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Review: Jaeger-Lecoultre Master Geographic

Simplicity makes a world of difference.
by Ryan Teoh on November 16, 2017

Jaeger-Lecoultre Master Geographic

Jaeger-Lecoultre, also known as the Grande Maison, is a producer of timepieces that have been and continue to be fondly dubbed the watchmaker’s watch. Since its founding in 1833, La Grande Maison have come up with over 1000 different calibres, including the world’s smallest pocket watch calibre (Lecoultre Cal. 145). Their innovation and expertise were so far ahead of its time even in the 19th century that they had no need to patent it: no one else were doing anything on their level. For example, in 1844 Antoine LeCoultre invented the Millionometre, an instrument capable of measuring the micron, which greatly aided in their watchmaking practice. This was never patented, because nobody else in Switzerland had a similar system. It was presented some 56 years later at the 1900 Universal Exhibition in Paris. Jaeger-Lecoultre have come some ways since then, churning out multiple memorable classics such as the Reverso, the Memovox, the Atmos clock, the Geophysique…the list goes on and on. Today, we zoom in on the Master Geographic, the Grande Maison‘s take on the worldtimer.

 

It’s hard to find fault with a worldtimer as well executed as this.

 

Case, Dial and Hands:

Simplicity (no not the one from Philippe Dufour) is the name of the game as with most of JLC’s offerings, and the Master Geographic is no different. At first glance, the soft white dial stands out, before the eyes are distracted by the blued hands sprinkled throughout the dial. The case is standard Jaeger-Lecoultre fare: simple, polished stainless steel channeling the utilitarian philosophy of the brand. While most cases are judged according to their material, such as Rolex’s 904L steel, or Lange’s Rose Gold, I believe there is still much to be said about a basic 316L steel case that’s made, proportioned and finished well. The lugs are short and delicately curved to compensate for the 39mm case size. A 39mm case size is not large by any stretch of the imagination, especially by modern standards, but coupled with short lugs will make the watch so much more wearable for both larger and smaller wrist sizes.

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A neat, uncluttered dial makes for great legibility.

 

As aforementioned, there is little to quibble about with regards to the dial, because there isn’t very much on it apart from the subdials. The finish is opaline in the centre and circular satin-brushed around the perimeter, in contrast to the circular guilloché on the second time zone counter. The overall effect is that of a rather matte-looking dial which may catch the fancy of some, but turn others away. Personally, I think it’s very much in keeping with the true watchmaking spirit: bare-bones, no-frills watches whose finishes are neither shabby nor overly fancy. As it is, there is plenty of texture on the dial with the various finishes and differing depths between the dials, subdials and city window. Some height is added with the presence of applique triangular hour markers and beads of lume around the periphery.

 

The more one looks at this deceptively simple piece, the easier it is to fall in love with its honest-to-goodness simplicity.

 

There is no shortage of hands on this particular offering from La Grande Maison: there are 8 hands in total! Despite the daunting density of hands per watch face, Jaeger-Lecoultre have made reading every part of this watch no harder than if one were to read any normal watch. This is cleverly achieved by playing with the depth and colour of the hands. The main dial features alpha-style hour and minute hands, a la vintage Speedmaster CK2998 style. The lume is really quite minimal on these hands, as well as on the rest of the dial, which cements the Master Geographic’s role as a business/dress watch. All the other hands are on a lower plane, with the exception of the seconds hand. What this does is that it allows the wearer to focus on whichever dial or subdial they are interested in reading without being distracted by the other hands, because the eyes will be locked into a fixed focal length at the point of reading. All other depths, or dials, will be rendered a blur at the point of reading. Of course, the blued hands also serve to inject some fun and colour into an otherwise austere timepiece.

 

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The Movement:

 

Finishing on the movement is standard JLC fare: not too much yet not leaving the wearer wanting.

 

Beating away inside the Master Geographic is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 939B/1, an automatic mechanical movement produced in-house at La Grande Maison, as is expected of a watchmaking house of their pedigree.  It features an industry-standard 43 hours power reserve which is whittled away at 28,800 vibrations per hour. The Master Control was the first Jaeger-LeCoultre line to benefit from the “1000 Hours Control” in-house certification, which inspired its name. This series of radical tests to ensure that the watches are reliable has since been extended to all of the Grande Maison’s models. Watches are tested in six positions during the six- week testing period, to reproduce the conditions they will be worn under. Temperature variations, accidental impacts, power reserve capacity, water resistance – nothing is left to chance, ensuring the future owner of the piece will be fully satisfied with it. 

