One of the lesser known vintage divers watches from Jaeger-LeCoultre is the reference E 558 Master Mariner a.k.a. the “Barracuda”.
Some sources say that the E 558 was produced between 1967 and 1971 in circa 1500 pieces. What I find a bit strange is that…
Indeed, you can find E 558 with the year “xx-67” stamped on the inside of the case back. But earliest document I found on this reference is from 1969.
And not only is this document the only one with the mentioning of the name “Barracuda” but also the document is showing a demo watch, most likely not even a working prototype. Do you see the issue? No, not the fact that it’s the same hands as on the E 859 Polaris… The issue is…
…the crown! Or rather lack of the second crown!
The E 558 is a time only watch with date, so no need for a alarm crown. But the internal rotating bezel needs one!
As you can see the hands looks like the Polaris hands and a bit too long reaching into the rotating bezel. Most likely the watch in the photo is not a working model. The final version have shorter hands in a different style.
To me, this do not add up. No documents showing the watch for the T.W.O first years of production? First document with the watch showing a non-functional demo watch? Was the watch really released already in 1967? Or was it produced but not included in the catalogue?
One thing to remember is that Jaeger-LeCoultre didn’t make the cases themselves. The super compressor case was made by E.P.S.A. – E. Piquierez S.A. who made the cases for most of these super compressor watches in the late 1960’s. Many brands had similar cushion shaped cases. Could it be that when Jaeger-LeCoultre bought the cases, E.P.S.A. took some old stock cases and stamped “E 558”? That would explain the two year gap…
I have more documents on the E 558, but this is the latest one showing the watch, Jaeger-LeCoultre catalogue 1971. Notice the naming Master Mariner.
The fact is that the E 558 was included in the Master Mariner line back in the days. A line which mostly included what today would be considered as dress watches. The Master Mariner line appeared on the U.S. market back in the late 1950’s and were marketed with a strong sea and boat theme. Will return to this topic in a later post.
Enough history and speculations… Let’s see the E 558!
As mentioned, case made by E.P.S.A., a case manufacture used by many brands at that time. No wonder a lot of these late 1960’s divers watches look similar or even the same.
Here is a link to one of my other posts, showing two similar cases: Shot of the day: Omega 166.0072 Memomatic
Even if the rest of the Master Mariner family looks more like dress watches, the E 558 is a true divers watch.
With the typical look of a divers watch with large luminous hands, index and rotating bezel, but also the waterproof rating down to 200 meters to back up the look! Worthy of the name DEEP SEA!
There is a lot more to tell about the Jaeger-LeCoultre E 558 Deep Sea Master Mariner “Barracuda”, so stay tuned!