Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic® 1958: a tribute to science and watchmaking precision

By MyWatch

Right from its founding in 1833, the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre has asserted itself through technical advances that soon earned its timepieces benchmark status in terms of sturdiness and precision. Within this context, is thus hardly surprising that at a time in the mid-20th century when the scientific community composed of researchers from many different countries was preparing to undertake a program of major scientific explorations as part of the International Geophysical Year, the Grande Maison in the Vallée de Joux decided to associate with this unique initiative by creating an exceptional precision instrument: the Geophysic® watch.

In 2014, Jaeger-LeCoultre pays tribute to this legendary timepiece by unveiling two exclusive watches – a model in steel and in pink gold and a model in platinum. A synthesis of the research and technical expertise of the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre, these timepieces are driven by an automatic movement boasting tried and tested reliability and resistance. They feature a diameter of 38.5 mm, taking account of contemporary preferences while remaining entirely true to the design of the original model with a pure, highly legible dial.


One of the most important models in the Jaeger-LeCoultre heritage, the Geophysic® chronometer has a special history. It was created in 1958, the International Geophysical Year, and has served as the quintessential symbol of precision and reliability with a design of undeniable purity. Its calibre 478BWSbr movement is derived from military watches and incorporates the best watchmaking technology of that time: a stop second for precise time-setting; a glucydur* balance for stability through changes in temperature and fitted with a shock absorber; a “swan neck” index for micrometric adjustment; and the essential soft-iron inner case that protects this exceptional mechanism from the effects of magnetism.

All these features made this symbol of watchmaking expertise the perfect present for the first man to have headed an expedition beneath the North Pole, since this exceptional instrument had been designed to withstand magnetic fields of up to 600 gauss and to maintain its prodigious precision in all circumstances.


In 1958, with the world still divided into two political blocs and the Cold War still raging, various international bodies resolved to unite their strengths in order to discover the last unexplored regions of our planet. The first research programme was jointly conducted by 67 nations from both East and West. In an era when the space race was just starting, rockets were launched in order to study the composition of the upper layers of the atmosphere. It was also during the International Geophysical Year that the study of sea beds served to confirm the theory of plate tectonics. The still little-known poles were the focus of universal attention and permanent observations stations were set up in the Antarctic, while an American submarine crossed from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean by travelling under the ice cap covering the North Pole.

On August 1st 1958, the first ever atomic submersible vessel, named USS Nautilus in tribute to the fantastic submarine imagined by Jules Verne set off in absolute secrecy with the unprecedented objective of making a submerged transit from one ocean to the other via the most direct route – meaning beneath the ice sheet covering the Arctic. After three days in submersion, the Nautilus made the transit without anyone apart from the crew being aware of this feat.

The Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre is still particularly proud to have contributed to this event, a moment with a truly exceptional reach and profound symbolic significance.


Inspired by the original model, the design of these watches further enhances the excellent legibility and aesthetic distinction of the historic instrument. The three models paying tribute to the Geophysic® feature a slightly larger diameter of 38.5 mm to meet the comfort requirements of the 21st century. In the spirit of the calibre 478BWSbr, based on research linked to the Geophysical Year, they are equipped with the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 898/1, considered one of the most precise and reliable in-house automatic movements on the market today.

This exceptional movement combines the best technology of the 21st century: a stop second for accurate time-setting; a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour for high precision; a balance with micrometric adjustment by means of screws set into the rim; kifparechoc* for shock-resistance; Spyr gears for smooth transmission of torque in the gear train; automatic winding with ceramic ball bearings that require no lubrication, and more, all without counting the soft-iron inner case that protects the mechanism from the effects of magnetism.

Three central hands indicating the hours, minutes and seconds glide steadily over the grained white dial bearing the inscription “Geophysic®” along with the brand signature at 12 o’clock. The circle of applied hour-markers is interrupted by 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock numerals, thereby reproducing the layout and design codes of this legendary model. These Haute Horlogerie timepieces offering a unique combination of usefulness and aesthetic appeal bear the unmistakable imprint of the Grande Maison, as reflected in the luminescent coating in the historical colour on the dots facing the hour-markers around the inner bezel ring. Meanwhile, the dagger-shaped hands are rhodium-plated on the steel version and radiate a warm golden glow on the 18-carat pink gold variation. Entirely in tune with the perfectly restrained dial of which the purely functional nature accentuates the timeless elegance, the refined case embodies a range of truly exceptional qualities. Water-resistant to 100 metres, its back displays the signature emblem playing with the J and L initials of Jaeger-LeCoultre superimposed on a globe criss-crossed by latitude and longitude lines.

Each version of the Geophysic® watch is fitted with an alligator leather strap secured by an unusual pin buckle in colours matching the metal of the case: black for the steel model and chocolate brown for the pink gold variation.

This new legendary instrument will be reserved for a circle of passionate enthusiasts who will enjoy the privilege of wearing a timepiece paying homage to a fascinating chapter in the history of science. The Geophysic® 1958 watch will be available in an 800-piece limited edition for the steel version, while the 18-carat gold model will be issued in a 300-piece limited series.

A platinum model, produced in a limited series of 58 pieces, will also be available in 2014. Another aspect of the Geophysic® watch is the dial with hand-applied markers, numerals at 6 and 12, and rhodium-plated, dagger-shaped hands indicating hours, minutes and seconds. This version is mounted on a blue alligator strap.


Today, all Jaeger-LeCoultre watches have to pass the 1000 hours control to prove their precision and reliability. With this series of internal tests, the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre sets a new standard for watchmaking quality. Unlike chronometer testing that only concerns one part of the movement, the 1000 hours control submits the whole cased-up watch to six weeks of testing, in six positions, while rotating and at rest.

Just like the original, the re-edition of the Geophysic® 1958 watch unveiled by the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre is destined to make a strong and enduring impression. Its illustrious ancestry, duly appreciated by passionate devotees of science and horology, together with the evocation of the international-scale feats accomplished in exploring some of the world’s uncharted territories, are an irresistible invitation to set off on a personal journey of discovery and adventure. In 2014, the spirit of the Geophysic® watch is more vibrantly alive than ever.

Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre. The Inventors from the Vallée de Joux.
A major player in watchmaking history since 1833 based in the Vallée de Joux (Switzerland), the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre currently houses the 180 skills required to entirely develop and produce the most prestigious timepieces. Driven by a uniquely inventive spirit, Jaeger-LeCoultre perpetuates the tradition of Grand Complication models illustrated by extraordinary creations and legendary watches such as the Reverso, the 101 watch, the Geophysic®, the Memovox, the Master Control, the Gyrotourbillon, as well as the Atmos clock. Building on a vast heritage comprising 1,249 mechanical calibres and around 413 registered patents, Jaeger-LeCoultre remains the reference in the field of Fine Watchmaking.

* The Glucydur and Kifparechoc brands are not owned by Jaeger-LeCoultre

  • Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic® 1958 - steel version
  • Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic® 1958 - pink gold version
  • Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic® 1958 - Steel, pink gold and platinum versions
  • Jaeger-LeCoultre - historical Geophysic® watch
  • Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic® - historical poster