It’s not often a vintage watch is so well-preserved that you could easily mistake it for its reissue. That’s exactly the case here. Despite what the exterior looks like, this watch was made in 1958 and is testament to JLC’s insane quality. But it’s also a model that strikes core to JLC’s values: aesthetic purity, robust construction, and peerless innovation. This is JLC’s take on the antimagnetic watch, a Milgauss or perhaps more aptly 3417 A-mag from la grande maison.
1958 was both JLC’s 125th and something known as the International Geophysical Year. The IGY, as it was known, was a international science project that lasted from 1 July 1957 to 31 December 1958, chosen as it was the peak of that solar cycle (19) and happened to collide with 1958. On the surface, the event was created to celebrate the Earth sciences of airglow, cosmic rays, geomagnetism, gravity, ionospheric physics, longitude and latitude determinations, meteorology, oceanography, seismology, and solar activity. Under the surface, the IGY marked the end of the Cold War’s scientific stalemate, one of the first large public scientific exchanges between East and West since the nuclear age. This seemed like the ideal time for JLC to debut their scientist’s watch.
Characteristically, JLC were exacting. The ref. E168 which resulted was based on JLC’s war-time Mk XI. That calibre was upgraded with more precise regulation, hacking seconds, and even a Glucydur balance to guard against temperature fluctuation. It was now a chronometer, adjusted in five positions. This was all wrapped in an antimagnetic cage, giving 600 gauss resistance at still only 35mm. The E168 was durable and precise thanks to its military pedigree. That reputation saw it taken on multiple Polar expeditions, and even led it to be worn by captains of the Nautilus (the world’s first nuclear Submarine). It was replaced after just a year with the (IMO) less-intriguing Geomatic. Just 1038 steel examples were produced of which far fewer survive today.
As noted, this is truly a killer specimen. The case is full with light, even surface wear. The dial is remarkably undamaged for its age, all printing clear and legible too. The huge swathes of radium on its hands haven’t fallen or degraded, now just a perfect deep orange. It comes from a well-regarded Parisian retailer. It should be noted that Archiwatch are currently selling this Geophysic, but this exact example was previous retailed through the Davidoff Brothers. Two photos here are from that original Davidoff Brothers listing.