Polaris Chronograph WT
On the 50th anniversary of the Memovox Polaris, Jaeger-LeCoultre has introduced the all-new Polaris line with five models that pay tribute to the historical sports reference. The new Polaris timepieces, like the original, are the epitome of sport elegance, but while they clearly share DNA with the original, they have been imbued with a modern touch and aren’t merely exact remakes. Of the five, the Chronograph WT is the most feature-filled and in a few ways, the furthest departed from the original blueprint. And yet it is no less charming compared to its siblings. Here, we bring you the details and our thoughts on the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph WT, the most complicated of the Polaris series to date.
The case, dial and hands
The Chronograph WT is the largest watch in the new Polaris line-up, measuring 44 mm in diameter and 12.5 mm in thickness. This is largely to accommodate the complicated movement as well as to ensure that the dial remains legible and uncluttered by the displays. To improve on the wearability of the watch, the Polaris Chronograph WT is crafted in lightweight titanium, the only model in the new collection to use this modern material. The mostly brushed case is highlighted by a thin, polished bezel and polished bevels along the edges of the lugs. On the flanks of the watch are two crowns, one for time-setting and winding at 3 o’clock, the other at 10 o’clock to adjust the rotating city disc, and two pushers to start, stop and reset the chronograph function. With water resistance of up to 100 m, the watch is suited for swimming and shallow diving, though the supple calf skin strap it comes with may not survive.
If you are a finishing fiend, the dial of the Polaris Chronograph WT will indubitably interest you. It features three different types of surface finish: sunray for the centre, grained for the ring where the hour markers are, and opaline for the rotating city disc. The end result is a dial that looks sophisticated and interacts with light in spectacular ways. Also worth mentioning is that the multiple sections of the dial are set on different planes, which evokes a satisfying sense of depth. In the echelon of Jaeger-LeCoultre dials, this one easily sits near the top.
The displays and indicators on the dial are another story, however. While the dial on the original Memovox Polaris (and the tribute edition issued in 2008) prided itself on being clean and legible, the dial on the Polaris Chronograph WT is hectic by comparison. That said, we feel that Jaeger-LeCoultre has done a great job displaying the multitude of information in a way that is as uncluttered as possible. The choice of a bi-compax chronograph display plays along well with the old-school-inspired look that the Polaris Chronograph WT is going for. As the two registers are centred along the horizontal axis of the watch, the dial is also pleasingly balanced. Indicating the hours and minutes are two lume-coated index-style hands. While the chronograph hands are not luminescent, we like the use of the vintage-style red-tipped lancet seconds hand for added visibility.
The 274-part, 37-jewel Calibre 752A that powers the Polaris Chronograph WT is Jaeger-LeCoultre through and through, developed and manufactured in-house by the “watchmaker’s watchmaker”. The twin barrel, automatic movement has a power reserve of 48 hours while operating at a modern 28,800 vph beat rate. From a finishing and decoration standpoint, the Calibre 752A isn’t going to win any beauty pageants, lets be frank about that. At this price point, Jaeger-LeCoultre finishes its movements in large part by machine and is aesthetically unremarkable in the grand scale of things. All that said, the finissage is neat and is beyond what is needed for optimal function. There is nothing wrong with compromising superfluous movement finishing if it means being able to deliver more technically for a lower price.
The competitive landscape
Available in a blue or black-dialled version, the Polaris Chronograph WT is priced at USD$14,500. If calfskin leather is too casual for you, the black-dialled model also comes with matching alligator straps for an extra USD$100. Indeed, for a watch so packed with form and function, created in the image of a historical reference, by a highly respected manufacture, a retail price of USD$14,500 is very competitive. Suffice to say, in the realm of luxury watches, we think that the Polaris Chronograph WT is good value for money.
But what if sport elegance isn’t your thing and you want something more avant-garde? Look no further than the Breitling For Bentley GMT B04 S Carbon. Unlike the Polaris, there is nothing vintage about the Bentley GMT B04 S Carbon, not with its carbon case and dial, knurled bezel, asymmetric lugs, integrated push pieces and rubber strap. Another fundamental aspect of the Breitling that is different to the Polaris is that it doesn’t actually have a world time function – it has a simpler GMT function instead. The watch is limited to 250 pieces and priced at SGD31,280 or just under USD24,000 – an extra USD10,000 over the Jaeger-LeCoultre novelty. Barring the exclusivity and the use of hard-to-manipulate high-tech material, we find it hard to objectively justify the USD10,000 premium on the watch. But if you’re a motorsport enthusiast who’s searching for a thoroughly contemporary sports watch, this may be the watch for you.
For a chronograph worldtimer that is a little bit more dressy and a whole lot more upscale, the Patek Philippe World Time Chronograph Ref. 5930G is your go-to timepiece. The Ref. 5930G is not crafted in lightweight titanium or space-age carbon, but in traditional gold. Like the Polaris, it too has multiple types of finishes on the dial, including the mesmerising geometric guilloche in the centre. Compared to the Polaris and the Breitling, the Patek’s case is infinitely more nuanced and immaculately finished. The same can be said of the movement, which is painstakingly hand-finished in accordance to the superlative standards of the Patek Philippe Seal. Of course, all these perks come at a price, and that price is around USD67,000, almost quintuple the Polaris Chronograph WT. Is such a price tag justified? If you consider the material used, the sheer amount of fine finishing involved (which, mind you, is costly) and the inevitable Patek Philippe branding, then perhaps. If none of these factors concern you, then naturally, the Polaris posits the more compelling value proposition.
Jaeger-LeCoultre has done well with their new Polaris line. They’ve managed to keep all the models looking fresh while also respecting the identity of the seminal Memovox Polaris. The Polaris Chronograph WT may have deviated the most from the original plan but it will no doubt find its own suitors: those who love the Polaris design and DNA but also want a technically sophisticated timepiece.