Jaeger-LeCoultre takes a decidedly elegant plunge into the sports watch arena with the 2018 Polaris Collection. Reviewed here in detail, the five new members of the Polaris family are clearly descendants of the legendary Memovox Polaris model of 1968, revisited with just the right mix of vintage styling and contemporary tweaks. The Polaris Automatic is the simplest, smallest (41mm) and most contemporary looking model in the collection offering time only indications and an attractive entry-level price. For those of you who suffer from ‘datewindowphobia’, you will be pleased to discover that there is no such thing on this model allowing for an unobstructed, uninterrupted view of the dial. Smart enough to wear to the office yet rugged and sporty enough for 100-metre dives, the Polaris Automatic is as versatile as they come with a great history to boot.
Survival of the fittest
Designed as a professional dive watch capable of fathoming depths of 200 metres, the original Memovox Polaris, the world’s first dive watch with an alarm function to remind divers that is was time to resurface, broke with the prevailing dive watch aesthetics of the day. Unlike the more bulky personalities of its rivals with external rotating bezels and hulking cases, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s diver was an elegant-looking instrument watch with an inner bezel to time immersions, sleek faceted lugs, and a trim, shipshape dial. It was, if you like, a bit like diving in a three-piece suit as opposed to a wetsuit.
As the offspring of the historic 1968 Memovox Polaris, certain genotypes are reproduced on the Polaris Automatic to ensure the longevity of this particularly well-adapted species. The rotating inner bezel to time immersions, the distinctive trapezoid hour markers and numerals, the effective luminescence and the two crowns on the right side of the case are all common traits of its historic ancestor.
A brand new case
The 41mm stainless steel case of the Polaris Automatic is brand new and the alternating hand polished and satin-brushed surfaces enhance the watch’s innate elegance – something rare in such a price range, the case is actually REALLY finished by hand, and not polished/brushed by machine. Emphasising its versatile handsome but sporty character, the watch is water-resistant to 100 metres.
The two large crowns on the right side of the case – the one at 2 o’clock to manipulate the inner bezel and the one at 4 o’clock to set the time – have also been revisited for a better grip and offer a good surface area for large fingers. If you look closely at the striated crowns, you will notice the attention to detail that is hallmark Jaeger-LeCoultre with the alternating satin and polished finishes on the grooves.
Unlike the original sealed case back of the Memovox Polaris, drilled with holes to amplify the sound of the alarm, the new watch has a sapphire crystal cover. The lugs feature a prominent slope and sit comfortably on the wrist while the thin rounded bezel offers an unimpeded view of the strong, graphic dial.
You can see the hand of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s design department clearly on the dial. The first impression is one of depth created by the inclination at which the inner rotating bezel meets the dial. Like a pie pan, the black or ocean blue dial hosts not one but three different ingredients to increase its flavour and texture. Arranged in three concentric circles, the centre of the dial is decorated with a sleek, sunray finish while the hours and minutes disc is grained giving it an almost gritty, asphalt feel. The external circle containing the rotating inner bezel, in contrast, displays a glossy opaline finish.
Capturing the hallmark cheese wedge-shaped markers and bold Arabic numerals of the original, the indicators are applied to the dial and outlined to give them extra relief and presence and a more contemporary feel. And like the hands, they are all treated with SuperLumiNova.
The 2018 Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic is fitted with an in-house mechanical automatic movement – calibre 898E/1- with a 40-hour power reserve for the hours, minutes and seconds. Visible through the sapphire crystal window on the case back, the movement is decorated with Geneva stripes on the bridges and on the openworked rotor with the JLC logo and features circular graining on the base plate.
What’s more, the cased movement has undergone the demanding 1,000 Hours Control test. A quality control test developed by the brand in 1992, the watches are subjected to six weeks of rigorous tests (twice the amount of time compared to COSC testing) covering temperature changes, movement through six positions, impacts, water-resistance and even verification of the power reserve. Be reassured, what you’re looking at is a both reliable and highly accurate movement.
Available on a three-link metal bracelet with polished and brushed finishes and retailing for EUR 7,600, on a black alligator leather strap EUR 6,900 or on a leather strap EUR 6,750, the 2018 Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic can be ordered online. Overall, the JLC Polaris Automatic might well be the simplest of them all, it is surprisingly elegant and well-finished, especially in this price range. Movement, dial and case have been executed with a great attention to details, usually found in more classical or more expensive watches. The clean, time-only display makes this piece probably the most balanced of the collection – even if the Polaris Date has a unique vintage charm…
More details on www.jaeger-lecoultre.com.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.