One of the most visually impressive watches of SIHH 2017 was the first “universal time tourbillon” by Swiss Jaeger-LeCoultre, and it is predictably bold and indeed quite expensive. Prior to the SIHH 2017 watch trade show, we debuted the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Universal Time Tourbillon watch here. Our David explained how this “top-of-the-line” Geophysic built on the modern retro-inspired collection of watches that is, in turn, based on a range of Jaeger-LeCoultre watches from the 1950s. Unlike the standard collection of Geophysic watches with their “true second” (dead-beat) ticking seconds hands, the 2017 Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Universal Time Tourbillon combines a world-time complication with an “orbital” flying tourbillon – in a rather visually stunning manner.
While the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Universal Time Tourbillon watch is neat-looking in images, you need to see this watch in operation to appreciate it. First, there is the ritzy solid-platinum case that is 43.5mm wide. It’s comfortable on the wrist and clearly more eye-catching than most of the rest of the Geophysic collection – especially the three-hand models. Of course, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Universal Time Tourbillon builds on the standard Geophysic Universal Time (hands-on here) which is a clever combination of a watch nerd-themed, in-house-made automatic movement with the “true second” ticking seconds hand and the world-time indicator.
As I noted above, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Universal Time Tourbillon does not make use of the dead beat seconds complication – but I didn’t miss it. What it does incorporate from the larger Geophysic collection is the in-house-made and -developed Gyrolab balance wheel. This is a special balance wheel with a smaller footprint so as to reduce the effects of air resistance as it moves, thus increasing efficiency. I am pretty sure we are safe to assume that this is the first time the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gyrolab balance wheel was placed inside of a tourbillon-equipped timepiece.
The flying tourbillon seems to come right out of the dial, which is enhanced by the fact that most of the dial is domed and three-dimensional as it is. What is very cool to see is how the tourbillon literally orbits around the dial (some people would call that a tourbillon within a tourbillon) with world-time disc. Yes, it does block reading some of the dial just a little bit, but no real functionality is lost with the inclusion of the tourbillon. This is a fantastic combination of elements for people who really like world-timers and who also want the mechanical complexity (and luxury status) of a tourbillon.
Given the overall complexity of the hand-wound Caliber 853 triple calendar motion within and the obvious contemporary desire for bigger instances, the dimensions grows even in the Big Duoface’s 47mm by 28mm measurements to 49.4mm tall by 30mm wide. In terms of thickness, the watch sits a fair 10.9mm high. Really, the delight of a Reverso like this comes in the double faces and world class finishes. It really sits in a category of its own with no real peers, also I have a feeling lots of people are going to drool over this watch. Even those people who, somewhat properly, feel that JLC is dependent upon the Reverso into the point of interchangeability will agree that this view is a good motive why.The 853 manifests itself in 2 dial executions on the Tribute Calendar — foremost with all the silver ‘front’ dial of this watch which shows a divide day/month aperture and a moonphase index with a pointer date surround at 6:00. It has more information than many might be used to seeing in this a small number of real estate but it stays extremely well-balanced, thanks to textbook uses of symmetry and contrast between the beveled dauphine hands, applied rose gold markers, and the beautiful silvered feel of the dial itself. And speaking of that silver dial, it acts as an antidote, counterbalancing the rose golden’s warm tones with a chilly, elegant masculinity that is only a joy to behold — something which couple rose gold watches can put claim to.Before we reverse the watch over, allow me to talk about the motion itself for a moment — that the hand-cranking 853 hums along in a relatively low 3 Hertz, or even 21,600 vibrations per hour, even granting a power reserve of around 45 hours. On paper, higher oscillations are always more of a joy to behold, but since there’s no running seconds hand on this Reverso, there is no visual indicator that the watch is operating in a lower speed. Granted, we receive a moonphase indicator rather, so it’s barely a terrible trade-off.
Adding to overall practicality in the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Universal Time Tourbillon is the fact that the movement is an automatic. This convenient mechanism with its beauty and utility is the in-house-made Jaeger-LeCoultre caliber 948 automatic movement. Operating at 4Hz (28,800bph) the movement has 48 hours of power reserve and is produced from 375 parts. You can view the 22k pink gold automatic rotor through rear of the case’s sapphire crystal exhibition window.
Despite the domed dial, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Universal Time Tourbillon watch isn’t terribly thick at just 14.85mm (water-resistant to 50 meters). It doesn’t have the extreme lavish finishing of some tourbillons that can be exponentially more expensive – but then again, you’re not spending that much money while still getting what many would consider a grail. This watch costs the same as a high-performance yet stock-production luxury European car. You could go for something more exclusive and expensive, but you know they won’t actually serve their intended purpose any better than this.
Jaeger-LeCoultre claims that guilloche-style machine engraving is used for the look of the oceans on the “Earth dial” which is at the center of the world-time display disc. It’s not a particularly useful dial center, but it is visually attractive and is exactly what some people feel makes the Geophysic, well, the Geophysic. Other Geophysic watch collection themes along that same vein include small points of luminant applied around the periphery of the dial.
On the wrist, you get a coherently “real” tool watch with the added appeal of decoration with the blue lacquer-covered guilloche partial-globe, precious materials in the platinum case, and of course, mechanical exclusivity in the haute horology movement. Of course, this all comes at a cost. Future versions in less precious metal might cost a bit less, but the limited edition of 100 pieces reference Q8126420 Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Universal Time Tourbillon in platinum is priced at around $145,000. jaeger-lecoultre.com
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