What, or who, is a JeanRichard?
I first learned of JeanRichard in 2010 when I got my first smartphone. I downloaded a watch catalog onto the phone and spent many hours browsing the different watches. The catalog featured a few JeanRichard watches and they were just awesome. There was a racing watch named after the MV Augusta motorcycle brand and I drooled over this masterpiece for weeks. The other JeanRichard watches were all sporty and awesome. Back then, we had one retailer of JeanRichard in Montreal. The following year, they started dumping their JeanRichard watches at massive discounts before eventually closing down. I only saw a couple of the watches in the store before it was too late to buy one. Today, I believe there is only one JeanRichard retailer left in Canada and it is Classic Creations in Toronto.
The quick story behind JeanRichard is that the brand is named after a famous watchmaker named Daniel JeanRichard who lived way back in the 17th century. JeanRichard is owned by Girard-Perregaux and many watch guys like to say that JR is to GP as Tudor is to Rolex. By this, they mean that JR is the sporty and entry level watch in the GP family. GP, of course, is one serious high-end watchmaker and I think this adds a little oomph to the JR appeal.
The watch you see here, a 44mm JeanRichard Terrascope, now belongs to me. I acquired it in a trade on our favorite watch forum, CanWatchCo (CWC). If you are willing to buy from the U.S., and go through the hassle of customs and duties and currency exchange, you can find killer deals on JR watches online. I spotted this one on CWC at a slightly better price and it included extra straps- and no customs to worry about. It seemed like a rare opportunity to pick up an extremely cool timepiece with a full kit and extras.
The JR was delivered on an aftermarket textile strap which looked amazing and summer cool. But the OEM JR steel bracelet with was included in the kit was too impressive to ignore. I switched to the bracelet within one day and much of this review will focus on said bracelet and what it does for the overall effect of this timepiece. Let’s jump right in and examine it now!
My collection had been lacking a dressy piece on a steel bracelet — something that fits with nice business suits and has that all-steel metal look. The JR bracelet is among the finest I have ever encountered. While wide and beefy, it is elegant. The double deployment buckle, with very subtle JeanRichard logos, provides a seamless connection for the bracelet. This gives a wonderful dressy touch to the overall effect. The bracelet and the rest of the watch are mostly brushed metal, giving a rugged and utilitarian feel. The polished parts, such as the sides of the bezel give a shiny blingy touch to the watch. The steel bracelet is super comfortable and definitely turns the watch into a piece that you will wear with business suits.
The dial, which is available in different colors, is quite sporty. My watch has the white dial and looks like a diver. It is bold and simple and beautiful. One critique is that the date window is too small. It should be larger to balance the rest of the dial. The lume is awesome on this piece. The crown does not screw in which makes winding and setting the watch quite easy. I love how the pointy minutes hand is very easy to line up precisely on the minute markers when setting. Overall, the dial is cool and purposeful while the crown allows for nice adjustments.
It is not 100% clear what the movement is based on, but it seems to be a Sellita SW200. This a widely available and “generic” movement with proven reliability. I can’t say much else about it. When you wear this type of movement, you don’t get the feel of high horology. Rather, you have to appreciate mechanical timekeeping in general with a basic movement housed in a nice case. I must say that my JR has been running flawlessly and losing less than 2 seconds per day. So it seems I have a fine mechanical device in a beautiful package.
It’s halfway through 2016, folks. I think we all know that the time for huge bulky timepieces is behind us. And the JR Terrascope is 44mm wide. It’s big! But if you have big wrists like me, you can pull it off. It’s definitely a big and heavy piece. I guess it isn’t current with the times anymore, but as I blogged recently, size alone means nothing. You have to look at the overall effect of a timepiece and size is only one aspect. Nevertheless, the Terrascope is a massive piece and it certainly feels heavy on the wrist. After wearing it on one very hot day, it started to get really uncomfortable despite its wonderful bracelet. This is not an everyday piece and not a piece you can take on a beach vacation. It is just too damn heavy. I could see myself wearing it often, but definitely not every day. These days, I get fed up of watches that are too heavy or irritate my wrist.
A JeanRichard Terrascope is going to do one of two things — it will either attract lots of attention as an unusual and never-before-seen timepiece, or it will go totally unnoticed because nobody can recognize what it is. I think either scenario is cool. The guy with money to spend, who doesn’t know anything about watches, goes for a Rolex Submariner. But you also have connoisseurs who go for the Sub. Then you have connoisseurs who like to find undervalued, lesser-known and original timepieces. A JeanRichard certainly falls into the latter category. It won’t give you the “I’m the big dog in the room” feeling or the stealth wealth appeal of a discreet Patek that cost $60,000. But the JeanRichard provides and extremely attractive mechanical timepiece, with excellent finishing and build quality at an entry level price. Plus, you are unlikely to ever encounter a JeanRichard on anybody else’s wrist…at least not here in Montreal. The JeanRichard offers a different type of satisfaction for me. With all my Panerai and Rolex, it was all about, “Hey, look how much I spent on this watch! I’m awesome!” With a JeanRichard, I say to myself, “Wow, look at this gorgeous timepiece that cost so little! It cost me less than the service on a Panerai, but it provides a similar experience on the wrist.” So I think that a JeanRichard can be considered a connaisseur’s watch just as much as a Vacheron Constantin. It is not on the same level of horology, but it offers a cool and funky interpretation of mechanical timekeeping and impressive bang for the buck. I think that finding these cool, well made and competent timepieces is real connaisseur stuff.
So how can I describe the JeanRichard experience? Well, this particular Terrascope is a large and heavy watch that has a lot of wrist presence. When sitting on its steel bracelet, it provides a helluva statement on the wrist. Nevertheless, it has an elegance that makes it ideal for dress shirts and business suits. The Terrascope is automatic with sweeping seconds hand and a date display, making it a good candidate as your daily wearer. However, I found that it is too heavy to want to wear every day. So I have designated it as my occasional business piece when I need a neutral steel look with a bit of bling. I will wear it whenever I don’t know what else to strap on (i.e. it is my default piece) or when I need to show up somewhere with something original on my wrist.
Several friends have mentioned to me that the JeanRichard has a Panerai flavor. I can see that. I get it. It is large, impressive, bold, simple and… beautiful. So in that sense, it is really a lot like a Panerai. But the Terrascope is offered at entry level luxury watch prices. If you are seeking an undervalued asset and if you are more concerned with intrinsic value than the brand image, then you need to start having a serious look at the JeanRichard lineup. As always, the fun is in the search…