SIHH 2018: Introducing the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Collection
Bringing back the legendary dive watch with four fantastic, vintage-inspired timepieces.
Watch brands like to tease. Before the doors opened at SIHH 2018, Jaeger-LeCoultre gave journalists pre-show sneak previews of the Geophysic True Second Boutique Edition and the Reverso Tribute Duoface. Which is why we were pleasantly surprised by a third retro-inspired launch: four new versions of the classic JLC Polaris.
First, a quick history: In 1959, Jaeger-LeCoultre created the first dive watch with an alarm to alert the wearer when it was time to re-surface. Six years later, JLC introduced the Memovox Polaris — named after the Cold War era missiles. The watch was a true wonder of technological innovation: It’s three-part case kept it waterproof while allowing the alarm to be heard. The company only produced 1,714 of these models between 1965 and 1970 (there was a second generation known in North America as the Polaris II made between 1970 and 1972).
Rarity and Passion
The rarity of the Polaris has always inspired a passion amongst collectors. And while JLC has occasionally reissued versions of the Memovox Polaris (most recently in 2008 with the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox Tribute to Polaris 1968), it’s never been enough to satisfy fans.
Even after the Polaris was replaced by the Master Compressor as JLC’s main underwater watch, the Memovox remains one of the company’s signature timepieces. One of the most elusive versions was a Memovox Polaris known as the “Wrong Dial,” which featured an inner disc that points to the time that the wearer would like the alarm to sound off at.
The Wrong Dial was introduced 50 years ago. Jaeger-LeCoultre is celebrating this anniversary with a rebirth of the Polaris itself. There are five new timepieces in the collection: The Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph in stainless steel; the Polaris Chronograph in rose gold; the Polaris Automatic; the Polaris Memovox; and the Polaris Date.
The NEW Polaris
The new Polaris line puts the emphasis on the dressy/sporty style of the 1960s models. The dials feature a mix of blocky numerals and wedge-shaped indices as well as baton hands. And lots of vanilla-colored Super-LumiNova for that vintage vibe.
Only the Polaris Memovox has the alarm Feature, but the Chronograph, Automatic and the Date all have complications that will appeal to fans of the original Polaris as well as practical and modern updates that will appeal to those who want all the modern conveniences.
The Chronograph, for example, comes with either a black or ocean blue dial that will appeal to fans of the Polaris II era. But the pushers of this precision instrument have been redesigned for ease of operation. And oversized indices, contrasting chronograph subdials and a thin bezel makes for maximum readability.
The crystal of the Date echoes the silhouette of the 1968. Both the Automatic and Date have good-sized, chunky (and easier to operate while diving) double crowns to set the time and operate the inner bezel.
Instead of 16 holes drilled in the case back to help the alarm resonate, this year’s model of the Polaris Memovox has a screw down cover. It is still engraved with the signature Polaris compressor diving helmet symbol.
The line also moves past its historic influence by utilizing up-to-date technology. The Automatic is powered by an in-house caliber JLC 751 movement, originally introduced for the Master Chronograph.
The 1970s styling of the new Polaris is a bit of a surprise from JLC, which generally steers toward earlier, more elegant looks when it comes to its heritage pieces.
Collectors who have been calling for a reissue of the Memovox Polaris didn’t get their wish for SIHH this year, but the Polaris Memovox isn’t a disappointment either — it’s a variation on a theme that completists will want to add to their checklist