Paying homage to a classic Jaeger-LeCoultre design for its 50th anniversary
The high-end mechanical watch world is nothing if not steeped heavily in tradition. As a result, when an important anniversary comes along, like a 40th, 45th, 50th or even a 100th, you’re apt to see a corresponding tribute watch.
The tribute watch can be a tricky (and risky) proposition. A brand wants to create an homage to a classic design, while at the same time reinterpreting it for contemporary consumers and collectors. It’s fair to say that this sort of thing is much easier to screw up than get right. Generally speaking, you’re dealing with an iconic design and iconic designs are typically things that fans don’t like to see anyone mess with. It’s rare that a sequel stands up to the original, The Godfather: Part II, notwithstanding.
Recently, with the meteoric rise and awareness of the vintage watch market, many brands have sought to capitalize on the trend by making new pieces that look like vintage pieces. ‘Fauxtina’ is a thing and I would say that it’s a thing that is pretty much universally reviled by serious watch aficionados.
The watch we’re taking a look at today, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic, I’m happy to report, is none of those things. In fact, it’s a shining example of what right looks like when it comes to tribute watches. Let’s dig in a little bit more.
What This Watch Is All About
This year, Jaeger-LeCoultre celebrates the 50th anniversary of the iconic and legendary Polaris Memovox diving alarm watch. What makes this a truly special undertaking is that JLC has not done much with the model for the past two or three decades. For many new or casual Jaeger-LeCoultre fans, the brand’s sport offerings consisted of the Master Extreme collection. So the introduction of four new examples in the Polaris collection–Automatic, Date, Chronograph, Chronograph WT and Memovox–does a lot to bolster and balance its portfolio.
Model: Polaris Automatic
Case Material: Stainless steel
Dial Color: Black or blue, each with sunray, grained, and opaline finishes
Indexes: Applied Arabic numerals and trapezoid batons
Lume: White Super-LumiNova
Water Resistance: 100m
Strap/Bracelet: Light brown leather with folding buckle, dark brown leather with folding buckle, alligator with folding buckle, stainless steel bracelet
Caliber: In-House Caliber 898E/1
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Power Reserve: 40 hours
Frequency: 4 Hz (28,800 vph)
On The Wrist
To be perfectly honest, as much as I loved the look of this watch I was a little worried about the case size and how it would appear on my wrist. Longtime HSS readers will have heard me say more than once that my upper limit for size on my smallish wrist is 40mm. Anything larger and we’re wading into a danger zone. So at 41mm, I was concerned. However, once I had the watch on my wrist, all those concerns melted away.
It may be one millimeter above my threshold, but the watch doesn’t wear big. In fact, I think it looks rather handsome. Not only that, but it sits really well on my wrist and just feels really nice. I realize that doesn’t sound very eloquent, but it’s the only way I could think to say it. Maybe it’s time to reconsider my thing with 40mm…
The most striking feature of this watch–and what makes it exceptional, in my opinion–is the finishing on the dial. The three finishings on the dial, to be more accurate. The innermost circle has a sunray effect. The middle ring, an absolutely brilliant grain texture. And the outer ring, a slick satin (or opaline, as they call it) finish. This triple threat makes the dial incredibly mesmerizing to look at. And depending on how the light hits it, there is always something new to explore. All I can say is that looking at this dial is a true joy. I could get lost in it all day.
Styling the JLC Polaris Automatic
Bottom line up front: the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic could very easily be your everyday watch. During the time I had the two models in my possession, I definitely put them through their paces from a styling standpoint. In my experience, classic designs tend to be extremely versatile–honestly, likely one of the key contributing factors to something becoming a classic–and the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic was all that and then some. Its simple, time-only design and functionality, lent itself admirably to a range of outfits, all the way from suited to casual. Have a look for yourself.
Blue dials can be tricky to style. Typically, they’re uber- and unapologetically sporty. On a steel bracelet, I’d say it’d be tough to style with a suit, but the leather strap on the blue dial Polaris, tips it just the right amount away from the boat and toward the boardroom. Paying attention to the specific hue of brown in the strap and complementing that with the right shoes and briefcase was the key to making it work.
Sophisticated Weekend Casual
Let’s call a spade a spade: a watch with a blue dial is a statement piece. Now, we’ve talked a lot about how to style statement pieces of clothing here on the site, but we’ve not discussed statement pieces of the other variety, such as a watch. The good news is that the same rules apply. You should always keep the rest of your outfit understated to allow the statement (or hero) piece shine. A muted color palette will always do the trick.
For me, sartorial nirvana looks something like this. A great sport coat, a simple but well-tailored shirt and trousers, suede double monk straps and some satisfying pattern play courtesy of the perfect tie. It’s casually elegant but not too dressy. It’s thoroughly considered but not fussy. Both sentiments that apply to the black dial Polaris, which makes it the ultimate finishing touch.
As great as the Polaris is across a range of outfits, it really shines when done casually. It’s just easy. It’s got a great vintage-esque feel for some casual edge, while retaining an understated elegance that helps elevate even the most casual outfits.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic is priced at $6,750. For more information, visit Jaeger-LeCoultre online.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
He Spoke Style