For you who follows me on Instagram may have noticed that I am in a gold streak – happens to me each winter… I think it is the warm feeling of gold that comforts me during the cold winter!
One that keeps my wrist warm this winter is the Jaeger-LeCoultre E 398 Geomatic in rose gold.
Classic elegance mixed with sporty finesse – the Jaeger-LeCoultre E 398 Geomatic
A clarification, the Geomatic is not one watch or reference – it is a model family name and it existed in several different references and versions. Different metals, calibres used, case shapes, hands, dials…
There is often a confutation or mix up between the T.W.O most common Geomatic references – the E 398 and the E 399. The E 398 only exist in gold while the E 399 only exist in stainless steel.
Here, a few versions from the 1963 Jaeger-LeCoultre catalogue:
And here, a few more versions including my E 398 from the 1967 Jaeger-LeCoultre catalogue:
It is easy to think it is the same watch only in different metals… But it is not! The T.W.O references share a lot of the basics but are very different in details.
The E 398 and the E 399 according to the advertisement from the time: waterproof, shockproof, automatic, calendar, antimagnetic!
French Jaeger-LeCoultre Geomatic advertisement from 1963:
Same base, a 36 mm case with screw-down case back, automatic movement, sunburst silver dial (most versions, not all), applied index and hands in matching metal. And yes, both are Chronometer certified series.
Even if the diameter is the same, the T.W.O cases are very different.
While the E 398 have thin angled bezel, the E 399 have a step bezel. Crown flat on the case for the E 398 versus the slightly recessed crown of the E 399.
But the most visual differences are the lugs. The E 398 have shorter and thinner tapered lugs (18 mm between the lugs and 42 mm lug to lug). The longer and wider lugs of the E 399 are more curved with a pronounced bevelled corner (19 mm between the lugs and 44 mm lug to lug).
What is the same on both are the gold Geomatic Chronometer medallion on the back. Engraved directly on the case back of the E 398 while it is an applied gold medallion on the E 399.
Here one can also see that the case back of the E 399 is more raised, giving the watch a larger volume than the E 398. Not sure if it is due to design, the applied medallion or because of different Calibres inside. In the E 398 from 1964 is the Calibre 881, while inside the E 399 from 1969 is the Calibre 883, both with the same total height of 6.14 mm. Both movements based on the same, Calibre 880.
During last year I wrote a lot about the different reference systems with a focus on the U.S. market.
My understanding is that the Geomatic was never launched in the U.S. or at least I have not found any documentation of that so far… In the 1960’s, most automatic waterproof watches in the U.S. were sold under the Master Mariner line.
Even if we don’t see any LeCoultre labelled Geomatic, there are different market references… One being the French market – the Geomatic was a big seller in France!
Promoted as a watch for the man of action! Waterproof, shockproof, automatic, calendar, antimagnetic. Yes, more of a “sports watch”, than a dress watch.
French Jaeger-LeCoultre Geomatic advertisement from 1966:
There is a French reference, 12 R.A.E.C.SC.16 for the E 398. Most likely due to the fact that the French used to do their own gold cases. Not sure exact year when the French market started to import Swiss gold cases, but suspect the Geomatic to be in the borderline of that period…
The E 399 was used by both Swiss and French as reference as the steel watches were imported as complete.
My E 398 have a Swiss rose gold case. From the sellers photos, I thought it was a yellow gold case, but once I had the watch in my hands… Some surprises are more happy than other…!
Same as with the previous chronometer, the E 168 Geophysic, the Geomatic had a special box – the inside looks very much like most boxes from the time…
But on the top you have the Geomatic Chronometer gold sphere:
This urge of wearing gold watches during the winter months have made me think I need to start over and collect all the steel watches I have in gold as well… A thought which I find both a bit frightening and alluring…
Let’s see what the future will bring…
But when it comes to the E 398 and the E 399 it doesn’t feel like doubling up even if they are from the same family as they are very different from each other in details!
There is a lot more to write about the Geomatic line – stay tuned for more!