Jaeger-LeCoultre celebrates the 50th anniversary of its first dive watch and introduces a new collection of sports watches, writes PIN LEE
JAEGER- LECOULTRE CREATED quite a stir at this year’s event. When the brand’s newly appointed global brand ambassador, talented British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, made an appearance at the Swiss event, it set social media ablaze. However, it was the brand’s new collection of sports watches that really got people talking.
Aficionados of mid-century dive watches will remember Jaeger-LeCoultre’s first diving alarm watch – the Memovox Deep Sea, a name that resonates in many collectors’ minds. Created in 1959, it featured an alarm to remind the diver when it was time to surface. In 1965, the Polaris Memovox was introduced. This watch featured a triple-back to improve the clarity of sound underwater and three crowns – one for the movement, one for the alarm and one for the inner bezel. In 1968, an updated version was introduced to great acclaim.
Fast-forward to 2018, which marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Polaris Memovox, and Jaeger-LeCoultre decided it was high time to revive the dormant timepiece. Unveiled in Geneva, the collection of sports watches based on variations of the Polaris theme comprises five new models: a three-hand automatic, a chronograph, a chronograph world time, an automatic with date and a Memovox diver’s alarm watch.
According to the brand’s deputy CEO, Geoffroy Lefebvre, the new Polaris collection isn’t just about repeating the past. The Polaris is one of the most revered vintage watches among watch enthusiasts, so respecting its history and provenance is paramount. Driven by in-house movements, all watches in the new collection – ranging in size from 41mm to 44mm – sport a clean case design, angular numerals, and a bold dial that combines applied markers with several finishings for depth and definition.
The star of the collection is the limited edition Polaris Memovox, with only 1,000 pieces available. This 42mm stainless steel
watch is a modern take on the 1968 model. It again features a special alarm function and carries vintage design codes such as the trapezoidal indexes, three-sector dial, large hands, three crowns (alarm, inner rotating bezel and time) and vanilla SuperLumiNova markers. The caseback has an engraving of a scuba diver, while the black dial has three different finishes – sunray in the centre, graining on the outer circle and opaline on the inner bezel – that showcase Jaeger-LeCoultre’s impeccable quality and workmanship. At the heart of this timepiece is an automatic alarm movement, providing a power reserve of 44 hours. The watch comes with a sporty rubber strap and is waterresistant to 200 metres.
Another new novelty, the Polaris Date, is also steeped in vintage design codes. An elegant sports watch, it features a 42mm brushed and polished steel case with two compressor-style crowns – one for the movement and one for the inner bezel. It’s fitted with either a rubber strap or a three-link bracelet.
The three-hand Polaris Automatic is perhaps the most straightforward model of the entire collection. With a smaller 41mm case and two crowns, the three-finished dial – in sunray, grained and opaline, available in black or blue – takes centre stage. Interchangeable straps in stainless steel or leather with a new folding buckle provide mix-and-match options, and it’s water-resistant to 100 metres. Those who prefer a more basic watch will find the Polaris Automatic appealing due to its simplicity as a fuss-free, time-only automatic that still boasts stylish cues from a vintage Polaris, but without the complications.
Turning from diving to driving, the Polaris Chronograph recalls Jaeger-LeCoultre’s dashboard instruments used in many classic cars and motorcycles. This handsome 42mm chronograph is the sportiest-looking of the new line, and is equipped with a tachymeter bezel and contrasting markers that make for easy reading. Two barrels within the movement provide 65 hours of power reserve. It’s available with a steel bracelet or interchangeable leather straps, with the dial in either blue or black; an 18K rose gold edition with anthracite dial is also available.
The most complicated piece in the new collection is undoubtedly the robust 44mm Polaris Chronograph WT, which packs both a chronograph and a world time complication. Its case is crafted in titanium, and features two chronograph pushers and an additional crown to control the rotating city disc. Despite all its complications, it’s uncluttered and measures less than 13mm thick. Powered by an automatic column-wheel movement and with a power reserve of 65 hours, like the other Polaris models, it comes with either a black or blue dial.
Apart from the buzz over the Polaris collection, Jaeger-LeCoultre hasn’t overlooked one of its most beloved icons: the Reverso. Considered a classic among classics, the Reverso has come in numerous iterations since its creation in 1931, when it was created for polo players who wanted the faces of their watches to be protected during a match.
At SIHH, a brand-new Reverso Tribute Duoface, in a limited edition of 100 pieces, was introduced with a headline feature – a two-tone cordovan leather strap made by celebrated Argentinian bootmaker Casa Fagliano, a fourth-generation family business that’s known for making the finest handmade polo boots in the world. This marks the third time that Jaeger-LeCoultre has brought out a Reverso with a Casa Fagliano strap.
The 49.4mm by 29.9mm rectangular watch comes in a pink gold case and is driven by the Duoface concept, with two contrasting dials that can be flipped around to show a different time zone. The main dial, in sun-brushed satin grey with gold-plated hour markers, displays the hours, minutes and seconds. On the reverse, the dial is silvered with a Clous de Paris guilloche pattern and includes a day-night indicator. Both dials feature elegant dauphine hands. The movement powering both displays is the manually wound Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 854/2, with a power reserve of 42 hours.
This page, from top: Polaris Memovox; the JLC Calibre booth at SIHH Previous page: Polaris Date
Clockwise from top: The Polaris Chronograph WT; Reverso Tribute Duoface with Casa Fagliano strap, front and back views