Friday, March 28, 2008

2008 SIHH Preview: JLC Polaris

Press file provided by MJLC.

The 1968 Polaris

Memovox Tribute to Polaris, renaissance of a legendary watch.

For 175 years, Jaeger-LeCoultre has been tirelessly inventing and discovering new technical and aesthetic horizons, thus renewing the grand Swiss watchmaking traditions. Both reflecting and perpetuating this vocation, the Memovox Polaris represents an inexhaustible source of inspiration for the creative talents at work in the Manufacture. Regarded as the epitome of the sports watch for the past four decades, the Memovox is an extremely rare timepiece that is fiercely coveted by collectors. Its powerful design, dynamic form and blend of performance and energy continue to pervade all the Jaeger-LeCoultre sporting models to this day: from the Master Compressor Memovox to the AMVOX, as well as the all-new Master Compressor Diving watches. It was therefore high time for the Manufacture to express its gratitude to a watch that has become an icon. And what better tribute could it pay than by opting for faithful replicas equipped with the latest technical innovations inherent to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s 21st century automatic movements?

The two models that made the most lasting impact on their era were chosen for the 2008 re-editions, presented under the title of Memovox Tribute to Polaris. The first corresponds to the original Memovox Polaris, as it was launched in 1965. The second is the most famous model of all, created in 1968.

History of a legend

Almost half a century ago, Jaeger-LeCoultre had already left an indelible imprint on the history of diving. The Memovox Deep Sea launched in 1959 was the very first diver’s watch to be equipped with an alarm. The latter served to remind the diver that it was time to return to the surface. It was driven by a Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 815, the first movement in watchmaking history to feature both automatic winding and an alarm function.

Six years later, the Memovox Polaris was born. Representing a new breakthrough in technological history, its triple-back case enabled optimal diffusion of sound under water. Since water resistance is the cornerstone of any diver’s watch, the new model featured the patented Piquerez Compressor system, as well as three super-sealed crowns.

Powered by the automatic Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 825, with a balance performing 18,800 vibrations per hour, the Memovox Polar also showed the date through a window at 3 o’clock. In harmony with the size of the case itself, the movement was remarkably large for a wristwatch: 14 lignes, meaning 31.6 mm in diameter, and 7.6 mm thick. In order to meet the specific demands of the American market, the first to show an interest, the Memovox was christened Polaris after the famous American missiles symbolising the Western strike force during the Cold War. But this name mostly echoed the adventurous spirit of the 1960s, distinguished by a determination to travel ever faster and further, in an era when the public at large was fascinated by the space race, ocean discoveries and polar exploration..

Research work began on the Memovox Polaris in 1962, and 1,714 of these watches were made between 1965 and 1970. They were equipped with several types of dial and hands, according to the markets for which they were intended; today, the slightest variations of numerals, hour markers and signatures generates passionate interest among fervent contemporary collectors.

In 2008, Jaeger-LeCoultre honors this legendary model by creating two Memovox Tribute to Polaris replicas. Each is a nod to one of the milestones in the history of this icon watch: the first corresponds to the original Memovox Polaris as launched in 1965; while the second is the most famous of them all, created in 1968.

A 21st century watch that is faithful to the original

To the delight of collectors and avid followers of the emblematic Polaris watch, the two Memovox Tribute to Polaris models faithfully reproduce the 1965 and 1968 models, while featuring their essential characteristics.
First of all, the large round 42 mm-diameter case with polished finishing and no visible bezel, equipped with three crowns featuring a chequered motif. Just as when this model was first introduced, the watchmakers of the Manufacture have inserted the rotating bezel beneath the dial, with its famous central triangle serving as an index for dive times. To facilitate handling, the case is equipped with a crown at 3 o’clock, framed by the two distinctive Memovox crowns. The one at 2 o’clock enables the user to adjust, wind and start or stop the alarm function, which has its own independent barrel. The other one at 4 o’clock services to set and wind the movement.

