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How the original Polaris came to be has to do with the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox. Translating to “the voice of memory,” the very first Memovox was created in 1950, featuring an alarm function that was widely coveted due to its inherent usefulness. The calibre 489 within the watch had a striking alarm mechanism that could be preset to ring at any time of the day, sounding not unlike an old-school telephone ringing gently on the wrist. But Jaeger-LeCoultre went one step further, finding a number of creative ways to incorporate this function into other watches, and in 1959, very smartly decided to place the calibre into a water-resistant wristwatch so divers could rely on the alarm instead of having to frequently check the bezel on their watches while underwater.
That was the Memovox Polaris, launched in 1968, with an internal rotating bezel, an alarm function and a triple-layer case-back for better sound transmission. And while the Polaris is now considered one of most important Jaeger-LeCoultre’s stable, encapsulating its diving watch legacy and which draws upon more than a century of expertise in chiming watches, it’s almost a surprise to anyone to find out that the original Polaris was also one of the rarest Jaeger-LeCoultre watches ever produced, with an original run of only 1,714 pieces.
In 2018, for the celebration of its 50th anniversary, Jaeger-LeCoultre brought the Polaris back into the spotlight, becoming the sports watch collection that was missing from the brand’s repertoire. There had been re-issues of the Memovox before 2018, but the new Polaris collection marked a new turn for the maison. It was a brand new collection, a real homage to a true classic, the rebirth of an icon.
The 2018 line-up spanned several models; the two models that stayed truest to the 1968 original, the Polaris Memovox and the Polaris Date, and the Polaris Automatic, the Polaris Chronograph and the Polaris Chronograph WT.
And then, if you recall, mid last year, Jaeger-LeCoultre released a special limited edition of the Polaris Date with a double gradiented blue dial that was reminiscent of the funky 1970s Polaris II, which was produced only between 1970 and 1972. The limited edition Polaris Date in blue, came as quickly as it went as only 800 pieces were made, but the resplendent blue stuck in our minds. But not to worry, that blue gradient dial is about to make its third appearance.
The New Polaris Mariner
What was missing from the collection launched in 2018, it appears, was the quintessential dive watch. The original Polaris was a dive watch after all. Enter the new Polaris Mariner, a new generation of high-performance diving watches that bears the sporty aesthetic of the Polaris collection, but is also fully ISO 6425-compliant. The two utilitarian, no-fuss dive watches presented today are the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner Memovox and the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner Date. It also brought back the beautiful, funky blue dials we loved on the 1970s watch and the limited edition last year.
Let’s start with what is similar. Both the watches are 42mm, as was the original Polaris, and features all the same key design codes like the glass-box crystal and the three crown configuration. On the Polaris Mariner Memovox, the top crown controls the alarm by aligning the triangular pointed on the centre disc with the desired alarm time. The middle crown operates the inner unidirectional rotating bezel while the lowest crown sets the time.
The original Polaris came with a dynamic mix of brushed and polished surfaces on the dial. On the Polaris Mariner, the dial is a stunning gradient of blues to evoke the feeling of being in the deep sea; there are three concentric circles finished in different textures on the dial, the centre disc is sunray-brushed, the middle ring is subtly grained and the outer ring comes in an opaline finish. The dial is further accented with bright orange on the inner unidirectional rotating bezel, the seconds hand and the alarm function to make reading the watch underwater a lot easier. In the dark, the lume on the indexes and the large Arabic numerals glow a bewitching blue, while the second hand glows orange, yet another thoughtful touch to maximise a diver’s safety in the water.
In keeping with their purpose as a high-performance diving watch, the Polaris Mariner are both water resistant to 300m. Furthermore, the crown used to set the notched inner-bezel is screwed down to avoid any unintentional movement. The crown also comes with an additional orange security band, a sign to warn divers if the crown is not fully screwed down.
A Transparent Sapphire Caseback
Beating inside the Polaris Mariner Memovox is the Calibre 956, a self-winding movement that was first introduced in 2008 and is a direct descendant to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s first automatic alarm watch calibers.
Previously, the Memovox watches came with a closed case-back to which the gong was attached. In the new Polaris Mariner Memovox however, the striking mechanism is completely redesigned. The watch is now fitted with a transparent sapphire case-back for the first time, allowing the wearer to watch the hammer in action when the alarm rings. The pink gold rotor is also open worked to allow for better viewing.
On the other hand, the Polaris Mariner Date is fitted with the calibre 899, which now, following updates, comes with a power reserve of 70 hours. The movement is viewable behind the transparent sapphire case-back as well.
Unlike the previous Polaris offerings, the Polaris Mariner Memovox and Date are offered only on stainless steel bracelets in a brushed and polished finish, but not on rubber or leather straps.
There are a lot of key elements that the Polaris Mariner watches have in common with the original Polaris, but it’s certainly not vintage in any way or form. The inspiration is clear, but the watches are extremely contemporary; with their large case sizes and dive-ready specifications, it is without a doubt sportier and more robust than the Polaris watches of 2018. Jaeger-LeCoultre calls innovation and tradition equally its guiding principles, and Polaris Mariner, equally paying homage to the maison’s past and being high-performance timepieces, certainly fit its vision.