Swiss Jaeger-LeCoultre released the Geophysic True Seconds in the autumn of 2015, following the revival of the Geophysic name the year before, attached to a handsome triplet of limited edition watches that channelled the “atomic age” instrumental aesthetic of the original – a watch that travelled on nuclear submarines and adorned the wrists of scientists.
We wrote about it back then – as you can see here – covering the interesting developments Jaeger-LeCoultre Swiss Classic Watch had made with the Gyrolab escapement and generally waxing lyrical about this watch’s ability to put a bit of a spring in the brand’s step. And around the same time we ran an in-depth piece on the history of dead-beat seconds (which is really worth making time to go back to, with rare Rolexes and Habrings all making an appearance). So why are we writing about it again now, nearly two years later?
Well, firstly, it’s nice to see how one’s initial reactions have aged sometimes. Has this watch had the impact we expected? Also, we didn’t run a hands-on review as such, so I’m here to talk about the watch in that context, looking at how it wears and what else might be considered a competitor for your hard-earned. We gave more of our attention to the pink gold model back when it was new (magpies that we are) but something like this, with its background in the aforementioned scientific tool watch era of the 1950s, is always going to be a steel watch first and foremost. So there’s that too.
All of which means there’s one thing we may as well address straight away: the price. When new, in October 2015, this watch carried a retail price of £6,400 in stainless steel on a leather strap. That has now risen to £7,700 – quite a hike in itself, but mostly thanks to currency fluctuations and in line with the rest of the industry (if not in line with anything else that might be relevant, like inflation, and certainly not in line with the Great British watch-buying public’s ability to afford such things).
But that’s the watch on a leather strap. For reasons known only to someone senior at Jaeger-LeCoultre, the same watch on a steel bracelet costs… £9,200, or £1,500 more. It’s a nice bracelet – as part of my review I was specifically going to call out its polished clasp, solid and ever-so-slightly retro railway link construction, which hits that sweet spot of feeling supple, sufficiently weighty and managing not to remove arm hairs at unexpected moments. It’s a nice bracelet.
Would I, though, opt for this 5 inch chain of stainless steel, polished and assembled by machine, instead of a leather strap if it meant that I could have, say, a watch from Nomos Glashutte as well as the Geophysic on leather? Or maybe a no-frills diver for weekends from Christopher Ward – quite a decent two watch collection that. No I would not. Jaeger-LeCoultre’s bracelet-based profiteering is not the first or last piece of evidence that the watch industry has a pricing problem, but it is certainly one that sticks out.
Well anyway. Let’s assume you aren’t put off by the price tag – how does the Geophysic on a bracelet measure up? As I’ve said, it wore comfortably (as you’ll see from the video it was a couple of links too big for me, but working around that, it sat nicely on the wrist). At 11.8mm thick it wears happily with a shirt, and at 39.6mm across I’d say is a perfect width unless you have real tree trunks for arms.
Looks-wise, it nails it, as far as I’m concerned. I love the functional matchstick hands with their contrasting slivers of luminova, and the little dots of lume to match on the rehaut. The dial isn’t overburdened by numerals or text (the logo isn’t too overwhelming, which is a plus) and the date window is not only discreet but appropriate. The kind of practical soul called to mind by a Geophysic is the type of person happy to have and actually use a date window.
Overall, the dial layout errs strongly on the side of simplicity: at a distance it can seem plain (someone I know described it, a mite unkindly, as looking like a Seiko 5) but while I will concede it is a long way from flamboyant, when you get up close you notice details – the brushing on the hour markers, for example, or the grained finish to the dial itself – that show a level of care befitting a watch in this price sector.