Wooden Beam 2020: Jaeger-LeCoultre Cross-hair dials, E 329 – E 168

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Next comparison I would like to share on the Wooden Beam 2020 is a pair of Jaeger-LeCoultre Cross-hair dials from the 1950’s.

The Cross-hair dial decoration on the dial have been used by many brands through history and during the 1950’s and 1960’s it was a very popular way to make a dial less “plain”.

What is a bit interesting is that when going through all my Jaeger-LeCoultre documentations – both catalogues and ads for the time period 1950 to 1959, there is not many watches with Cross-hair dial.

I have heard theories that the Cross-hair was restricted only to Chronometer watches, but that is not true – at least not when it comes to Jaeger-LeCoultre, possible for other brands but not here.

Fact is that I only found a handful watches during the 1950’s from Jaeger-LeCoultre which have the Cross-hair dial.

Jaeger-LeCoultre – reference E 329 and E 168

First one is the E 329 from 1957: Calendar – Automatic, sub-seconds, roulette date wheel and according to this document, 34 mm. You can read about the roulette date wheel here.

Jaeger-LeCoultre E 329 – 1957 catalogue

In other documents the E 329 is featured as well – to the left, French reference 12 R.A.E.C. 2 (Round, Automatic, Waterproof, Sub-seconds). The one to the right, from another document I have, at first I mistook it for the E 329 but looking at the French references, the “E” – Étanche is missing and the ID-number is “1”, not “2”. You can read about the different reference systems here.

Looking closer, this must be a different watch – look at the thinner bezel and the curved lugs. Different hands set and based on the missing “E” in the French reference, I am guessing snap on case back instead of screw-down as on the E 329… Still to figure out which is the Swiss reference for this one but most likely it will be a four digit number starting with a “2nnn”…

French reference 12 R.A.E.C. 2 and 12 R.A.C. 1

Remember that the size of the E 329 in the first document stated 34 mm? Here is yet another document from 1961 stating 35 mm – which matches my watch. Guess that Jaeger-LeCoultre mixed it up during printing of the first catalogue.

Jaeger-LeCoultre E 329 – 1961 catalogue

Second one is the E 168 Geophysic, which from start did not have a Cross-hair dial. The dial that was used from start, the “12/6” dial, was designed in 1957 for the Geophysic release in 1958.

I do not have any document with the Geophysic Cross-hair dial, but I have seen the drawings. The Cross-hair dial drawing is dated 14th of January 1958, so most likely the Cross-hair dial of the Geophysic didn’t reach the market until 1959.

Here in a document from 1959 is the Geophysic “12/6” dial, but also T.W.O other Cross-hair dial watches – one ladies watches, the French reference 9 RO.SC. 65 and the men’s watch 12 R.A. SC. 11 (Swiss reference E 373 Powerwind – you can read about it here).

Jaeger-LeCoultre E 373 Cross-hair dial – 1959 catalogue

So why compare these? Just because of the dial? Yes and No.

Yes, because these are the only Jaeger-LeCoultre Cross-hair dial watches I have and even if they are very close to each other in year of release, 1957 -1958, and they share the same size, both are 35 mm in diameter…

Jaeger-LeCoultre – reference E 329 vs. E 168

No, another reason is to show how very different these watches are from each other even if they share a similar look…

Automatic vs, Manual, Chronometer vs, non-Chronometer, Date vs. No date, Numbers on the dial vs. No numbers on the dial, Large lume vs. Small lume, Dauphin hands vs. Sword hands, Small crown vs. Oversized crown, Sub-seconds vs. Central seconds, Tapered lugs vs. Broad lugs…

Yes, the list goes on…

Not even the dial colour is the same – while the Geophysic dial is white with a surface structure similar to what we can see today in the Duometre line…

The E 329 have a greyish white dial with a glossy surface.

While taking photos a cloud came and shadowed this shot – at first I didn’t want to use it, but then I changed my mind as it clearly shows the difference of the dial colours.

You may think I missed a lot of Cross-hair dial watches from Jaeger-LeCoultre? Well, there has been many, but not during the 1950’s!

As soon as we enter the 1960’s there are a lot of different Cross-hair dial watches to choose from.

Here are just a few examples from the 1963 catalogue: 19020, 1926, 1966, E 390 and E 392 – all featured with the Cross-hair dial.

Jaeger-LeCoultre 1963 catalogue – examples of Cross-hair dials

On the wrist they are similar at first glance… But once you stop and look closer…

What has always puzzled me is the fact that the E 329 is a creation matching its year – Automatic movement with date.

In the end of 1950’s and 1960’s that was the “hottest” complication, all brands were competing in making the best automatic movement with date.

Jaeger-LeCoultre E 329 – on the wrist

The Geophysic which Jaeger-LeCoultre chose to include in their 125 Years Jubilee collection on the other hand have a manual movement and no date… Why did Jaeger-LeCoultre not include any automatic watch with date in the 125 Years Jubilee collection?

Not that I am complaining – once you strap on the Geophysic on your wrist its magic!

Jaeger-LeCoultre E 168 – on the wrist

But what is the biggest difference between these two is the fact that one has become an icon of Jaeger-LeCoultre, the other one is almost forgotten…!

Stay tuned from more Wooden Beam 2020 reports!