A Closer Look At The New Jaeger-LeCoultre North America Exclusive Polaris Date
The 2019 limited edition, sold exclusively in North America, reframes a classic with contemporary styling for a broader appeal.
Sports-luxury combines with vintage revival in Jaeger-LeCoultre’s latest addition to the Polaris collection. Originally released in a black dial version at SIHH 2018, the Polaris Date dive watch is back in a deep and detailed blue-dialed limited edition developed exclusively for North America.
The new release is in large part a tribute to the Memovox Polaris, a 1968 dive watch sold to European and US markets under the names “Jaeger-LeCoultre” and “LeCoultre” respectively. The watch is known for its three-part dial, alarm functionality, and for its double caseback which included a perforated exterior caseback to amplify the alarm underwater. With only 1,714 pieces originally produced, prices for vintage models begin around $15,000 and can climb higher than $25,000.
A Diver Resurfaced
Brands enjoy the guaranteed interest and name recognition of historic models, and it offers them the chance to update vintage pieces with elevated movements and contemporary styling. Meanwhile, buyers gain access to heritage models without the ballooning prices and the potential uncertainty that can come with vintage watch shopping.
A 50-Year Facelift
The new Polaris Date combines many of the design elements present in the 1968 Memovox Polaris and blends them with color cues from 1970’s Polaris II. Key features like the three concentric dials, date window, trapezoidal hour markers, and inner rotating bezel are all here. JLC has applied some modern tailoring to the 2019 watch, with smaller lugs, a slimmer bezel, two crowns instead of three (now that the alarm is gone), and a boxed sapphire crystal.
The shortened lugs on the 42mm case improve wearability by balancing the natural heft of the watch, making the proportions similar to another 42mm classic, the Speedmaster. The rubber Clous de Paris strap, which has been custom color-matched to the dial, smoothly integrates with the case and allows for a close and comfortable fit. The outer texture of the strap looks reminiscent of birdseye suiting fabric, so it will dress up better than the typical rubber strap. Plus, the texture is fun to run your fingers over when you’re bored or in a meeting.
Inside the sealed case is Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Caliber 899/A1. Made of 219 parts, the automatic movement has a 38-hour power reserve and is finished with Geneva stripes, although you won’t be able to see them through the steel caseback engraved with a vintage diving helmet motif.
Like other JLC watches, the Polaris Date is subjected to the rigorous “1000 Hours Control” test. This gauntlet of internal tests checks for proper water-resistance, shock-resistance, and magnetic field-resistance along with tests for consistency during changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure.
The biggest updates to the Polaris Date come in the looks department. Whereas the 2018 version unveiled at SIHH features a black dial to match the original, the 2019 Polaris Date pulls its gradient blue colorway from the 1970 Memovox Polaris II. The sunray finish on the central dial draws the eye inward and back outward. There, it meets the grained dial where tones from deep turquoise to bright cobalt weave between the vanilla-tinted numerals and trapezoidal markers. The finishes - hand-lacquered, grained, and opaline - produce an abyss-like depth that viscerally conveys the watch’s oceanic origin story.
The Telling Shift From Underwater To Urban
In the words of the JLC website, the new Polaris Date is “ready to adorn the wrists of urban adventurers” and “designed for men of action.” Statements like these are well-tuned to the modern reality that most dive watches, while fully equipped to handle the depths of the ocean, will not see much more than the deep end of the swimming pool.
Although it sounds jaded, this observation is less about condescension and more about opportunities for reinvention. For a parallel example, take Adidas’ Stan Smith sneakers. Originally designed for professional tennis players, they have taken on a new life as the go-to business casual sneaker with over 40 million pairs sold worldwide, the brand’s best-seller by a wide margin.
The genre of sports-luxury watches, which encompasses the Polaris Date and many other new tool watches, is finding a new angle to meet watch buyers where they are. After all, the desire for a tough watch on a bracelet and the desire for a watch to wear to work need not be mutually exclusive. As such, Jaeger-LeCoultre and others are prioritizing higher finishings and sleeker designs. After all, if the watch is set on performance, why not make it pretty?
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)