Earlier this week, we stopped off in Le Sentier, Switzerland, to visit the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre. We were there to see something brand new – something they we will be thrilled to report on in the coming months. But, like most great products, what is new is usually based in something old, and what we saw as lovers of JLC's Geophysic line of watches was downright awesome. As you may remember, the very first Geophysic was designed to be the utmost in chronometric performance and durability, and one example was gifted to a Captain William R. Anderson, who piloted the USS Nautilus – the first atomic submarine – to the North Pole in 1958. We saw his actual watch.
William Anderson was a naval officer, who later became a U.S. Representative for Tennessee. His appointment as captain of the USS Nautilus was world news at the time, as this was the very first nuclear powered submarine to be put into service. He would pilot this craft under the North Pole in 1958, under close orders of President Eisenhower.
This trip was not only a scientific and technological mission, but one of what the U.S. perceived to be grave geopolitical importance. By this time, the USSR had demonstrated impressive technological might with the launch of the Sputnik satellite, and Eisenhower's push for this mission was as much a show of force as anything. He believed that while the Russians may have temporarily been leading into the exploration of the cosmos, the Earth's extreme locations were equally important. It was even believed that access to the polar caps would give the US a military advantage, and Anderson was hailed as a hero.
Anderson and his achievements were also well received by allies of the U.S., and as such, the citizens of Geneva gifted him what was, at the time, the pinnacle of horological machines – the just released Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Chronometer, in gold. Anderson wore this very watch for years, as seen by the condition of the piece, until it was eventually sold by his family to Jaeger-LeCoultre.
William Anderson's personal JLC Geophysic now sits in the private collection of the manufacture that produced it, alongside other important and early Geophysic models. If you would like to learn more about Captain Anderson and the USS Nautilus, he wrote a book titled Nautilus 90 North, about his time as captain of this first atomic submarine. You may purchase it here.