The alarm time indicator is immediately recognizable by means of a luminescent triangle in the dial centre. Controlled by the alarm crown, the central disc turns to line up the triangle with the desired alarm time.
Loyal to the black dial of their predecessors, each replica bears its own signature features. The 1965 re-edition has nickel-plated and polished straight hour-markers, Arabic numerals, luminescent rhodium-plated dauphine hands, and the Automatic Alarm Calendar inscriptions.

Meanwhile, the main indications on the re-edition of the most famous 1968 model are luminescent. This star model is also distinguished by its open worked baton-type hands and its large trapeze-shaped hour-markers. On both versions, the Jaeger-LeCoultre logo at 12 o’clock embodies this reassuring presence that asserts its mastery over time.

The sapphire crystal – a must in contemporary watchmaking – is exceptionally replaced on these models by a synthetic material forming the original domed shape of the Polaris watch. Purists will certainly concur with this deliberate infringement of current industry rules.

A new movement in the Memovox line

While the Memovox Tribute to Polaris watches are faithful to the spirit and aesthetics of their forerunners, they nonetheless naturally deserved to be equipped with the latest technical innovations by Jaeger-LeCoultre, in order to meet modern demands for precision, sturdiness and reliability.

As the latest interpretation of the automatic Memovox movement, the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 956 houses the striking mechanism, featuring a gong hanging at the back of the case, along with central seconds and instant-jump date-change system. Measuring 7.45 mm thick, it provides a 45-hour power reserve and a level of precision guaranteed by 28,800 vibrations per hour. Its oscillating weight is equipped with ceramic ball-bearings that require no maintenance or lubrication.

A double-back case guaranteeing water resistance to 200 meters

The historical Memovox Polaris was distinguished by its three-part case. The first element was an inside back in bronze that enhanced the resonance of the alarm sound. The second was a sealed back that protected the precious mechanism from any water seeping in, down to depths of 200 meters. The last was a third back drilled with 16 holes, which prevented the sound being muffled by the watch being squeezed against its owner’s diving suit.

The back of the Memovox Tribute to Polaris models features an inner sealed back that maintains its role as a resonance chamber (an additional bronze back is no longer necessary with a hanging gong), and an outer back with 16 round openings, secured to the water resistance back in harmony with the original design. The latter is adorned with an engraving inspired by the original ‘compressor’ diving helmet and a set of technical information provided inside the case of the original model to symbolize its exceptional water tightness.

A tribute encompassing the smallest details

The Memovox Tribute to Polaris is available in two limited series equipped with a black leather strap and small pin buckle. The 1965 model is issued in a limited edition of 65 in 950 platinum; while the steel 1968 model comes in a limited edition of 768. The two replicas are accompanied by a presentation box inspired by its vintage equivalent, complete with a certificate of origin and a booklet telling the story of the now legendary watch.

Jaeger-LeCoultre has revisited one of the landmarks in its history in order to train the spotlight on a creation embodying a degree of aesthetic and technical perfection that has consistently fired collectors’ enthusiasm and inspired the designers of the Manufacture over the past four decades.


allen said...

Where and when can I buy one? What will the market price be?

Milan said...

Hi Allen,

The prices were not yet announced for all respective markets so there might be differences between MSRP at various markets. From what I have been told the Memovox tribute to Polaris in France MSRP's (including 19% VAT) are the following:

1968 version in stainless steel € 10,500
1965 version in platinum €25,000
1965 Paris Boutique version €11,500

For now I know only Boutique are accepting orders and most country AD's have not yet gotten any confirmed allocations.

The Paris Boutique very limited edition is probably by now sold out as it is only available at the Paris Boutique so best to contact them directly (see contact info below):

Directrice Elisabeth VILLE

Boutique Jaeger-LeCoultre
7, place Vendôme - 75001 PARIS
Tél +33 1 53 45 70 02
Fax +33 1 53 45 70 01
Mobile +33 6 81 25 35 40

As for the start of deliveries they were announced for the start of September, but in reality it very well could take a few months longer to start showing up in your market.

Hope this helps. Good luck in the hunt for that elusive and sure to be a rare find in the wild - the legendary 2008 Polaris.



allen said...

many thanks...

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