Hands-On Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner Memovox Review
When you think of a mechanical watch with an alarm, it is very likely you are thinking about the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox.
The Memovox has been around for 70 years now, and Jaeger-LeCoultre used this complication in many movements and watches. One of my favorites was the Master Compressor Memovox. Quite a bold watch for its time, but I like it. It is discontinued for quite some years now, so no need to ponder about it for too long. Today, Jaeger-LeCoultre is introducing their new Polaris Mariner Memovox.
Polaris Mariner Memovox
I hate to say it, but it’s been a long time since Jaeger-LeCoultre brought out a proper sporty watch. Not since the Master Compressor have I seen anything in that vein that made me sit up and take note. The Polaris brought solace though. A (relatively) sporty watch that features a proper diameter case, offers serious water resistance, and an optional rubber strap. Today, JLC adds even more punch with the Polaris Mariner Memovox and Polaris Mariner Date watches. We’ll come back later with that Date version.
A diver with an alarm
Back in 1959, JLC introduced the Memovox complication for divers. This provided an alarm function to warn the diver it was time to get back to the surface. Almost 10 years later, in 1968, JLC introduced the Memovox Polaris. This watch had an internal rotating bezel and (of course) an alarm. It also featured a specially designed case back, consisting of three layers, for the best possible sound. Today, we are looking at the latest Polaris addition, the Polaris Mariner Memovox. It has a water resistance of 30 bars (~ 300 meters) and a sapphire case back. So, where did the gong go?
See the hammer in action
Inside, we’ll find the JLC 956 movement. A movement introduced in 2008 and revised to make it suitable for some transparent case back action. Before, the gong of the alarm was attached to the case back of the watch. In this new Memovox, the gong is attached to the side of the case. As this new JLC Polaris Mariner Memovox has a sapphire case back, you can now witness the hammering.
Polaris Mariner Memovox on the wrist
I was very happy to give this Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner Memovox a try. I love the Memovox alarm complication, but in many cases, the watches are a bit too classic for my taste. This Polaris Mariner Memovox hits the right spot, with the heavy stainless steel bracelet, blue sunray dial, and orange elements on there.
What catches me most about this watch, besides the three large crowns, is the sunray blue dial. Everyone talks about Grand Seiko doing some amazing dials, but don’t rule out Jaeger-LeCoultre. The grain effect on this dial is simply stunning in combination with the blue sunray finish. I also love the bright orange accents on the dial and the tip of the second hand.
Those orange accents can also be found on the crown. As you can see in the pictures, the Polaris Mariner Memovox has three crowns. The upper crown controls the alarm function. It will rotate the center dial, and the little orange triangle can be set to an alarm time. The center crown is used for the inner diving scale bezel. Last but not least, and this should not come as a surprise, the lower crown is then used to set the time. When crowns are open, there’s an orange “signal” that lets you know it isn’t safe to go diving.
The finish on the case and bracelet is very nice. The satin-brushed finish on the case and bracelet combined with polished surfaces looks great. At first I thought it would be even nicer to have everything brushed, but the watch is “luxury sports watch” enough to have some polished surfaces as well. The clasp looks nice and works very well and it is a pleasure to operate.
Wearing the Polaris Mariner Memovox
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Mariner Memovox brought a huge smile to my face. I simply love the alarm complication and love the sporty looks of the watch. Bracelets are rarely approved by myself, but this one definitely is. Despite the large polished surfaces, I might add. That rarely works for me, but in this case, it does. The dial, the case finish, the glass-box crystal, it all adds up to a great watch. I didn’t even mention the very wearable size of 42mm (height is 15.63mm, but still OK for a sports watch). So, where the elephant in the room? Well, there’s the price tag of €17,545 (including VAT) for starters. Oh well, it is basically the only elephant in the room, but a significant one. This watch ticks a lot of boxes for me though, but I feel that this price point will make a few people scratch their heads first. The “regular” Master Control Memovox retails for €12,100. Of course, this version comes with a bracelet, 300M water resistance, an updated movement, hand-finished dial etc. However, the fact is that you will buy into something very interesting and probably not something you will find on the wrists of your friends and colleagues.
More information via Jaeger-LeCoultre online.