The Jaeger-LeCoultre Deep Sea Chronograph

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25 June 2012

This is an example of how a successful pilot's watch filters down into other categories. The Chronoflight was a historic Jaeger-LeCoultre model, dating to 1930 and used in civil and military aviation. It had a number of subdials and totalizers, used to calculate total flight time while deducting stopovers. It became a favourite amongst motor-racing drivers. Its heritage lives on in the Deep Sea Chronograph, which has an operating indicator that shows the status of the chronograph, whether already running, ready to be activated, or showing the measured time on the subdials. There is a circular aperture below the JLC signature, which shows white when the chronograph is ready to be activated, red and white when the chronograph is running, and red only when the chronograph has been stopped and the time can be consulted. These are functions ideal for divers as well as aviators.

The watch has a tidy dial, very legible, easy to read in the dark with white SuperLumiNova on hands and hour indices, and it has the usual technical qualities of robustness – water-resistant to 100 metres, anti-magnetic, and shock resistant. It has a small seconds subdial at 6 o'clock. The two chronograph counters for hours and minutes (30 minutes, 12 hours) have a lovely graphic design, with characteristic numerals that look like something from a 1950s dashboard. The central sweep seconds hand completes the chronograph. The watch is driven by the automatic Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 758, with 65 hours power reserve. The 42-mm stainless steel case has a black leather strap. The piston-style pushers are very practical, but in addition, the whole watch looks really good. It would be just in place for a classy evening event as in a cockpit.

And what about diving? The 100 metre rating is actually relatively low for a diving watch, and so if it would be used by divers, it would be for sport divers. In any case, divers use dive computers nowadays. Watches are about the legend, and the Jaeger-LeCoultre Deep Sea Chronograph is no exception.

Talking about legend, Jaeger-LeCoultre built a superb pilot's watch in 1948, the Mark XI, designed to Royal Air Force specifications that required unprecedented reliability and toughness. 2,950 were made. It was one of the first watches with magnetic protection, provided by a soft iron inner case. The beauty and simplicity of its dial puts the model onto the plane of legend. For some collectors, the Mark XI pilot is one of the finest watches of all time, and the epitome of the pilot's watch aesthetic. When a re-issue?

Read more:
Top 10 pilots watches 2012
Top 10 watches 2012