Historically important timepieces get a modern update.
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.