As one of the most famous cult-collectible watches not only from JLC but of all time – generated a lot of excitement.You first heard about the Replica Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic True Second here on HODINKEE back in September, and the watch, as you would expect from a descendant from the original Geophysic.The new Geophysic True Second, however, is more than just a celebration of the original – it is, as we reported at launch, very much a new interpretation of the idea of a no-nonsense, high precision, exact but unobtrusive tool watch replica. The earlier Geophysic 1958 models, from 2014, which you can take a look at here if you need a quick refresher, were a real crowd pleaser, as you would expect from their very close resemblance to the original 1958 chronometer grade, antimagnetic (to 600 Gauss) watches replica made to celebrate the International Geophysical Year.
Two of the newest features of the new True Second, as a matter of fact, are pretty dramatically different from both the original and from the Geophysic 1958: the True Second, and the movement inside (caliber 770) has a new balance – the Gyrolab balance – and it also has a very unusual complication: a deadbeat seconds hand. The Gyrolab made its first appearance in a pretty radical watch from JLC, back in 2007, called the Extreme LAB. The Gyrolab balance has a very interesting history at Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre, and an interesting connection with the name “Geophysic.” The Extreme LAB was the result of a research program initiated under the fake watch of then-CEO Jerome Lambert, and the watch was meant to be a concept-car equivalent, showcase timepiece for the very latest in technical innovation in watchmaking. It made extensive use of exotic materials, including carbon nitride, molybdenum disulfide for lubrication. It had a silicon escape wheel; a case made of titanium, carbon fiber, and silicon carbonitride; bridges made of sintered aluminum/titanium carbide; and the very first iteration of the Gyrolab balance.Think of it as a sort of 2007, Jaeger-LeCoultre engineered Cartier ID One/Two.
The Gyrolab balance in 2007 was made of platinum and iridium. The next version of the Extreme LAB, the Extreme LAB 2, had a conventional annular (ring-shaped) balance, but interestingly enough for the purposes of our story this was the first Replica Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso watch since the issue of the original in the late 1950s to bear the name “Geophysic.” The Extreme LAB 2 “Tribute to Geophysic” bore no resemblance physically to the original – it was an aggressively styled, rather unusual digital chronograph – but it represented a similar philosophy in terms of functionality, at least, if not design, which was to create a durable and practical instrument watch. The idea behind the Gyrolab balance is to make the watch replica more efficient: the reduced surface area, said JLC back in 2007, would reduce energy lost to friction with air (another way to do this is to evacuate all the air from the watch case, which, as we’ve covered with respect to the Cartier ID Two, you can do, but it comes with its own, different engineering challenges) and that’s still the rationale for the Gyrolab balance in today’s True Second.
That was back in 2010. The Geophysic 1958, as we’ve mentioned, was released in 2016, and that brings us up to today. You’ll recall that we said the Geophysic True Second also has a deadbeat seconds complication. We’ve remarked in our coverage of other deadbeat seconds watches that the name is a bit of a marketing problem (“deadbeat” not being, as a slang American English expression, terribly complimentary) but that, historically, has been the standard name. Normally the seconds hand of a Replica Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos watch is driven by the fourth wheel in the gear train, which in a standard watch movement turns once per minute. Since the fourth wheel moves when the gear train is allowed to advance by the escapement, the number of jumps a seconds hand makes per second is determined by the frequency of the watch – in the case of the True Second, that would mean eight ticks per second if it weren’t for the deadbeat seconds complication.
If you can get behind the idea of a deadbeat seconds complication at all, on a personal level this is one hell of a watch. As with any interesting fake watch, there’s both a personal and a social aspect to wearing the True Seconds. The movement is top-shelf work – not the recipient of the sort of meticulous hand finishing you’d find in the Lange 1815 chronographs of the world, but then, this is an under-$10,000 watch. It’s going to be a Goldilocks-range watch in terms of size for probably 95% of you: not too big; not too small – just right, at 39.6 mm in diameter and at 11.5 mm, it feels thin enough to feel very much like what they used to call, in the 1950s, a gentleman’s wristwatch, suitable for daily wear.
The deadbeat/True Second complication is pretty straightforward in terms of how it actually works. The principle isn’t all that different from a remontoire d’egalite, actually. The seconds hand isn’t driven directly by the going train of the watch replica; instead, it’s propelled forward by a spiral spring, held under tension by the mainspring. On the same axis as the escape wheel, there’s a star wheel, against the teeth of which a metal “whip” presses. As the star wheel turns, the whip periodically slips free of the tip of one tooth, before coming to rest against the next; as it does so, the deadbeat/true beat/jumping seconds hand skips forward. This happens once per second. That slightly anachronistic feel is aided and abetted by the quiet, but very high quality, finish of the case, dial and hands. Everything’s really cleanly done, with lots of low-key well thought out details that add up to a watch replica that makes a businesslike, sober, but also very beautiful impression. The first impression one has of the watch overall is that it’s a wristwatch to which some very serious attention has been paid, both in terms of conception and execution, and that’s an impression that a week of daily wear (up to and all the way through the HODINKEE Collector’s Summit, as a matter of fact) only reinforced.The volume really gets turned up a notch when you turn the watch over. Caliber 770 is a very, very pretty thing, with, as with the rest of the fake watch, a very soberly dignified, unpretentious, but also very cleanly and elegantly done finish.
Now, I said earlier that there is both a personal and social aspect to wearing a Replica Jaeger-LeCoultre Tourbillon watch; let’s talk about the social aspect, and the deadbeat seconds complication. This is, let’s face it, a tough complication for some people, maybe a lot of people. It’s not an easy thing to get, so to speak – the deadbeat seconds evolved from high precision regulator clocks with one second pendulums, and in post World War II watchmaking they’ve been probably the single rarest complication – at least in terms of the number of brands that offered it – in all of watchmaking (I would be willing to bet there are more brands that made tourbillons than made a deadbeat seconds fake wristwatch). The most famous is, of course, the Rolex Tru-Beat, but that’s probably the most inside-baseball of all Rolexes in the postwar production – made, supposedly, to allow doctors to more easily time pulse beats, which is analogous to the use astronomers made of seconds-beating regulator clocks to time the transits of stars in the Good Old Days.
You can connect the dots between the heritage of precision timekeeping the deadbeat seconds complication is heir to, and the heritage of precision timekeeping the Geophysic True Second is heir to, but it takes a bit of education in horology and it takes a bit of work and I suspect at least some people will balk at the challenge. Those who take Replica Jaeger-LeCoultre Master up on the offering, though, will have not just a very well made, very attractive (if also very discreet) wristwatch replica to enjoy, they will also have the pleasure of saying at a gathering of watch enthusiasts, when some relative novice asks why they are wearing a quartz watch replica, “Well . thereby hangs a tale,” and enlightening them.