165.9.30 Jaeger-Lecoultre Odysseus in Tantalum Rose Gold
Tantalum is not often seen in watchmaking. It’s difficult to work with, extremely so, but highly corrosion and scratch resistant with a gunmetal-blue tone that is just gorgeous. FP Journe launched the Chronomètre Bleu in 2009 and made elaborate fanfare about how innovative it was to be executed in tantalum. However, like many things, JLC had already done it. And JLC used tantalum way back in the 80s, when practically no one had. The tantalum Odysseus was a 500 example run mecha-quartz with a meteorite dial and rose gold accents, now completely forgotten to the evolution of time. This was Switzerland’s best effort after a decade of quartz evolution, something of a pinnacle from a very specific era of watchmaking that is no longer.
When I say forgotten, a deep Google will turn up just one auction result and few images. That’s when you know you’re on to something great. Let me walk you through what we know; the case is 35mm, with unique set rose gold sides, pushers and crown. The dial is meteorite stone with applied rose gold accents, silver subdials, red quarters, and even a pulsations scale. Inside vibrates a chronometer-certified calibre 630 mecha-quartz with 233 components, all engineered to give the accuracy of quartz with the feel of a crisp mechanical chronograph push. This was the height of JLC’s quartz efforts, an apex calibre of which they were so proud they gave it a display casback and hand finished it. This ref. 165.9.30 in tantalum/meteorite was the Odysseus line halo product, a caseback-numbered limited series which only lasted 3 years of production due to slow sales.
The Odysseus, and this reference in particular, supports one of my deepest held watch-based hypothesis: that incredibly interesting, relatively unknown watches still exist in the darker lit corners of our attention. Step outside the Wilsdorf and Patek echo-bubble that is Instagram, follow any rabbit hole to its depths, and something like this will be there to meet you. I can’t promise they’ll all be this great through, the tantalum Odysseus really is in a class of one in so many ways. I love a Grand Seiko 9F as much as the next guy, but this is next level.
This example has all the checkboxes. Its case is full, no one polishes tantalum really as you destroy any finish. And the metal is so hard that it almost never scratches, hence the minimal surface wear on this example everywhere but the rose gold sides. Its dial is stunning, no damage visible. All tritium is present and matched in a cream tone. It comes without box/papers from a Swedish retailer.
Find this Odysseus here on Chrono24 for 6000 USD.