Jaeger-LeCoultre Odysseus [3/98]

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Jaeger LeCoultre Odysseus

Posted by Jaeger on March 17, 1998 at 17:48:25:

In Reply to: JLC Odysseus posted by Jaeger on March 17, 1998 at 12:38:34:

Since this watch is no longer available for sale, I feel no compulsion to prepare
an archive-quality review. I appreciate all of those people who assisted me in making
the selection, in particular Mycroft and Walt O. I actually decided on this watch as a result of the painful decision to limit my collection to two watches, one dress and one sports.

Instead of an assortment of so-so watches, my goal is to have two “dream” watches.

The JLC “Odysseus perpetual calendar” was my selection as the dream part of the tandem based on the following criteria:

  1. It is a perpetual calendar, which has always impressed me as the highest art in complications. It amazes me that mechanical gears can account for February 29th;
  2. It is a JLC, which IMHO belongs at the table with the finest watchmakers, so long as that table seats 6-8; 3) it was remarkably reasonable in price, due in part to the fact that it is out of production.

So, I gathered up several of my favorite timepieces and swapped them out (shedding a tear, of course) for the Odysseus.

The first thing you notice about the Odysseus is the bone white enamel dial. I once asked somebody what the big deal with enamel dials was and was told “look at one, you will know.” Now I know. It appears thicker and more substantial than most dials, like a piece of scrimshaw. There are four subdials and a moonphase: the month dial at 12:00, the day of the week at 3, the date at 9 and a small 24 hour subdial in the center. Between 2200 – 0300 on the 24 hour dial the numbers are painted red as a warning not to adjust the date during this period. The three larger subdials have a beveled edge rimmed in gold, which I have not seen on other watches. This causes the dial to sparkle in any position, almost as if it were covered with gemstones. The date dial is a single ring of numbers, skipping the even numerals. I prefer this to the double (interior/exterior) ring that is sometimes used as they looks too busy. The date is legible, but then I have excellent vision.
There is also a moonphase indicator in dark blue with applied gold moons and stars. The gold moons are rather large and I can see my reflection in them clearly. There are a lot of gold stars, unlike some moonphases I have seen. Since it is a perpetual calendar, the moonphase need not be adjusted. The hands are blued steel, with tritium inlays. The markers are applied gold bars, tritium tipped. The minute markers are painted an unusual shade of light blue, as is the designation “Swiss Made.”

Oh yes, I almost forgot. There is a small window with the year indicator “98” at 1:00. This is a very subtle and quite small cutout, but I think this is essential in a perpetual (was IWC the first to have one?)

The watch is contained in a yellow gold stepped round case which is unusual because it has rose gold accents. There are two round rose gold commas on the left and right side between the lugs. I have never seen a two-tone gold case before. The crown is also rose gold. The back is solid, secured by four screws. I am told it is water resistant to 95 feet.

Of course, the movements the thing. The JLC 889/440 (with apologies for any inaccuracies.) The 889 base with 21k rotor is well known, but it is somewhat unusual

for a perpetual to operate at 28800 bph. As a result, the second hand sweeps quite smoothly. There are (I believe) 50 jewels (escapement with
end stone) and the movement is Anglage finished with 40 hour autonomy. All this in 4.55 mm (or 277 parts). Hence, the overall thickness of the watch is less than 9 mm.

The watch will need an adjustment in the year 2100.

The new JLC Master perpetual replaced the Odysseus, but the Master case with its nostalgic 1950s look, lacks the 2 tone, the rimmed subdials, and the basic elegance of the Odysseus. I believe JLC is attempting to emulate Patek styling and I wish them well, but it will be hard to top the detailed elegance of the Odysseus. Now the hunt for an equivalent sports watch is on.