 

 

Competitive Landscape:

There is certainly no shortage of world timers on the market today, but retailing at SGD 15,000, the Jaeger-Lecoultre Master Geographic strikes a delicate balance between affordability and extravagance. Here are some competitors that are worth considering, should you be in the market for one.

First up: Montblanc Heritage Spirit Orbis. A rather more colourful alternative to the altogether quite businesslike Master Geographic, the Mont Blanc Heritage Spirit Orbis is the value proposition in the market of world timers. It features a globe over the centre of the dial, reminding the wearer that it indeed is a world timer despite its appearance. Coming in at USD 6,600 for the stainless steel version on a steel bracelet, with a premium alternative in 18-carat red gold at USD 17,500, this piece is suited for playful at heart. Read our review here.

Next: The Chopard LUC Time Traveler One. If the Master Geographic is considered a businesslike watch, the Chopard Luc Time Traveler One would be the equivalent of a workaholic in a timepiece. Charming in its own way, the Time Traveler One packs a real punch, albeit neatly, by arranging 24 cities on the periphery of the dial along with a 24 hour dial and hand. The extremely handsome round case comes in 3 options, with correspondingly matched colourways for the dial, text and hands. Call us snobs, but we particularly love the platinum version with its understated aesthetic and intriguing blue-grey dial. It’s available in platinum for S$ 50,480 with GST (approx CHF 33,000 tax free), in rose gold for S$ 32,270 with GST (approx CHF 21,500 tax free) and in stainless steel for S$ 18,360 with GST (approx CHF 12,400 tax free). Check all 3 of them out here.

Last but not least, we have the Vacheron Constantin Overseas World Time. Channeling the best of both the Spirit Orbis and the Time Traveler One, the VC Overseas World Time manages to execute an sunburst satin/velvet-finished engraving of the northern hemisphere over the centre of the dial, while simultaneously fitting all 37 possible time zones according to UTC on the periphery of the dial. The engraving is subtly done in an ashen grey/silver, giving the dial a much more sophisticated look. It also comes in 3 colours to suit various…suits. See them in their full glory here.

 

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Conclusion:

The Jaeger-Lecoultre Master Geographic is almost unbeatable at its price point, as a watch and also as an accessory to pair with various settings and occasion. Behind this watch is a heritage of innovation and commitment to watchmaking excellence, and it shows on the Master Geographic. This has certainly lived up to JLC’s reputation for creating the watchmaker’s watch, and would not look out of place under a cuff at a gala event, or a casual Sunday brunch in town. Simplicity is as simplicity does, after all.

 

On the Chief Editor’s wrist

 

Technical Specifications:

Movement:
• Automatic mechanical movement, Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 939B/1
• 28,800 vibrations per hour
• 43-hour power reserve

Function:
• Hour, minute, central seconds
• Second time zone
• 24-city disc
• 24-hour indication

Case:
• Stainless steel
• 39 mm in diameter
• Height: 11.7 mm
• Sapphire crystal case-back
• Water resistance: 5 bar

Dial:
• Finish is opaline in the centre and circular satin-brushed around the perimeter
• Circular guilloché on the second time zone counter

Hands:
• Skeletonised baton hands

Strap:
• Blue alligator leather
• Pin buckle in stainless steel

Ref. Q1428530

 

Price: SGD 15,000 incl GST

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2 Comments
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  • Bob
    November 18, 2017 at 3:12 am

    Erm… so is it ‘deceptively simple’ or, from the same line, does it have ‘honest-to-goodness simplicity’?

  • Will Tell
    November 17, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    So close, yet so far! I desperately wanted to love this watch but there are two massive flaws: 1) It’s diameter to thickness ratio. It’s way too thick. It’s like wearing a stack of quarters. 2) There is absolutely ZERO contrast between ihe watch’s hands and its face. Should have done the main hands in the same blued steel as those of the sub dials.

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