The Polaris collection, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s take on the sporty-elegant watch, welcomes two new references, the Polaris Mariner Memovox and Polaris Mariner Date. Based on the 2018 watches and designed to sit alongside but not replace these earlier models, the latest Polaris references come with a host of upgrades that consolidate their mission as genuine dive watches compliant with ISO 6425 specifications. With invigorating blue dials and sportier design codes, increased water-resistance, new stainless steel bracelets and other stylistic touches, the question is: are these high-performance divers the forerunners of a new generation of Polaris Mariners?
Before we trace the lineage of the Polaris, it’s worth pointing out that there are two different collections at JLC with a Memovox alarm function: the dressier Master Control Memovox and the sportier Polaris Memovox.
With a long tradition of chiming calibres under its belt, it didn’t take long for JLC to find new uses for repeater mechanisms. And sure enough, in 1950, JLC introduced its first alarm watch. Known as the Memovox, “the voice of memory”, the incorporation of an alarm inside a wristwatch proved an extremely practical feature. However, the culminating moment for the Memovox came in 1959 when it took the plunge on board the Memovox Deep Sea, the world’s first diving watch with an alarm signal to alert divers when to resurface. A life-saving alert when you consider all the variables of underwater dives like murky waters affecting legibility or a large shark in the vicinity.
However, the model that interests us today is the Memovox Polaris of 1968, a beefed-up version of the Memovox Deep Sea with a larger 42mm case size, three crowns, a triple layer caseback to improve the diffusion of sound underwater, a sharp, highly contrasted dial, increased water-resistance of 200m, an internal rotating bezel and date. Produced in very low quantities and taken out of production in 1969, the Memovox Polaris is an elusive yet highly coveted collector’s piece. The 1968 Memovox Polaris resurfaced in 2008 with a faithful yet limited version of the original (Memovox Tribute to Polaris). In 2018, after fifty years of practically uninterrupted slumber, a contemporary and very well-represented Polaris collection was launched (automatic, date, chronograph, world timer and Memovox). Characterised by modern-size cases, in-house movements, powerful dials with bold markings and contrasting surface textures, the Polaris collection was JLC’s proposal of an elegant/sporty men’s watch.
Polaris Mariner, What’s new?
The 2018 Polaris Date and the Polaris Memovox were the models with the strongest vintage vibes, closest in character to their 1968 ancestor. So, what’s changed? Let’s start with the external features of the watches. Both Polaris Mariner models retain the 42mm stainless steel case diameter and the dynamic mix of brushed and polished surfaces and the two or three crowns, depending on the model. A very obvious novelty is the introduction of sporty integrated steel bracelets (earlier models come with rubber straps) that are finished with the same contrasting brushed and polished surfaces of the case.
Another novelty is the sapphire crystal caseback that belies the increase in water-resistance from 200m to 300 metres. As high-performance, ISO 6425-compliant dive watches, the crown used to set the inner bezel is screwed down and has an orange security band to warn divers when it is not fully screwed down. Another feature that distinguishes the dive-oriented Mariners is the way the 15-minute dive time section has been accentuated with a thick white line running from the triangle at 12 to 3 o’clock and the bright orange markers at 5, 10 and 15 minutes.
The strong vintage character of the 2018 Polaris Date and Memovox – with their black dials and beige lume designed to evoke tritium – is diluted in these new Polaris Mariner models, with a blue colour scheme. Note that this isn’t the first time JLC offers a gradient blue dial on the Polaris, as shown with the 2019 Polaris Date “Blue Double Gradient”, which had a different colour though.
The vibrant blue dials and the touches of orange go a long way in refreshing the collection to give it a more contemporary air. As a professional dive watch, legibility in low light conditions is fundamental, and the hands, hour markers and numerals are all treated with Super-LumiNova. Not just one colour of lume, but two. To maximise legibility, the all-important minutes hand has orange lume at its tip, while the central seconds hand, the indices, numerals and hour hand all glow blue in the dark.
Looking closely at the dial reveals the different textures adding contrast, interest and depth. The gradient blue dial, ranging from a lighter blue colour in the centre to a more saturated intensity of blue at the perimeter, features three different finishes: the centre is decorated with a sleek, sunray-brushed finish; the hours and minutes disc is grained; and the rotating inner bezel displays a glossy opaline finish.
Polaris Mariner Memovox
With its unmistakable three-crown configuration, inner rotating bezel and alarm function, the Polaris Mariner Memovox pays homage to the earliest Memovox diving watches. The steel case measures 42mm x 15.63mm and the alarm is set using the crown at 2 o’clock turning the central disc so that the triangular pointer lines up with the desired alarm time. The central crown activates the inner dive bezel and the crown at 4 o’clock is used to set the time.
Now with a sapphire caseback, JLC’s automatic calibre 956, a direct descendant of the brand’s first automatic alarm calibres, is on full view. Having an open caseback meant a thorough revision of the strike-works system because the former Memovox models had the gong attached to the closed caseback. Now the action of the hammer striking the peripheral gong on the side of the case is visible as it emits its characteristic “school bell” ring. To provide as much viewing room of the striking mechanism and the refined Côtes de Genève finishes as possible, the rotor is openworked.
Quick facts: 42mm diameter x 15.63mm height – stainless steel, polished and brushed – 300m water-resistance – open caseback – blue gradient dial with rotating inner bezel – JLC automatic calibre 956 – 45h power reserve – hours, minutes, seconds, date, alarm – stainless steel bracelet – Ref. Q9038180 – EUR 17,400 or CHF 16,900
Polaris Mariner Date
A more straightforward time-and-date diver without the alarm function, the Polaris Mariner Date displays the dual-crown configuration of compressor-type dive watch cases. The upper crown operates the inner bezel, and the lower crown is used to set the time and date. Although we have seen a Polars Date model in 2019 with a gradient blue dial (with a lighter colour and cream SLN), the Polaris Mariner comes with higher water-resistance, a sapphire caseback, a new steel bracelet and all the design details we covered in the What’s New section of this article. Another upgrade concerns the in-house automatic calibre 899 that boosts the power reserve from 38 hours to 70 hours.
Quick facts: 42mm diameter x 13.92mm height – stainless steel, polished and brushed – 300m water-resistance – open caseback – blue gradient dial with rotating inner bezel – JLC automatic calibre 899 – 70h power reserve – hours, minutes, seconds, date – stainless steel bracelet – Ref. Q9068180 – EUR 11,000 or CHF 10,600
For more information, please visit jaeger-lecoultre.com.