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The 1950s were an important time, not only in the world of horology, but in the realms of technology and science as well. During this decade, Eastern and Western scientists united for the International Geophysical Year. Inspired by an upcoming eleven-year period of heightened sunspot activity, in 1952 the International Council of Scientific Unions announced the International Geophysical Year, to be held in 1957.
In the International Geophysical Year, explorers turned their eyes to the Poles. Prior to this time, travel to the Poles was only achieved via sled, aircraft, or ships with specially-reinforced bows. General consensus among educated people in both East and West was that there was no easy way to get there.
But with the advent of nuclear power, the United States devised a new way to travel to the North Pole. Not above, not through, not on top of, but beneath the polar ice caps, in the world's first atomic submarine: the USS Nautilus. In 1958, the Nautilus became the first vessel to complete a submerged transit to the North Pole, a scientific milestone that cooly doubled as strategic muscle-flexing. (Remember, even though East and West were united in the spirit of science during the Geophysical Year, this was still at the height of the Cold War).
Even though the Nautilus rendered travel to the Poles somewhat easier, it still presented unique challenges for the instruments carried on board the submarine, particularly the watches. Simply put, the North Pole's powerful magnetic fields rendered ordinary timepieces completely useless. Captain William Anderson, the commander of the Nautilus, recognized the need for watches for himself and his crew that could operate in the extreme magnetic interference posed at the North Pole.
Jaeger-LeCoultre (in turn celebrating their 125th anniversary during the International Geophysical Year) answered the Commander's call with the Geophysic, a manually-wound, 35mm steel chronometer that could withstand the increased magnetism at the North Pole. In developing the Geophysic, JLC appropriated the design of their aviator's watch, the Mark XI, whose soft iron inner case protected the movement from the magnetic interference of the instruments inside an airplane's cockpit. The dial was pressure-fitted to the case with screws at 4 and 11 o'clock. Inside the soft dust cover, the Caliber P478/BWSBr powered the watch: a specially-modified of the Mark XI's Caliber 488 SBr with added shock protection. The movement itself was unadorned, only bearing the name of "LeCoultre" to commemorate the company's founder, Antoine LeCoultre.
In 2014, Jaeger-LeCoultre released the Geophysic 1958. Though remaining very true to the original feel and layout of the Geophysic, JLC elected to increase the case size from 35mm to 38.5mm and fit the watch with a Calibre 898/1 Automatic movement. This re-issue was accepted with wide acclaim and sold out quickly, in no small part due to the extreme rarity of the originals.
Produced in three limited executions--800 in steel, 300 in rose gold, and 58 in platinum--the Geophysic 1958 mirrors the original in more ways than one. Under the hood, the watch is driven by an automatic Calibre 898/1 movement with an anti-magnetic rating of up to 600 gauss (or approximately 48,000 A/m magnetic resistance). While the modern wearer might not delve underneath the polar ice caps wearing this watch, its anti-magnetic rating is more than sufficient to withstand the magnetic fields emitted from cellphones or laptops.
JLC has produced homage pieces before. Their Tributes to the Polaris, Deep Sea Alarm and the 1931 Reverso are all brilliantly executed, paying respect to the original designs while refreshing the stylings and mechanics in a light-handed and elegant way. The Geophysic is, in our opinion, another home run for Jaeger-LeCoultre, and in an ultra-wearable stainless steel case, it should be at the top of the list for anyone looking for a modern piece with a respectable lineage.
Stainless steel case is approximately 38.5mm (excluding crown). Caliber 898/1 Automatic Movement. Circa 2014.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in excellent, as new condition. Dial is likewise in excellent condition.
Includes one 19mm genuine alligator strap with JLC buckle.
Also includes full kit of box and papers.