Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic – The Entry-Level to JLC’s new Sports Collection
Inspired by the 1968 Memovox Polaris but adapted to contemporary demands, meet the Polaris Automatic.
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 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. The movement, dial, and case have been executed with a great attention to detail, usually found in more classic or 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.
Personally, I hate the coarse grained texture which cheapens the feel of the watch – and I think the price is rether too high. Come on JLC, you can do better (and more original) than this.
Thank you to Monochrome for this article, and especially for the pictures which are, as usually, top notch.
The original JLC Polaris undoubtedly is one of the most interesting and original dive watches that were ever made, mainly because its concept is radically different from the conventional dive watch. I understand that its is very rare – apparently less than 2.000 units were ever built and sold. Maybe this rarity is attributable to the fact that a Polaris was much less convenient to use than a conventional dive watch. Imagine yourself in a wetsuit with gloves, seated in a small boat, shoulder to shoulder with your dive buddies, trying to fiddle with the crowns of a Polaris …
But in the day and age of desk-diving tool watches any functional disadvantage should not be an impediment and it’s actually hard to understand why JLC did not revive the Polaris already several years ago.
The design logic of the original Polaris was obviously driven by the fact that it had to display three distinct functions – the diving time via a rotating ring, the actual time and the alarm time via a rotating disk. One can argue how functional the original Polaris design was to display these three distinct functions – I personally find a conventional, Submariner-style setup much easier to read – but at least the setup of the dial was logical.
This watch retains the original dial set-up, but obviously lacks the alarm-time function. You can be ok with this, to the extent that you like paying tribute to the original watch, but there seems to be missing something. To me it feels like a car panel with ‘blind’ knobs reserved for functions only offered in the top-spec version. And from the standpoint of pure practicality I find this setup less than optimal.
The movement used in this watch appears to be a derivative of the 898/1 that was used in the limited-edition Geophysic. I am sure it’s a fine movement, perfectly suited to support extended sessions of desk diving. However, it might not be a particularly exciting movement, and its choice does not contribute to making the Polaris Automatic an interesting or innovative time piece. I would have loved to see a derivative of cal. 770 with its distinctive Gyromax balance in this watch.
For me this particular time piece is offering to little for too much money. It definitely feels like a missed opportunity and I believe we could have rightfully expected more from JLC. Those who buy into the Polaris concept should be quick to pick up the limited edition Polaris Memovox – while not necessarily being innovative, it’s at least faithful to the original concept and combines vintage charm with modern-day execution.
Nice Watch in many ways – But why such an unimpressive depth rating? Not really a watch for immersion but nice on the wrist nonetheless.
Such a great dial, but the blue version is magical. Wow. Saw it again today in person. Think this watch is in my future.
I have seen the watch in the flesh as i was very unterested buying It, it has been such a disapointment , the finishing of the case and dial is far from what you can expect from JLC, the all thing is a big miss to my point of view !!!
What’s going on with JLC ????????
So i manage to find the original ( not the same price at all but not the same watch either) from a us dealer ( i’m in France and it took 4 days to receive it) and what a watch !!!!!!! ( as it is an old lady , it won’t see a drop of water but…).