Earlier this week we showed you a behind-the-scenes peek at how Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Polaris is put together. Well, we kick it up a notch and have a look at some of the brand’s most complicated — and most beautiful — pieces, find out a little bit about how they’re made, and meet the talented artisans who make them. Central to this story is Christian Laurent, JLC’s master watchmaker, a man with a twinkle in his eye and a clear passion for his work. During my visit, Mr Laurent presented JLC’s high complications, running through the brand’s achievements — innovative watches like the Duomètre and the Gyrotourbillon — which clearly demonstrate Jaeger-LeCoultre’s high-end credentials. Speaking to him later, Mr Laurent expanded on the importance of humans in making those watches: “We don’t make hundreds of pieces; for high complications it’s always very limited numbers — only the human hand is capable of doing these things.”
Holding a watch in your hands, and wearing it on your wrist is one thing. But seeing where that small, highly precise piece of machinery was designed, and how it comes to life is something completely different, as I found out when I visited Jaeger-LeCoultre’s manufacture in the Vallée de Joux earlier this year, and saw, firsthand, how the Polaris is made. Of course I had seen the watches before, when the new collection was presented at SIHH, but seeing them at the Salon, accompanied by glossy power points, held by white-gloved hands in orderly display trays, is completely different to seeing them in their birthplace. There are certain phrases that we’re prone to trotting out in the watch industry, expressions like ‘in-house’ and ‘hand-finished’, which become a lot more real when you visit that house, and shake the hands of the people who do the finishing. Seeing the very human care and time that goes into these watches — on every step of the way — is a really worthwhile reminder that these watches are about so much more than telling the time.
As far as boss complications go, the world timer is pretty up there. Not only is it technically impressive, it’s also visually arresting: the city ring and typically colourful layout make walking around with one of these on your wrist the watch equivalent of playing Beyoncé’s ‘Run the World (Girls)’ wherever you go. Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Geophysic Tourbillon Universal Time takes it to the next level by adding — yes, you guessed it — a flying tourbillon into the mix, for that extra horological pop. But before we get to the tourbillon, let’s take a step back and talk Geophysic. The Geophysic collection, relaunched a few years ago, is a typically sober and not-too-dressy take on a scientist’s watch. A key feature of the line is the true second, which sees the hand move in crisp, one-second increments rather than the typical mechanical sweep. The true second featured on the regular production world timer, but hasn’t made it to this Tourbillon model. In fact, any form of seconds hand has dropped from the equation, to give all the more space for the flying tourbillon (the first ever integrated into a world timer), that forms the heart of calibre 948. For me, the… Read More
One of the strongest, all-round collections of SIHH was, without a doubt, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris. Coming off a strong 2017 lineup, JLC hit all the right notes with their brand new Polaris collection. While this five-strong family of watches is clearly influenced by the Polaris of yore (for more on that, check out Andy’s look at the origins of the model), this is more interpretation than pure homage. Sure, there’s the Polaris Memovox, which is the closest the collection gets to a one-for-one reissue, but there are also relatively simple automatic and date models (the date is my pick of the litter, FWIW). The Polaris DNA is strong in these models, thanks to the dial, as well as the dual crown layout, but it also works wonderfully in the more complex Chronograph and Chronograph WT options. All told, the 2018 Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris family is considered and commercial in equal measure, and already looks set to be one of the year’s highlights.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph WT is, in marked contrast to the Polaris Automatic, a complex beast indeed, with (as you could probably guess) both chronograph and world time functionality in the one case. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this complication-combo, as the very impressive Calibre 752 pops up in sportier parts of their collection. But while previous incarnations have been quite modern in their style, the bi-compax chrono and world time are well suited to the old-world inspired looks of the Polaris. Nothing vintage about the case though – this 44mm titanium number is thoroughly modern. And, sure, all the extra information on the dial does complicate the cleaner design codes of the Polaris line, but the key features are there: the range of varied dial finishes, the applied trapezoid markers, the black and ocean blue colouring. And all that extra dial detail makes for a much richer on-the-wrist experience. With its functional design, wearer-friendly lightweight case rated to 100m, solid 65 hours of power reserve and undeniable charms, the Polaris Chronograph WT is a strong option for fans of JLC’s complex offerings who crave a more classic look.
The Polaris – as Andy recently informed us – is one of those truly iconic watches conceived in a golden age, not just of watchmaking but also of global exploration. This year the Polaris got the nod for the remake and revamp treatment, being offered in five new models, starting with the deceptively simple Polaris Automatic. The uncomplicated, no fuss Polaris Automatic is the entry-level ticket to JLC’s brand new sports watch collection. The dual crowns hark back to the original, but this is no Memovox. Instead, one crown governs time-setting and the other looks after the internal bezel. At first glance, the dial is uncomplicated, devoid even of a date. But look closer and you notice the mixture of sunray, grained, and opaline treatments, with applied numerals and trapezoidal hour markers filled with luminous material that matches the hands. It’s exactly the sort of accomplished offering you’d expect from JLC, and it elevates the Polaris Automatic above the typical sports-casual fare. The dial is offered in black and (our pick) ocean blue. Inside the 41mm steel case beats the LC Caliber 898/1 automatic movement with a power reserve of 40 hours, tested for 1000 hours and looking good through… Read More
Today we’re looking back at the iconic Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox Polaris, an extremely rare and somewhat mysterious dive watch — which lately has been garnering a lot of attention. The Memovox Polaris was an extremely functional offering, delivered by Jaeger-LeCoultre during a time when the world was fascinated by deep sea exploration. The 1950s and ’60s are referred to as the ‘golden age’ of dive watchmaking, and the Polaris was certainly a highlight of that period, which is why we’re taking a look at it today. Most of you should be familiar with the famous Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox, given recent reissue pieces and famous ‘barn finds’ in the last few years. But if you’re new to the JLC Memovox Polaris (ref E859), we can understand why. Only 1714 were made — making it far less common than the Memomox timepieces from the same period. The first Memovox Polaris prototype was developed by Jaeger-LeCoultre in the early 1960s, before being released in minimal volumes in the late ’60s. Basically, it was a beefed-up Memovox — designed with deep-diving and wetsuits in mind (not cocktails and tailored suits). So, how was the Memovox Polaris different to a ‘regular Memovox’? Well, firstly, the Polaris was a dive… Read More
‘Novelty’ is one of the most abused words in the watch industry. Practically, it’s used to describe the steady stream of new models and designs being produced by watchmaking brands. But on top of that, it conveys a sense of newness and — marketing departments fervently hope — excitement. For example, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s 2017 novelties were their Master Control trilogy — they excited people, and rightfully so. And while this grey-dialled Master Ultra Thin Moon is a new release, it’s not really a novelty — it didn’t make headlines at SIHH, and doesn’t showcase any innovations in mechanics or material. But despite this (or perhaps because of it), this serious, ghostly grey Master Ultra Thin Moon is an exceptionally beautiful piece of watchmaking, the sort that JLC excels at. If you’re not familiar with the MUT Moon (as it’s sometimes known), here’ s the two-minute rundown. First introduced in 2012, this perfectly sized 39mm white gold dress watch is a case study on just how well Jaeger-LeCoultre does thin watchmaking. At 9.9mm tall it’s slender, but not exceptionally so, partially due to the complicated nature of the movement. On the other hand, it does feel pleasingly solid on the wrist, avoiding that anxiety-inducing… Read More