Original Series
By Jason Heaton
on 3.22.13
Photo by Gishani

Editor’s Note: There are lots of watches out there, and, ironically, not a lot of time to decide which ones to spend your money on. That’s where “Time on Our Hands” comes in, with in-depth looks at the very best in watches: lesser-known pieces, classics, and of course the must-haves. Great watches, time-tested by our Timekeeping devotees.

If you haven’t heard of JeanRichard, we don’t blame you. The company has existed largely under the radar of even watch nerds for years. But for those in the know, the venerable marque, which is named for Swiss watchmaking pioneer, Daniel Jean Richard, garners respect due to a history of quality in-house movements and some unique timepieces. The company is part of the Sowind Group, a partnership with haute horlogerie giant, Girard-Perregaux.

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While that might seem a profitable pairing, JR may have suffered from being in the shadow of its better-known cousin. This year, JeanRichard made a concerted effort to refresh its product line — new designs, new movements, new image — and it showed at BaselWorld. We recently got our hands on their latest: the Terrascope ($3,500), an old dog with new tricks.

TICK LIST

Jean-Richard-Terrascope-Gear-Patrol-Tic-List

Movement
Frequency: 28,800 vibrations/hour (4 Hz)
Jewels: 21
Power reserve: minimum 42 hours

Functions
Hour/minute/second/date

Case
Polished and vertically satin-finished stainless steel
Dimensions: 46.00mm (3-9h)
Height: 12.60mm

Case Back
Screw-down, engraved

Dial
Black vertically satin-finished
Luminescent indexes
Rhodium-coated hands with luminescent material

Crystal
Anti-reflective, scratch resistant sapphire crystal

Water Resistance
Water resistant to 10 ATM, 100 meters

Bracelet
Stainless steel bracelet
Stainless steel folding butterfly clasp

The Terrascope has been around for a few years in various guises. But it seems that with this iteration, JeanRichard has sharpened its focus, shifting to a sportier, more adventurous aesthetic that belies their history of elegant, dressier watches. The chunky cushion-shaped case and bold dial with large luminous hands are pure sports watch. Indeed, some have drawn comparisons to the well-known Patek Philippe Nautilus, to which it bears more than a passing resemblance without being an outright homage.

The Terrascope is a big watch — 46 millimeters across, to be exact, and 12 millimeters thick. And it’s heavy, especially on the gorgeous steel bracelet we wore for a week. The bracelet’s polished bevels, elegant butterfly clasp and fine brushwork don’t exactly inspire one to take it rock climbing or skiing, but it’s also available on a rubber strap, which would both lighten it and lend it a sportier feel. It was in this configuration that Franck Cammas, the winning skipper of last year’s Volvo Ocean Race, wore the Aquascope, the Terrascope’s aquatic cousin, during the arduous round-the-world sailing race.

There are few other timepieces in this price range that offer such fine fit and finish. The dial, with its applied markers and modern font, has a satin slate gray finish with some texture that almost conjures up a meteorite or rock face. The hands are rhodium-coated; the sweep seconds hand has a red triangle tip. The Terrascope’s case itself is a study in contrasting finishes, alternating between polished bevels and a vertically-brushed bezel and sides we would be horrified to scratch. Our only quibble: we hoped for a screw-in crown, which seems like a natural fit for a 100-meter water resistant sports watch.

JeanRichard was known for years for its use of in-house movements in relatively affordable watches, which we think should have been a winning formula. This year, though, the company is shifting to modified third-party movements in an attempt to makes some of its timepieces — like the Terrascope — even more accessible, and perhaps to distinguish itself even further from Girard-Perregaux as the affordable alternative from the Sowind Group. Realistically, in a sports watch with a solid steel caseback an in-house movement is overkill. The JR60 movement kept chronometer-spec time during our week and should be reliable over the long term.

The sports watch field is deep, with a lot of timepieces tugging seductively at your wallet. Most are watches built for a specific purpose — diving, flying, driving — but we like that the Terrascope is a sports watch without a specific sport. This isn’t a watch dressed up in a costume or boasting a Challenger Deep pressure rating. It’s a solid, sporty, beautiful and unique watch, wearable from the waterfront to the water cooler without looking like a poseur. And for that reason, we approve.