you can judge on the following pics:
Here, a focus on the Swan Neck, which didn't exist on the 488. ( Credit pic: Steve G ) :
Besides the Swan Neck, the 478 also adds a Parachoc Shock Protection, was submitted on severe tests, and adjusted on 5 positions, to fit its main prupose: The Chronometry.
As for the later Géomatic, the watch was delivered to the final owner with an Official Chronometer Certificate.
50 years later, the Chronometric Virtues are still here, and mine, after a service, is gaining 1 second per day!!!
A last word to understand the qualities of this movement: As I previously wrote,the 478 was used by VC for its Chronomètre Royal ( Cal P 1008 / BS ), a detail which may speak to Watch Lovers ( Credit pics: Steve G )...
A picture of the watch ( dial side...Don't know who to credit ):
III / The Dial:
The first thing which catches the eye is the purity, the elegance and the strength of the dial.
The long Five Minutes indexes are playing with the shorter minute indexes in an harmonious way.
We can even speak of Timeless Beauty.
It has this minimalist design which perfectly corresponds to its purpose, a toolwatch for scientists, who don't mind about ( or don't need ) much more details, just the essential.
On the next pic, you will see mine on a nice background, found in the " La Grande Maison " Book, showing another Géophysic along with its " Sputnik " Box.
On this one, you see the original spade shaped hands, while I had to take another option, as I didn't find anything else ( for the moment ) than Calypso hands, but the outcome is quite nice, to me.
As always, when the aperture of the dial is important, the watch looks bigger than it is in real.
Here, the case has a diameter of 35mm, but it looks like a 38 mm watch, on the wrist.
The applied 5 minutes indexes and numbers give some Life to the dial, and elegantly contrast with the painted minute indexes.
The only touch of color comes from the hands, on the SS version, due to a nice patina of the radium :
With the Rose Gold version, the partition is warmer, indeed.
The contrast with the white dial is awesome, and here, the applied indexes and numbers are matching with the case.
As always, Elegance or / and Warmth...To each his own!
Here, with the correct hands:
From the pictures above, you will notice these small radium balls, on the outer part of the dial, touching the plexy, which gives a light, discrete contrast with the white dial.
There, with the Dauphine hands:
Dauphine or Sword Hands?
What's your favourite?
I kept a detail for the end, the texture of the dial.
I don't know if you remember what I wrote about the Duo Mètre Grainé dial, but, basically, I said that it reminded me something, and it was the Géophysic dial, as you can notice from a picture taken in the " La Grande Maison " Book:
In comparison, a picture of the Duo Mètre Dial:
The inspiration is clear, don't you think?
Now that you saw the pics of the 2 dials, don't you better appreciate the Duo Mètre dial?
I took some macro pictures, to have a better look on the special texture of this dial:
Here, you clearly see the applied numbers and indexes:
And there, the grainé finish:
Same here, but this next picture reveals another detail.
Look at the first " R " of the word " Chronometre ".
You will see that it is not completely formed, and this is not the case only on my dial, but on all the dials I saw.
Not an effect of Time, nor a consequence of the Patina, but the dials were printed this way, a bit as a " Secret Signature "
The dial is made in the same metal than the dust cover ( I didn't know this detail, provided by Zaf in his book ), once again to protect the watch against magnetic fields.
The most problematic part of the watch is to find one with a dial in correct condition, as a lot can be seen coming with ruined dials, as this example, for instance:
And to find another dial in correct condition is not impossible, but almost.
IV / General thoughts and conclusion.
The Géophysic has a different personality, if you compare it to its little sister, the Géomatic.
While both are chronometers, the first is a manual woud movement, when the second is an automatic caliber ( Cal 881 G ).
Both are beautiful and charmful watches, but I have a light preference for the Géophysic plain dial and bigger crown.
I'd say that the Géophysic is an elegant toolwatch ,when the Géomatic is an elegant dressy watch.
A pic is worth a thousand words to perfectly describe and sum the different philosophy of these 2 watches:
I took another interesting picture, gathering 3 Historical JLC Watches together.
Interesting, horologically, of course, as I wrote that the 488 is in a certain way " the mother " of the Cal 478, but aesthetically, too, as the Mark 11 is a miltary toolwatch, and the Géophysic is a civilian tool watch.
So, there is a mechanical link between these 2, and an historical link between these 3:
Another strange thing is that the Géophysic looks a bit bigger in SS than in RG, maybe due to the white metal and dial, and the lack of bezel, which visually enhance the size.
On the wrist, this is a very pleasant watch to wear.
Dressy or casual, it doesn't matter, the watch is discrete, but with a nice presence, and very legible, whatever the hands( original sword or Dauphine ).
It is just amazing to remind that this watch is ...50 years old, as its design is so modern!
The scarcity of this watch makes it even more desirable, as a few were produced till 1961 ( 1038 Ref E 168 in SS, 222 in YG, and the Manufacture says 30 in RG, even if I think that there are a bit more... ).
I have some doubts about the RG and the YG numbers, as I never saw a YG, but I was able to handle 4 RG and I saw two more in pics.
If you count all the destroyed, lost or dead Geophysic, they may considerably be less, and rarer.
While we're speaking of Chronometry Contests, it appeared interesting to me to keep in mind that at a certain era, Chronometers were the pride of the brands,and among them, this remarkable piece.
PS: I would like to thank our friend Berny for letting me shoot his Géomatic Tonneau, and his awesome Géophysic ( the one with the good hands and the sticker on the case back. ), and, of course, the Heritage Gallery for the informations, some of the historical scans and ads posted here.
PS 2: I also recommend Zaf Basha's book " Jaeger-Lecoultre, a Guide for the Collector ", which contains a very interesting chapter about JLC Chronometers.
This message has been edited by amanico on 2009-12-13 10:28:19 This message has been edited by amanico on 2009-12-19 05:28:40 This message has been edited by amanico on 2009-12-29 09:49:23