Twenty-five years ago Jaeger-LeCoultre released the Master Control collection, a line of watches dedicated to the sort of traditional high-quality watchmaking for which the Le Sentier-based house is so well known. The pure style of the Master Control sits well with the credibility afforded by JLC’s ‘1000 Hours Control’ testing program, in which the subject watch undergoes six weeks of extensive testing, covering off everything from accuracy to impact. And while these days this sort of rigorous testing procedure is increasingly par for the course, in 1992 JLC was well ahead of the pack.
The potent combination of conservative good looks, horological credibility and a fair price meant that the Master Control collection has a well-earned reputation for offering exceptional quality. This year the offering only got better, as Jaeger-LeCoultre released a trio of anniversary watches with some pretty special vintage-inspired dials.
The most simple of the three is the Master Control Date, followed by the more complicated Master Chronograph. Today, though, we’re going to look at the most complex offering of the three, the travel-oriented Master Geographic.
Basically the Master Geographic is a dual-time watch with a city indicator. To me, the most remarkable achievement of the watch is how JLC has managed to make such a potentially messy assemblage of features look so restrained and in keeping with the sparse sector dial layout of the collection. To be sure, the curved city wheel aperture dominates the bottom of the dial, and the tiny 24-hour indicator sitting alongside the second time zone subdial does take a little getting used to, but on balance this 40mm steel watch is still decently restrained. The functional add-ons don’t take away from the really nice, blued, skeletonised syringe-style hands, or the clean, tonal printing that enlivens the otherwise plain finishings of the silver dial. While the Master Control Date or the Master Chrongraph could, from a distance be easily mistaken for mid-century originals, the more modern layout of the Geographic stresses the ‘inspired’ in vintage-inspired.
And the movement, as you would expect from JLC, is a work of functional beauty. One of my biggest complaints with travel watches is unnecessary complexity, and that’s not a problem here — to change the second time zone all you need to do is twist the crown at 10 and the second time zone and city ring move in sync, removing any need to fiddle with Greenwich Mean Time — the last thing you want after a long haul flight. The view through the caseback is exceptionally pretty, the calibre 899 looking fine with its plentiful Geneva stripes and handsome, skeletonised pink-gold rotor. It’s worth noting that the ‘regular’ version of the Master Geographic includes a power reserve indicator that’s been eschewed on this edition, resulting not only in a cleaner dial but also a lighter price tag.
This commemorative Master Control trilogy has been exceptionally well received by watch lovers, who appreciate not just the good looks but also the sensible pricing structure. And while the complication at play on the Master Geographic may not be to all tastes, particularly if you want a more purely retro feel, the great news is that there’s something for everyone in this limited-production series.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Geographic Australian pricing
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Geographic, $13,900