When Jaeger-LeCoultre reintroduced its Polaris collection at SIHH in 2018 it presumably did so with two goals in mind. Not only did the new 42mm interpretation of the famed ‘super compressor’ of the late Sixties give the brand a capable, modern sports watch (its men’s collection having seen anything vaguely sporty pruned out in recent years) but it simultaneously gave Jaeger another heritage story, which watch brands cannot seem to do without these days.
This reborn Polaris launched as a fully formed collection with six distinct watches including time-only, date, Memovox (Jaeger’s mechanical alarm), chronograph, world timer chronograph and limited-edition world timer with date, second time zone and power reserve.
Whilst well-appointed, my only criticism of the new collection was that, despite three different finishes on each section of the dial, the choice of just black and blue (and charcoal grey if you include the single pink gold reference) was perhaps a little safe.
This new limited-edition of 800 pieces answers that criticism by looking to the original Polaris’ immediate successor, the utterly outré Polaris II which was introduced in 1970, as a source of inspiration for its dial. It still employs three different finishes for each of its three concentric dial sectors; sunray for the centre, grained for the main dial and opaline for the inner rotating bezel, however, it does so using an eye-catching, hand-applied lacquer for the central two.
The translucency of the lacquer allows for a wide spectrum of blue shades depending on the strength and angle of available light, whilst the effect of the two individual gradients and the contrast behind the highly reflective central section and the adjoining grained dial ring amplifies the dial’s intricate architecture.
Given its Polaris’ vintage roots, the lume pot appliques of Polaris Date Limited Edition are filled with a ‘vanilla’-tinted Super-LumiNova that, whatever your opinion of such ‘fauxtina’, does complement the blues of the dial well, while minute and second tracks are picked out in white.
The term 'super compressor' refers to a specific grouping of dive watches from the 1960s which all used the same case developed and manufactured by Swiss case manufacturer E Piquerez SA in the late 1950s. The case eschewed the established wisdom of using an exterior unidirectional bezel in favour of an inner rotating bezel controlled by a telltale second crown and developed a spring-loaded caseback design that became more water resistant the deeper it went thanks to the pressure acting on it - hence 'compressor'.
This new Polaris achieves its 200m water resistance thanks to modern engineering tolerances rather than a trick caseback, but it preserves the inner rotating bezel system which, after all, is part and parcel of the watch's identity.
While super compressor technology would seem to have become outmoded long before E Piquerez SA eventually went out of business in 1991, here Jaeger-LeCoultre tips its hat to the innovation with a diving helmet motif similar to the original super compressor logo engraved on the caseback.
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