Insider: Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Extreme LAB 2. Haute Horlogerie on Steroids.

Jaeger-LeCoultre is not only one of the most respected watch manufactures in the world, but also a brand —when it comes to value equation— where you get a lot of watch for the money you pay without compromising on quality, design or craftsmanship. When thinking of Jaeger-LeCoultre, most watchlifestylers think of the iconic Reverso, the Memovox, the Geophysic or their perpetual calendars. However, not often enough they think about the Master Extreme sporty line of JLC watches. A line that brings the best of the manufacture to the extreme, to the rugged sporty haute horlogerie timepieces that can withstand the abuse of the most extreme environments. Therefore, this time we wanted to bring the hands-on review of one of our favorite sporty watches from Jaeger-LeCoultre, the Master Compressor Extreme LAB 2 ref. 203T541 in titanium. This rugged looking watch is equipped with a completely new mechanical chronograph movement specially designed for the most extreme environments. This new timepiece combines maximum ergonomics with unmatched precision and reliability. Several innovations make this watch the ideal instrument for explorers of the extreme.

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Extreme LAB 2 ref. 203T541 is fitted with a very robust case —water resistant to 100 meters— in titanium measuring 46.8 mm in diameter and 16.6 mm thick. The case features a very interesting design along the case band and its finish is just superb —not that we were expecting less from Jaeger-LeCoultre. The start/stop and reset pushers as well as the stop-seconds catch at 9 o'clock —allows for the most precise time setting by resetting the seconds to zero with a simple push—, are all fitted with rubber inserts to maximize their grip and to capitalize on the sporty look of the timepiece even more. The look is rounded out by an all black serrated ceramic bezel and black ceramic crown.

Now, let's focus on the very special crown with integrated pusher and explain how it works. The winding crown is not a pull-out crown but one where an integrated pusher allows the wearer to select how to engage the crown for time/date setting functions. This function selector enables several functions to be adjusted without having to delicately pull out the crown. Once the function has been selected, adjustments can be made simply by rotating the crown. In its 'N-neutral' position, the crown serves to wind the barrel. One press shifts the crown to the 'GMT' position for adjusting the time in the second time zone as well as the date and one last press shifts the crown to the 'Set' position for adjusting the time in the main time zone. Another successive press brings the system back to its initial 'N-neutral' position. This system, which eliminates the need to pull out the crown, ensures optimal water resistance without resorting to the traditional compression key.

Fitted with a skeletonized ruthenium dial, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Extreme LAB 2 looks very rugged and complex at the same time. While the dial is extremely beautiful and eye-catching, it is also extremely busy and hard to read at a quick glimpse.

The watch features a running seconds disc indicator located right inside the 24-hour chrono register at 9 o'clock, an instant digital chronograph indicator for the elapsed minutes at 12, a 24-hour indicator at 6 o'clock and a crown position indicator at 3 o'clock right next to the date aperture. In addition to all these elements, there is also a radial power reserve indicator along the periphery of the top half of the dial rated from '00' to '60' and that will show white or blue depending on how much of the 60-hour power reserve there is left —very similar to that on the AMVOX7 Chronograph we reviewed here.

The dial also features luminescent numerals/hour markers and trapezium-shaped skeletonized hands also with luminescent material. In addition to the hour and minute hands, there is a third smaller hand that is used as a reference time hour hand for the GMT function.

The Master Compressor Extreme LAB 2 is powered by the Jaeger-LeCoultre in-house automatic calibre 780 composed of 569 parts and 70 jewels and which provides a power reserve of 60 hours while beating at a frequency of 28,800 vph. As it is the norm with Jaeger-LeCoultre, the calibre is tested over a period of 1000 hours to guarantee maximum reliability.

Now, if you thought you had heard enough about this exceptional timepiece, you were wrong. As if the multiple functions, the case design and the superb movement weren't enough, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Extreme LAB 2 features two other surprises. The double alligator strap features a quick release system that allows the wearer to change straps in a matter of seconds. The innovative design of the new integrated interchangeable strap system is controlled by a lever located on the case back —right where 'Master Compressor' is engraved. Lifting this lever releases the inter-lug section in order to release the strap’s spring bar from its housing.

All one needs to do, is to hold the back of the watch case between the thumb and forefinger of one hand. Raise the flap cover upwards with the thumb on the same hand and keep it raised. Pull the strap section towards you in order to dislodge it using your other hand. Once the strap section has been dislodged, let the flap cover drop down again.

The second and last surprise has to do with the folding buckle. The folding buckle features an interchangeable small buckle system that allows the wearer to adjust the buckle to a 'short' or 'long' size. Additionally the strap features two keepers, one in black and the other in blue to maximize the blue accents on the watch.

By pushing the main pin on the buckle towards the JLC logo on the buckle, the strap is pivoted 180° towards the upper part of the small buckle. The mobile loop of the watch can be adjusted to 3 positions by simply dislodging the stud attached to the mobile loop.

On the wrist, the watch wears definitely bigger than its actual size and more like a 48 mm case that sits high on the wrist. Regardless, the watch wears comfortably and in a way that it reminds you its there. For those of you that like to time your international flights —longer than 12 hours—, look no further as this JLC Master Compressor Extreme LAB 2 is equipped with a 24-hour chronograph. Next time you are flying direct from O'Hare to Beijing, you'll be able to measure the 'wheels up, wheels down' time accurately.

Sticker Price $54,000 USD. For more info on Jaeger-LeCoultre click here.