Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic 1958
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Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic 1958

Watches have been indispensable tools for explorers since John Harrison created his marine chronometer in the 1760s, even as more sophisticated technologies like radar emerged in the 20th century.

And a watch created by Jaeger-LeCoultre would be taken to the North Pole in the 1950s, on the first submarine to sail beneath the polar ice caps.

But none of this could have happened without John Harrison’s chronometer; before he developed it in the 1760s, successful navigation was more a product of luck than science.

The problem wasn’t latitude, but longitude.

Navigators could determine their latitude by the angle of the sun at noon, or that of Polaris—the North Star—at twilight. But the rolling motion of a ship at sea rendered that method impossible when it came to determining longitude. Although scientists suggested using an accurate clock—or chronometer—for that purpose as early as the 1500s, early attempts proved insufficient when faced with the endless undulation of the ocean.

This problem would prove deadly in 1707, when a fleet of four warships floundered on the rocks surrounding the Isles of Scilly. Squalls and gales had blown the ships off course, and due to the inability of the fleet’s navigators to determine their position, they assumed that they were off the coast of France. It was only when the ship struck rocks that they learned of their mistake—to deadly effect.

Between fifteen hundred and two thousand sailors were lost, including Sir Cloudesley Shovell, the Admiral of the Fleet.

It would prove to be one of the worst maritime disasters in British history, and set off a chain of events that resulted in the institution of a Longitude Prize in 1714. Many scientists and watchmakers contributed, including Nevile Maskelyne, the Astronomer Royal. But it was a humble carpenter from Yorkshire, John Harrison, who would ultimately win the prize in 1761.

With the problem of longitude solved, there was no limit to exploration. Even as the Age of Sail became the Age of Steam, and steam power turned into nuclear power, no ship left port without a marine chronometer on board. However, even the most sophisticated technologies still were slaves to the forces of nature, as the U.S. Navy learned when the USS Nautilus ventured under the immense solitude of the North Pole.

Simply put, the North Pole's powerful magnetic fields rendered ordinary timepieces completely useless. So Jaeger-LeCoultre rectified this situation with the Geophysic, which incorporated an inner iron shield to protect the movement of the watch from the magnetic interference of the poles. A rare watch, the Geophysic was only produced for one year, with only a little over 1300 pieces being produced in that short span.

However, in 2014 JLC reinvigorated the model with the Tribute to Geophysic 1958. Though keeping true to the original, the reissue was larger, at 38mm compared to the original’s 33mm. Like the original, it was produced in limited quantities, in a run of 500, and is no longer available in JLC’s catalogs.

This particular example comes from a close friend of Analog/Shift and comes complete with full kit, as well as two extra JLC straps.

Whether you’re venturing into uncharted territory or merely commuting to work, a wristwatch is still as timely as it was to ancient mariners and polar explorers. With its lineage of exploration, the Tribute to Geophysic 1958 is the perfect successor to the original Geophysic and John Harrison’s chronometer. Elegant and ultra-wearable, it’s a must-have for any collector looking for a modern addition to his collection.

Details

SKU: AS02353

Stainless steel case is approximately 38.5mm (excluding crown). Reference 08008520. Calibre 898/1 Self-Winding Movement. Circa 2014.

Overall Condition: Case is in very good condition overall, with faint signs of minor use and wear. Dial is in very good, as-new condition.

Includes 20mm black leather JLC strap. Also includes one 20mm blue leather JLC strap, and one brown leather JLC strap.

Also includes box, papers, hang tag, booklet.

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