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Reviving a legendary dive watch with an alarm
WHILE Jaeger-LeCoultre is best-known for its Reverso double-faced watches, not many people are aware or remember that the Reverso model was first designed in the early 1930s for polo players.
Sports seldom come to mind when we talk about Jaeger-LeCoultre. The brand's timepieces are hardly linked with any high-profile games.
Apart from polo, this year we are reminded that the Jaeger-LeCoultre also produced a diving watch in 1968. Fifty years on, it is paying tribute to the Polaris Memovox watch with not one but six Polaris timepieces.
Though the Polaris Memovox watch has attained iconic status, it's remembered more for its alarm than diving function - even when the alarm was built to serve the diving needs. But while diving was only emerging to be a popular sport, the Polaris Memovox wasn't the only diving watch in the market in the 1960s.
The first diving watches had already appeared in the 1920s. Diving watches were created especially for the navy in the 1930s and the war time in the 1940s. In the 1950s, diving watches were produced largely for professional divers.
By the time the wider public caught on with diving, many watchmakers had acquired the know-how to quickly put out diving timepieces to meet their demand. Jaeger-LeCoultre was among them.
But the Polaris Memovox which Jaeger-LeCoultre launched was among the few diving watches that stood out - largely because of its alarm feature, which included a patented triple caseback to amplify its sound underwater. The watch is reputed to be the world's first diving watch with an alarm function.
Some 1,714 Polaris Memovox II watches were produced between 1965 and 1968.
Among the timepieces created to mark the 50th anniversary of the Polaris Memovox watch, only one is a limited edition. The rest form the base models of a new regular Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris collection, one that the brand says will redefine sporty elegance with a vintage touch.
Named the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox, the limited edition model (limited to 1,000 pieces, at S$19,000 each) is presented as the "Rebirth of an Icon". The key feature is, of course, the special alarm function made famous by the 1968 Memovox Polaris watch.
The new timepiece has a three-crown design: one for setting the alarm; one for the inner rotating bezel; and one for setting the time. The vintage cues on the dial recalls the 1968 original - vanilla SuperLumiNova, trapezoidal indices mixed with four Arabic numbers. The triangle in the dial centre serves as the alarm indicator.
The automatic movement driving the watch, which includes the striking mechanism with a gong, the centre seconds and instant-jump date-change system, is an improvement of JaegerLeCoultre's first automatic alarm watch movement created in the 1950s. It's a rare example of a movement that has been in production for more than 60 years after its creation, continuously updated and modernised.
The entry-level piece is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic (S$10,300), which is distinguished by its two crowns - one for time-setting and the other for the inner rotating bezel. The dual-crown layout is unique to the Polaris collection.
The sporty design of the watch is tempered by its finishing, in particular beautiful dials with three treatments - sunray, grained and opaline.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph in Steel reflects the brand's link to motor sports - again a little-known fact. The chronograph watch is the sportiest of the new line and is powered by an automatic in-house movement encased in 42mm of steel. It's also the only model available in precious metal - a rose gold case (S$36,000).
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph WT features not only the two chronograph pushers, but it also has an additional crown to control the rotating city disc to see the time in 23 other cities around the world. The "WT" indicates that this is a world-time watch - and world-time timepieces can be a struggle to read, which is why the Polaris Chronograph WT comes in a large 44mm case to provide greater legibility.
But the bigger case didn't add extra weight to the watch because it's less than 13mm thick and is made of light yet highly resistant titanium material.
After the Polaris Memovox limited edition, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Date has the strongest resemblance with the original Polaris timepiece, using the same design codes - the Vanilla SuperLumiNova, the triangle along with trapezoidal indices mixed with four Arabic numbers, a railway track for the minutes - and a date at three o'clock. There's a glass box on the case where the crystal is elevated, evoking its vintage inspiration. Engraved on the closed caseback is a scuba diver, recalling the engraving on the inner caseback of the 1968 model.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Geographic WT (S$20,500) was only added to the collection a few months after the above watches were rolled out. Exclusively available only at Jaeger-LeCoultre boutiques, in a limited edition of 250 pieces, the world-time watch offers the time in 24 time zones. The design of the dial reflects the combination of the two Jaeger-LeCoultre colours - blue subtly turning to black, the signature feature of the Polaris Geographic WT.
The watch is decorated with three finishings - an opaline base for the city disk; a sunrayed sub-dial housing the calendar and two o'clock, the second time zone at six o'clock and the power reserve at 10 o'clock; and a grained finishing for the caseback.