Vin­tage redux

His­tor­i­cally im­por­tant time­pieces get a mod­ern up­date.

Esquire (Singapore) - - Style -

Vin­tage-in­spired is ex­tra mean­ing­ful when brands pay trib­ute to their own her­itage, be­cause it’s like get­ting a double dose of your favourite thing. This year IWC and Jaeger-LeCoul­tre gained much in­spi­ra­tion from the past, but they’ve also found a way to mod­ernise their cre­ations to ap­peal to the con­tem­po­rary au­di­ence.

IWC’s beau­ti­ful Trib­ute to Pall­we­ber Edi­tion 150 Years man­ages to balance past and present per­fectly. The three limited-edi­tion mod­els are a throw­back to the Pall­we­ber pocket watches which IWC had pro­duced in the late 19th cen­tury in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Aus­trian watchmaker Josef Pall­we­ber, who was the in­ven­tor of this form of dig­i­tal time dis­play. Pop­u­lar­ity of the IWC-Pall­we­ber pocket watches was, how­ever, short-lived as the watches were only in pro­duc­tion for a very brief pe­riod, from 1884 to 1887.

Pall­we­ber’s in­ven­tion may have been a pass­ing trend but the cur­rent trib­ute mod­els are un­doubt­edly col­lec­tor’s items. IWC very as­tutely timed its re­lease with the cel­e­bra­tion of its 150th ju­bilee. Three vari­a­tions in plat­inum, red gold or stain­less steel make it ac­ces­si­ble to all lev­els of watch con­nois­seur­ship—we heard that the plat­inum sold out within days of its re­lease.

Nat­u­rally IWC needed to minia­turise the move­ment mech­a­nism in or­der to fit it within the con­fines of a wrist­watch. In cre­at­ing the in-house Cal­i­bre 94200, its en­gi­neers and de­sign­ers came up with a com­pletely new so­lu­tion that is patent pend­ing. Where toothed cogs ad­vanced the discs in the his­tor­i­cal watches, the new move­ment uses a sep­a­rate wheel train with an au­tonomous bar­rel to drive the sin­gleminute disc.

This wheel train op­er­ates with the help of a re­lease mech­a­nism that locks and un­locks ev­ery 60 sec­onds, as well as ev­ery 10 min­utes (for the 10-minute disc). Fi­nally, ev­ery 60 min­utes it ad­vances the hour ring. All of this en­sures that the move­ment’s main gear train re­mains un­per­turbed in or­der to guar­an­tee a pre­cise rate and high power re­serve (60 hours). Ad­just­ment of the time can be made for­wards and back­wards via the crown thanks to a Mal­tese cross drive con­trol­ling all the dis­play discs.

For many Jaeger-LeCoul­tre afi­ciona­dos, the Po­laris is a refuge, an un­der-ther­adar trea­sure that wannabe col­lec­tors would un­know­ingly gloss over in favour of main­stream col­lec­tions like the Rev­erso or Mas­ter lines. In­deed, Po­laris re­mains one of the most un­der­rated watches by the grande mai­son for decades since its birth in 1968. This year though there is much change in the air as Jaeger-LeCoul­tre cel­e­brates 50 years of Po­laris with a fresh new spin on the watch that is sure to bring it le­gions of new fol­low­ers.

In par­tic­u­lar, the Po­laris Me­movox limited to 1,000 pieces is the ob­ject of ev­ery col­lec­tor’s fancy. This is the one with an alarm fea­ture and that most closely re­sem­bles the 1968 Po­laris Me­movox. It’s in­stantly recog­nis­able for the three-crown de­sign: one for set­ting the alarm, one for the in­ner ro­tat­ing bezel and one for the time. JaegerLeCoul­tre care­fully pre­served ev­ery de­sign el­e­ment that made the his­toric Po­laris such an icon.

Head de­signer Lionel Favre re­veals that the new Po­laris mod­els are crafted with ex­treme at­ten­tion to de­tail. In com­par­i­son with the orig­i­nal, the touches show a deep re­spect for the watch­mak­ing savoir faire of the grande mai­son and, al­though pri­mar­ily util­i­tar­ian, a wealth of haute hor­logerie touches can be found through­out the watch.

The hour mark­ers, Favre ex­plains, are fab­ri­cated as trape­zoidal ap­pliques and filled with vanilla Su­per­lu­mi­nova for max­i­mum leg­i­bil­ity. The hands are facetted and pol­ished to em­body the val­ues of high watch­mak­ing. And a suc­ces­sion of pol­ished and brushed sur­faces on the case add visual depth al­beit sub­tly. The dial too is a com­bi­na­tion of dif­fer­ent fin­ishes, but ev­ery­thing comes to­gether in per­fect har­mony.

Its in­te­ri­ors too have been mod­ernised con­tin­u­ously over the decades. Cal­i­bre 956 is a di­rect de­scen­dent of the first au­to­matic alarm watch move­ment made by JaegerLeCoul­tre. En­dowed with a gongac­ti­vated strik­ing mech­a­nism, along with cen­tral sec­onds and an in­stan­tjump date-change sys­tem, it is the best ex­am­ple of the grande mai­son’s legacy in con­tem­po­rary haute hor­logerie.

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