This week, we are all about rare versions of cult watches. Today you’ll see a Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic E168 in yellow gold, and a limited edition Royal Oak in tantalum and steel. We’ll also be taking a look at an early Universal Genève Polerouter Sub, and a 24-hour Breitling Top Time, with an interesting double-signed dial. This is your Bring A Loupe for August 11, 2017.
An Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Championship Reference 56175TT, In Tantalum And Steel
It’s true that the reference 56175 is not only the midsize version of the Royal Oak, and it is also powered by a quartz caliber (AP designates it as a caliber 2612). Yet, the use of tantalum and stainless steel givea it an unusual two-tone aspect, very nicely complemented by the grey "tapisserie" dial. It’s also interesting to note the absence of a second hand, much like the original Royal Oak reference 5402, designed by Gerald Genta.
This watch was launched in honor of the golfer Sir Nick Faldo, after he won his second Masters Tournament in 1990, as engraved on the caseback. It was limited to 2,000 pieces, and was the first of the 4 limited editions dedicated to the golfer. The case and links are made of very resilient tantalum, while the crown, bezel and inner links are made of the more classical stainless steel.
A Belgian dealer listed this tantalum Royal Oak for 6,950€ (or around $8,156).
If tantalum is your thing, but you would prefer a touch of gold and an automatic caliber, the reference 14790 below might be your preferred option; it is offered for $8,800.
An Original Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Reference E168, In Yellow Gold
There is something whimsically charming about a tool watch made in precious metal, especially when that tool watch is one of the most important references ever made by Jaeger-LeCoultre. The Geophysic was released in 1958 to celebrate the International Géophysical Year, and the 125th Anniversary of the Manufacture. This was obviously the very best of what Jaeger-LeCoultre had to offer, with antimagnetic properties, and a chronometer-certified movement, the caliber P478/BWSbr. This movement is derived from the famous caliber 488/Sbr, used in the Mark XI.
The Geophysic was produced from 1958 to 1961, with only 222 examples in yellow gold, which at the time were more than 2.5x more expensive than the steel versions (produced in 1,038 pieces). They came with a number of different handsets, but the sword hands remain the most iconic, and were therefore kept in the recent re-edition. The current watch also features the rarer cross-hair dial, also found in the re-edition (you can read an excellent article about its genesis here).
The seller also notes that the watch was serviced in 2016 and that a new crystal was added at that time, although the original crystal is also included with the watch. Given that the lume plots of the Geophysic are famously placed on the inside of the crystal, this implies that the current lume plots on the replacement crystal are not original, which can be seen from their bigger size, and more imprecise positioning.
A US collector offers this yellow gold Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic for $37,000.
An Early Universal Genève Polerouter Sub, With Asymmetrical Crowns
The SuperCompressor case holds a special place within the history of dive watches. Developed and patented by the case manufacturer Ervin Piquerez S.A. they turned the challenge of increased water pressure during a dive into an asset to further seal the case. This innovation was widely adopted by a large number of brands, including Longines, Universal Genève and Enicar, which all show the characteristic dual crowns with the top one allowing to set the rotating inner bezel.
The Polerouter Sub here demonstrates all the characteristics of a first execution, starting with the small dots inside the painted indexes. It also features mismatched crowns, which is actually thought to be a feature of the very first examples produced in 1961. The logic would be that the bigger size of the "regular" top crown with the cross-hatched pattern, has to do with the fact that the bezel would be frequently adjusted, while the smaller one with UG logo for hand-setting and winding would be less used given the in-house automatic caliber (with a micro-rotor to boot). The watch comes with a period-correct box, while the seller indicates that the hands might have been previously relumed (and they indeed appear so in the pictures).
Watchsteez priced this Universal Genève Polerouter Sub at $9,500.
A Breitling Top Time Reference 824, With Double Signed Dial
However busy the dial of this Breitling might seem, it brilliantly sums up 20 years of Breitling history. The AOPA logo reminds us of the crucial collaboration between Breitling and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which led to the birth of the Navitimer in 1954. The 24-hour configuration refers back to the evolution of the Navitimer in 1962; the Cosmonaute featured such a uncommon display, as requested by astronaut Scott Carpenter for the Aurora 7 expedition (day and night being more abstract when you are orbiting the Earth once every 88 minutes). And Top Time was the catchy name chosen by Willy Breitling and Georges Caspari to make the chronograph sound sexy to the youth market, this complication being formerly associated with military watches.
The Top Time reference 824 offers all that, although here the double-signed dial makes it an even rarer example. The chronograph caliber is the trusted Venus 178 that Breitling used and modified often, either to get to the 24-hour display or to show 15-minute counts in the reference 765 AVI/CP. The reverse panda dial is also a nice Breitling touch, introduced in the late 1950s with the SuperOcean reference 807. Here, the silvered sub-registers show a nice even patina, while the 38mm case looks to be in good condition.
A US dealer is offering this Breitling Top Time 824 for $5,000.