Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Extreme LAB

We've been waiting years for some real changes in watch movements involving new materials and finally, JLC have produced the lubricant free(ish) watch. A Tissot Astrolon for the 21st Century. The Extreme LAB.

It is a fantastic development, but perhaps it is not quite there yet. Graphite powder in the main spring barrel seems to betray that achievement, but I am being churlish. The teflon and moly coatings in places with diamond like carbon-on-silcon escapement does qualify in my book. The question is, is it maintenance free though. Only time will tell.

Professor Birkin made the best comment I've seen on it yet:
MJLC should have housed the technology more discretely (as befitting their status with Patek and UN) in say the duometre. We would have all sat up and said WOW a little louder. They should have addressed the marketing a little better: "We believe that this watch should run without service, however, once in a while, if you feel you can part with it, we would appreciate your cooperation and have it returned to us for service (free of charge) and timing so that we can learn how the new technology is operating in everyday conditions and over a longer time frame. The watch is very much a partnership between you (the owner) and us (the watchmakers) and we hope that you will take this journey to learn about the new technology with us."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre à Chronographe - Brilliant but Pointless

But then are not all mechanical watches? Brilliant but pointless.

Among the concerns I have about this piece, the main one is the obvious one. Is the claim of better timekeeping under chronograph operation achieved?

The barrel and balance wheel package has to be compromised so as to include two barrels and associated chronograph gear train. This leads to a 11.5 mgcm2 balance wheel at 21600 vph (a shocking 1/3 of the balance power of Autotractor) and modest power reserve. Is that trade-off worth it really? I wonder if there is poorer time keeping from the lower performance balance wheel and beat than is created by chronograph operation in a well designed clutch movement with a higher beat and higher inertia balance - take a Rolex 4130 for example.

Remember that under COSC testing there is a 24 our period of chronograph use that must not deviate outside 5 seconds or the criterion for Vmax would be failed (Greatest variation in rates ‘Vmax’ is the absolute value of the greatest of the five variations in rates with regard to the five positions of the watch during the first 10 days of the tests: allowed to be 5s). We debated how JLC's 1000 hour test stacked up against COSC testing here. However, I've never seen a chronograph tested over the MC 1000 hour.

It would need to be significantly better than the above 5s/d standard with/without chrono or it would be a pretty pointless complication. I would suggest that with all this effort it ought to be 0s/d different As ever, it would be nice to see some data from JLC. GAME ON!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Jaeger-LeCoultre Diving GMT - The New Deep Sea

We've all been sat on the edge of our seats for so long now waiting for a worthy JLC diver, it's hard to believe it's really here. Let's get one thing out of the way first. JLC, can you please brighten up the names a little, let's just keep the past names going shall we? Enough with the unmemorable Master Compressor Diving Pro Geo Extreme Alarm GMT Chrono or whatever, I name this ship the new Deep Sea range.

Polaris was a diver watch especially designed and produced for the American market between 1965 to 1970. JLC issued a watch called the AMVOX1 which drew inspiration from Polaris, but was in no way a proper dive watch (50m W.R. rating and illegible bezel). Talking to dealers, it's been a slow mover, make that s l o w. If you actually fancy it, it's easy to get heavily discounted, but I digress...

In fact, JLC felt the Polaris 're-issue' job was done with the Compressor Memovox and not wanting to repeat themselves in this new range, JLC depart from the rather unusual historical Polaris feature of an alarm to make a true hardcore diver.

I won't repeat PR packshots here, you can find them on other websites, but here are two 'real' shots from the UK Boutique launch event.

I handled two of the three pieces (this one and the chrono) and the Ti piece is very light. There's a bit of Hublot in there, a bit of Offshore and from side-on a Sinn U1 feel - in fact it is a bit tuna-canny. I guess there's only so many shapes you can play with for a dive watch... The blue oblong just above '6' is a running small seconds that tells you the watch is running* and gives the impression of an artificial horizon as it rotates and of course the subdial at '9' is the 24 hour time.

Criticisms? Well, I am surprised that the quick change bracelet has not been adopted, I would have found that useful; maybe it cannot be made secure enough for diving (see below). I was also not so impressed with the feel of the bezel. It needs to be tighter and maybe even 120 clicks per rev not just 60, but it was a prototype, so I'm sure that can be improved.

I was once in sea so rough I nearly had my mundane Seamaster lost from my wrist because the locking diving clasp was forced open, so I am always looking at bracelet security solutions with more than an average interest. I'm surprised to see the bracelet only clicks shut as per the standard butterfly clasp. It does retain the clever and useful JLC half link expansion system for sweaty days of desktop diving though, but more might be preferable if one really used this in anger at sea.

I'm told the silver bracelet screws will be made black in the production version. Personally I would prefer a plain titanium bracelet which I believe is possible and I still find it hard to love those confounded compressor keys.

Oh, and do not be put off by the 44mm, JLC have done their (now) usual trick of making it shrink by keeping lug length sensible. The size is perfectly acceptable on my small wrists. In fact it wears smaller on me than Compressor Memovox.

Don't get sucked into the limited hype, my advice? Wait for the non limited and cheaper stainless version.

*I don't believe blue is the last colour visible, data I've seen from Googling is saying violet. And that agrees with my notion of the absorption corresponding to wavelength, i.e. the last colour of the rainbow wins.

Is it about colour though? I'm not so sure either; it's about contrast. The darker it gets the less colour you can make out. Rods and cones in your biology lessons remember?

You don't have to dive too deep in my experience to find it quite dark especially on an evening octopus hunt or night dive, then you are operating with pretty monochrome vision and anyway you're using diving lights...... Then surely it would be better if the safety indicator disc was simply black and white - your eye is very good at detecting movement.

Bottom line? I just think the blue was more marketing than tech driven.