Under the patronage of the Grande Maison in the Vallée de Joux, the team of three mountaineers – Swiss guide Stéphane Schaffter, renowned Apa Sherpa and Little Karim Balti – have successfully scaled virgin summit in Himalaya, christened Antoine LeCoultre’s Peak. For the first time, the two living legends of the world of the Sherpas, met. Nepal, Pakistan and the Occident, joined forced in this extreme expedition. Three exceptional Jaeger-LeCoultre timepieces have been part of the adventure: the famous 1958 Geophysic Chronometer; the Master Compressor Extreme Lab which became an instant watch industry sensation when introduced in 2007; along with a third creation currently being prepared in the secret of the Manufacture workshops and due to be unveiled in January 2010.
Despite extremely tough weather conditions including a base camp covered with 40 cm of snow and daily avalanche risks, our adventurers have accomplished their mission by reaching this 6,589-metre peak that required an extremely delicate technical approach.
In an age where it sometimes seems everything has already been discovered, conquering a virgin summit is an endeavour comparable to the famous expeditions undertaken in the mid-20th century with the aim of climbing the world’s greatest peaks one after the other.
Stéphane Schaffter, a Swiss alpinist who has scaled the fabled Bonatti Pillar, has been accompanied by Apa Sherpa, who has 19 ascensions of Everest under his belt; as well as Little Karim, who has accompanied many great sportsmen in their over 8,000-metre high-altitude expeditions.
All three men, who have displayed an indomitable spirit of adventure throughout their lives and know that limits are there to be surpassed, have naturally chosen Jaeger-LeCoultre watches as the timekeeping instruments in their daring undertaking.
Alongside the Master Compressor Extreme Lab, it is no coincidence that the Geophysic Chronometer was also part of the expedition.
The Geophysic Chronometer first launched in 1958 is one of the most important models in the history of Jaeger-LeCoultre, encapsulating the values of precision, resistance and aesthetic values. It was born within an historical scientific context to which it made a direct contribution.
The International Geophysical Year (IGY) was a large-scale scientific effort organised on the initiative of the United States as a follow-on to the 1882 and 1932 International Polar Years. It was the subject of a five-year preparation programme and lasted from July 1st 1957 to December 31st 1958, timed to coincide with an expected peak of solar activity.
Tens of thousands of scientists working for 67 different countries took part in this 18 monthlong endeavour. They laid the foundations of global knowledge of terrestrial and spatial phenomena. The IGY was also the starting point for international cooperation in the Antarctic. Research covered a number of disciplines including geomagnetism, seismology, continental drift, solar activity, cosmic rays, longitude and latitude determinations, glaciology, hydrology, oceanography, meteorology, as well as gravity.
The technical characteristics of the Geophysic Chronometer by Jaeger-LeCoultre matched the needs of researchers, whether on polar base stations, in laboratories or during underwater expeditions. Behind this horological project was a determination to create a watch able to “withstand all trials”. The hostility of the polar climate called for people and instruments resistant to extreme conditions.
The Geophysic Chronometer was in particular equipped with a case resistant to magnetic fields, which also represented one of the main areas of scientific study during this period. The precision, the resistance, and the reliability of the Geophysic Chronometer made it an emblem of excellence – to the extent that when a group of Genevan citizens, with the support of the municipal authorities, decided to honour the feat accomplished by the American atomic submarine Nautilus, which had just reached the North Pole, they chose the Geophysic Chronometer as a symbolic gift.
On December 16th 1958, two Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Chronometers were officially presented to W.R. Anderson and J.F. Calvert, commanders of the Nautilus and the Skate, through the intermediary of F.B. Warder, commander of the submarine flotilla of the U.S. Navy Atlantic fleet. Their thanks were duly addressed to the Mayor of Geneva.
In 2009, for the conquest of a new peak, the three different above-mentioned Jaeger-LeCoultre timepieces, all “super sherpas” in their own right, have thus accompanied the three mountaineers throughout their ascension, constantly reminding them of the pioneering role played by the Manufacture in the Vallée de Joux in constantly pushing back the limits of precision while keeping pace with daring technical accomplishments.
About the Climbers
Stéphane Schaffter is a Swiss mountaineer born in 1953 and who settled in Geneva in the early 1970s. A fervent mountain-lover since his childhood years, he conquered the legendary Bonatti du Petit Dru pillar in the Mont Blanc mountain range at the age of just 16. Since the 1980s, he has headed a number of expeditions around the world, including many trips to the Himalayas. In 1985, he joined the select circle of mountaineers to have climbed the K2 without oxygen. This accomplished athlete is also a talented film-maker who also scaled Everest while filming the arrival at its peak of Yves Lambert and Tashi Tensing in the 50th anniversary year of the conquest of Everest. Stéphane Schaffter regularly organises expeditions on the American continent, particularly in the Andes cordillera. This elite sportsman well accustomed to extreme altitudes is particularly interested in exploring uncharted territory and engaging in new and original adventures.
Born in the early 1960s in the village of Thame, in the Everest region of Nepal, Apa Sherpa, whose real name is Lhakpa Tenzing Sherpa, lost his father at the age of 12. Having suddenly become head of the family, this eldest son of six children left school and became a high-altitude porter or “sherpa” for Himalayan expeditions. He began his real climbing career until 1985, although his work as a kitchen boy or a porter did not give him the opportunity to reach the summit of Everest until 1990. Since then, he has become a chief sherpa, to the point of being deservedly referred to as a “super sherpa” who reaches the roof of the world virtually every year. With 19 successful expeditions behind him, he holds the world record for Everest ascensions. In May 2009, he took part in the Eco Everest Expedition, which aimed to raise global awareness of climate change, returning from the peak with five tons of mountain trash. He now lives with his family in Utah, in the United States, where last April he founded the Apa Sherpa Foundation which supports educational and economic development projects in Nepal.
Little Karim Balti was born in 1956 in the village of Husshe, perched at an altitude of 3,200 metres at the heart of the Karakoram mountain range which includes the world’s second highest peak, the K2. From an early age, he showed a remarkable talent for climbing and took part in his first expedition with the American climber Dick Emerson. Over the decades since then, he has accompanied a number of accomplished sportsmen and women in their expeditions. His career now spans 30 years and has earned him the well-deserved nickname “King of Karakoram”.
Born of an invention, the Grande Maison has always been driven by the spirit of discovery; the need to create new, ever more accurate and more complex technical marvels. Year after year, knowledge and skills have been enriched, renewed and multiplied to serve the unique purpose of mastering the countless operations involved in manufacturing watch movements and cases – the fundamental prerequisite for rising to the most daunting technical challenges.
A major player in watchmaking history, Jaeger-LeCoultre has now celebrated its 175th anniversary. The Manufacture has an impressive range of world firsts, superlative creations and legendary models to its credit, including the Reverso, the Duoplan, the Master Control, the Memovox Polaris, the Gyrotourbillon I and the Atmos. In 2009, around 1000 people proficient in over 40 watchmaking professions and more than 20 cutting-edge technologies continue to pay tribute to the pioneering ardour of the company founders by creating new masterpieces proudly perpetuating the grand horological tradition. In 2010, as a further extension to the capacious premises now surrounding Antoine LeCoultre’s original atelier, Jaeger-LeCoultre will be inaugurating a new building providing 9,000m2 of additional workshop space.
Relive the Antoine LeCoultre Expedition at www.jaeger-lecoultre.com/eu/en/geophysic-expedition