A secret underwater journey that the world wouldn’t soon forget once it found out. Captain Anderson commanded the submarine Nautilus and kept track of time with a Swiss watch from Jaeger-LeCoultre on his wrist.
By Britta Rossander
Antoine LeCoultre started his watchmaking business in 1833 in the village Le Sentier in the Swiss Jura mountains. He became famous for his innovative movements and was awarded a gold medal at the London World Fair in 1851 for his skills concerning precision and mechanics.
In 1903, Paris watchmaker Edmond Jaeger challenged Antoine’s grandchildren who had taken over the business to develop extremely thin movements. Mutual respect grew and led to the new company name Jaeger-LeCoultre. More prizes were won and the extremely well known model Reverso, also known as the “Polo watch”, would later make the brand name famous all over the world.
1958 saw the introduction of the Geophysic model, a chronometer equipped with the caliber 478BWSbr, developed for military use. A stopwatch, improved balance for stability and durability, resistance to extremely high and low temperatures as well as an inner cover out of iron to withstand magnetism were some of its strong points. The movement could take 600 gauss without missing a beat, which was an important factor to those who were planning to make a submarine trip under the pack ice of the North Pole.
On August 1, 1958, the world’s first nuclear submarine the USS Nautilus with six 21-inch torpedo tubes took off with great secrecy to make a journey from one ocean to another in the shortest possible time, which meant under the ice of the Arctic.
The Nautilus reached the North Pole August 3. Captain Anderson took his submarine on 25 laps around the pole to become “the fist vessel in history to sail around the world 25 times non-stop”. At Bering Strait the sub went under the pack ice and captain Anderson went from the North Pole to Greenland where the boat came to the surface. The underwater journey was completed without anyone knowing except the crew and the president of the United States.
The order to carry out the experiment had come directly from president Dwight D. Eisenhower as a direct answer to the Russian Sputnik. The Nautilus could operate at a depth of 500 meters, and the cover of ice above it varied from 3 to 15 meters with the sun sometimes shining through the blue ice. Captain Anderson was awarded a medal from Eisenhower for taking his ship and crew safely through the historical underwater journey. Anderson later became a member of the Congress and passed away in 2007. Whether he had any Swedish ancestry is unknown but quite likely. The Nautilus was retired from service in the 1980’s and is now a museum object in Connecticut.
Jaeger-LeCoultre, proud of having had their watch on captain Anderson’s wrist, have now produced an upgraded version. The diameter is 38,5 mm, which is slightly larger than the original but better suited for today’s taste in watches.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic is waterproof to 100 meters, has an alligator wristband and is available in steel (800 units made), 18-carat gold (300 units) and platinum (58 units). On the back of the case is a globe with Jaeger’s initials. The movement has a 43-hour power reserve and contains 202 separate parts and 29 jewels.
The movement is the self-winding Calibre 898/1, considered one of the most precise and reliable in-house movements on the market. The frequency is 28,800 vibrations per hour for maximum precision and the self-winding mechanism with ceramic roller bearings doesn’t require any lubrication. An iron inner case protects the movement from surrounding magnetism.