To those less “in the know” about watches, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris is likely something you’ve yet to come across. After all, the revamped Polaris collection has only been a part of the Jaeger-LeCoultre catalog since 2018, and though it garnered a fair bit of attention at the time, it’s still nowhere near as well known as the brand’s hero — the iconic Reverso. Unlike its counterpart, which has long been a staple in the dress watch world, the overall size and design of the Polaris leads it down a far more versatile path. I’d even go so far as to say that this is one of the most versatile watches in the brand’s collection, and one that could easily hold position as someone’s “one and only” luxury watch for day-to-day wear.
Before getting to the watch itself, it’s worth noting the history behind it. The first Jaeger-LeCoultre to bear the name Polaris dates back to 1968, hence the collection reboot in 2018 for the model’s 50th anniversary. This first reference was a peculiar one, mind you. It was an evolution of the original Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox — the brand’s wristwatch known for its mechanical alarm. The Polaris Memovox from 1968 provided many of the design cues found in this newer reference, including its internal timing bezel, its sector dial, and even the font used for its indices. Though the brand also added a Polaris Memovox reissue to the collection in 2018, the novelty of an alarm complication isn’t the kind of thing that will appeal to everyone. The reissue also comes with a price tag that’s more than double the $9,050 spend required for this time-only reference, which will also impact the value equation for a daily-wear watch in some cases.
Versatility — A Watch for Every Occasion?
At 41mm in diameter and 11.2mm thick, true dress watch purists will likely argue that the Polaris is too big to play the role of a dress watch. While I can agree conceptually, I’d also be quick to point out that this watch is vastly more passable than countless other watches we’ve seen butting up against a shirt cuff over the years. In contrast to a Rolex Submariner, IWC Big Pilot, or worse an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore, the Polaris doesn’t feel out of place in business settings, and isn’t bulky enough to overpower a more formal look — especially when fitted on its brown calfskin strap.
On the other end of the spectrum, some will also argue that a daily-wear “tool watch” shouldn’t be on a leather strap. Well, that’s another one that’s easy to solve without much fuss. The Polaris is also offered on a steel bracelet, or a soft textured rubber strap, each of which are designed with a quick-change system that allows wearers to alternate without the use of special tools. While the loaner on hand from JLC was supplied with its stock leather strap, it didn’t take long for me to test it out on an assortment of other straps from my personal collection. Calling the Polaris a bit of a “strap monster” is a statement I’ll stand by.
The overall construction of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris also lends itself well to more casual day-to-day affairs. Aside from the subtle bevelling on its lugs and a rather narrow bezel, the bulk of its case has a brushed finish throughout. Its large indices and well-lumed hands ensure fantastic legibility regardless of conditions. Lastly, its internal bezel provides a handy timing function without the visual heft that comes with mounting one externally (as one sees on most dive watches in the market).
Though the Polaris is certainly not a dive watch, it does deliver 100m of water resistance, which is plenty to handle the wetness of daily living — even if that includes pool or beach time. Lastly, the market is always split on whether or not a watch should include a date indication. This battle of clean lines versus practical use is always a point of debate, but both camps are in luck here. The Polaris is one of few watches out there that comes in both date and no-date configurations.
The Quality and Value Equation
When talking about a watch that skirts just under the $10k mark, we aren’t about to espouse the idea of it being a bargain. In the same breath, there’s a lot about the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris that helps justify its sticker price. For one, the finishing of its case, dial, and hands is extremely well executed; it’s easily on par with any close competitors commanding the same money. Its simple time-only movement — the self-winding Calibre 898E/1 — is also nicely done, and manufactured in-house by JLC. In this price bracket, it would have been nice to see a power reserve higher than 40 hours, mind you. So many brands have been pushing the power reserves of their simpler movements up to 60 or 70 hours, so we’re hoping to see JLC following suit sooner rather than later. That said, if you’re wearing the Polaris daily, how long it can sit static is less of a point of concern.
One last item that’s often overlooked with the brand is their extensive in-house testing of the watch and its movement, operating under the nomenclature of the “1,000 Hours Test”, both before and after final assembly, the watch and its movement are tested for chronometric precision, using methods akin to what we see from COSC, METAS, and other regulating bodies that certify watches prior to sale. You can find more details on the testing process here. Beyond that, there’s rarely much mention these days about Jaeger-LeCoultre’s warranty on its watches, which has been extended to eight years as of 2019. Now, it’s also worth mentioning here that this only applies to watches that were purchased through authorized dealers, and have a properly filled out and stamped warranty card — those fishing for deals on the grey market need not apply.
The Hot Take
A convenient size, a high level of execution, multiple strap options, a long warranty, and manufacturing from a longstanding luxury watch brand? The Jaeger LeCoultre Polaris is an extremely easy choice to get behind. It’s big enough to have a good presence on the wrist, and small enough to fit even more slender wrist sizes (and tuck under a shirt cuff). It’s inoffensive without lacking character. It nods towards history without being just another heritage reissue. It’s watches like this that remind us why JLC has long been known as “the watchmaker’s watchmaker”.