The first Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor I laid my hands on was a Master Compressor Memovox in 2004 and as far as I recall, there were no other Compressor models at that time. I really liked it – and still do – but it seems that the Master Compressor models in general are not as well received by collectors and enthusiasts as the more conservative Reverso and Master collections. I’ve tried and tested Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso and Master watches in the past, but never gave the Master Compressor really a chance.
In the past, we’ve reviewed a couple of Jaeger-LeCoultre watches, like the Gyrotourbillon, the Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2, the Master Minute Repeater, Master Tourbillons and the Reverso Classique. The Master Compressor only got a bit of attention with this photo essay on the Navy Seals Alarm Beverly Hills Boutique edition. However, we never did a hands on review on the Master Compressor before.
Jaeger-LeCoultre was able to hand over a Master Compressor Geographic that I could test and try for a few weeks. The Geographic has always been one of my favorite Jaeger-LeCoultre complications as I have this weak spot for world timer watches. It is a very useful complication, especially when you are traveling through different time zones for business or just for fun. Just to keep track of your home time (to try fight the jet lag) or to stay in touch with people that are in different time zones than yours during their (and your) ‘normal’ hours.
In the past, I’ve been looking at the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Geographic a couple of times, but found it a bit too small for me (diameter = 39mm). This made me even more curious about the Master Compressor Geographic, with a diameter of 41.5mm a perfect modern time companion that will fit most men.
One of the first things you will notice when putting on the JLC Master Compressor ref. Q1718170 are the two large crowns. Jaeger-LeCoultre uses a ‘compressor’ system to make these watches water resistant. In the case of the Geographic, two crowns are being protected and need to be ‘secured’ or ‘unsecured’ by turning the first part – let’s call it the wings of the crown because they are shaped that way – of the crown 180 degrees. You will see that the white arrow on the crown will become a pair of red arrows instead, meaning that it is unsafe to use under water.
Unscrewing the lower crown will rotate the city disc. You can choose (for example) New York and the small hour hand on the sub dial will change to that time zone, this way you don’t have to know the difference in time zones by hours when setting the time zone but just select the city of the country or part of the country you are in. Other time zone watches require you to exactly know the time zone (in hours) of a certain city or place, the Master Compressor Geographic makes it a lot easier for you. The city disc aperture at 6 o’clock is large enough to see some other cities besides the selected one. Perhaps this is done for design reasons, but I also like the fact that you see some other time zones as well, to give a bit of a reference or orientation.
The upper crown sets the ‘regular’ time and the hands of the second time zone sub dial will change along, however, the difference (if any) between the hour hands will remain as set (by having used the lower crown). It may sound a bit complex at first, but it is a very easy system to use and prefer it above some other world timers I’ve seen that require you to do the calculation yourself.
Besides being a very functional and useful watch for travelers, it is also a watch that can be used for displaying time in an elegant way for those who stay at home or don’t travel at all. The AM/PM aperture on the left side of the center indicates whether it is before or after Noon of course. This feature is quite useful for a world timer as you might get confused whether it is earlier or later in the other time zone.
The back of the watch is perhaps just as impressive as the wonderful black dial. Although Jaeger-LeCoultre’s caliber 923 movement would probably be impressive to look at as well, they chose to show that this watch has been tested for 1000 hours with respect to the accuracy of the movement. You are probably all familiar with the COSC (chronometer) certification for movements, but Jaeger-LeCoultre takes the extra step in tightening the range of deviation (-1/+6 seconds per day instead of -4/+6 seconds per day). Furthermore, Jaeger-LeCoultre is testing the movement for accuracy, temperature changes and shocks where the movement is already fitted in the watch case. COSC is only testing the spare movement, which is later on fitted into the watch case by the watch manufacturer again.
Jaeger-LeCoultre develops and manufactures their own movements, as they have done for many many years. They also provide some of their movements to other brands as well. Jaeger-LeCoultre is a true manufacturer and take pride in what they do and have accomplished. Their movements range from time-only function to very impressive complications, as referred to in the beginning of this article (f.e. Gyrotourbillon, Minute Repeater etc).
After two weeks of wearing this watch on a daily basis, there are a few things I can conclude. First of all, the size is perfectly balanced for a sports watch. I also wear my 40mm Rolex Sea-Dweller some times, and that is starting to look a bit too small these days whereas my 39mm Royal Oaks fit me perfectly (they look & feel bigger due to the large lugs and integrated bracelet). So, for a round case, 41.5mm is definitely making sense to me.
Something else that I really enjoyed during these two weeks is the beautiful dial. The black dial with large white numerals and hour markers are great and the sub dials – although not positioned symmetrically – seems to be in balance. The dial still looks clean to me for a world timer watch. The AM/PM and city disc aperture are also very well positioned on the dial and provide perfect readability.
The Master Compressor has two things that made me wonder (before wearing it) whether I would like them or not. The stainless steel bracelet is the first aspect. Although I love bracelets, this bracelet is polished and looks a bit too shiny for my taste. The construction of the bracelet is perfect though and the clasp did not fail during the review period. Personally, I would pick this JLC Geographic with a leather strap (which changes the reference number into Q1718470). Brown calf or an alligator strap, I think both are available at Jaeger-LeCoultre.
The other aspect are the compressor setting crowns on the right side of the case. At first I thought they would be a bit too big or ‘out there’. However, they suit the watch perfectly, are easy to operate and they didn’t have the habit of sticking into my hands (something that other large crowns do).
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Compressor Geographic comes in a few versions. The version as reviewed here, with stainless steel bracelet, has a price tag of 11.200,- Euro. The version that I’d prefer, with a leather strap, has a price tag of 9.900,- Euro. Then there is a beautiful Master Compressor Geographic in rose gold, with a price tag of 36.500,- Euro. The watch I reviewed here doesn’t come cheap, but compared to other world timer watches of true watch manufacturers it is not that steep.