It is no secret that passionate watch collectors (and journalists) have a slight preference for vintage watch models. The same goes for the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox. Whatever version they created in Le Sentier, most collectors just shrug their shoulders and referred to a vintage Memovox model. On January 15th we already briefed you about the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox limited edition and other models in the new Polaris collection. However, nothing beats a good hands-on review, so they sent us their Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox and here we are. After a few weeks of having this watch in my possession, I think I can write down some helpful notes on this limited edition of 1000 pieces.
When Jaeger-LeCoultre showed the Polaris collection in Geneva last January, everyone was talking about it. For the entire week. Especially the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox I have here, was the center of attention it seemed. But now that the SIHH exhibition in Geneva is behind us, and I got the chance to try it for a few weeks, how does it hold up against the initial enthusiasm? As I wrote above, collectors tend to prefer the old stuff over the new models (including retro edition) in most cases and I have to admit I am one of them. Only in some cases brands manage to pull off a good re-edition or homage to something vintage. Now, I have to admit that my knowledge on vintage Memovox watches is somewhat limited (although I did include some in this article here). So that helps on the one hand for not comparing it with the original 1968 model (that my friend Ben Clymer talked about here) and have a fresh pair of eyes looking at the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox.
The main attraction, besides the aesthetics of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox, is the mechanical alarm function. Just like any other Memovox model, the alarm needs to be set with an extra crown. You will find three crowns on the right side of the watch. The top one is for winding the spring to be able to let the alarm go off. Very important. By this crown does more than only winding the spring for the alarm function. For this, you have to pull out the crown. Turn it upwards, and you will advance the date. Turn it downwards, and you will actually set the alarm time. The small luminous triangle on the dial will start moving around the dial in counter clock wise direction. Push the crown back to the case and you are all set. The center crown moves around the 60-minute scale inner bezel. The lower crown is to correct the time and for winding the movement manually. Of course, this is not necessary as the Jaeger-LeCoultre caliber 956 is an automatic movement (offering 45 hours of power reserve). All three crowns are signed JLC.
Putting it on the wrist constantly makes me aware of how specifications on paper can be very deceiving. Although I find myself wearing smaller watches (down to 33mm even) these days, despite my non-male model body dimensions, this watch comes across as huge on my wrist. It is ‘only’ 42mm in diameter, like my Speedmasters for example, but I found the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox to wear much bigger. Perhaps because there is hardly a bezel, so the dial aperture is actually quite large. But also due to the thickness of the watch. It sits above my cuff or sweater all the time with its 15.9mm height. The good thing about it is that the crowns are easy to access, although I prefer to operate my watches (with a crown) after taking it off. I would have believed you if you told me this watch measures 44mm. So before you pull the trigger on this watch, make sure to try it on first, or be prepared for wearing a large watch.
Every model or watch celebrates about everything there is to. It drives me nuts some times, as it seems that every landmark or mile stone is being abused to spit out a limited edition. For some watches though, I feel this is completely legit. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox being one of them for sure. The original 1968 model wasn’t that far away from this new version, if you would put them side-by-side there are a number of differences to discover but these unmistakably have the same blood type. According to the write up of Ben Clymer on Hodinkee, only 1714 pieces were ever made of the original 1968 Polaris Memovox.
The case back of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox has the anniversary engraved in the center. It has been attached to the center case part with 4 screws. In the bezel of the case back, we read some specifications, the brand name and that it is a limited edition of 1000 pieces. Unfortunately, Jaeger-LeCoultre takes the IWC/Richemont route of not using actual numbers but just indicates ‘One of 1000’. I understand that this prevents from receiving annoying phone calls of people who want a specific number, and a lot of people wanting the same numbers, but it feels kind of ‘too generic’ to do it in this way. Brands, do not be annoyed by the phone calls, just tell ‘m it is a matter of first come first serve. I always try to get the same number for my limited edition watches, but if I don’t succeed, I am just happy I got one anyway and don’t find myself caring about the number that much. It also would have been kinda cool if Jaeger-LeCoultre had put out 1714 pieces of this model, just like the very first reference.
Despite the bulky dimensions of the watch, the Polaris Memovox (reference 9038670) has proven to be a great companion in the weeks that I was able to wear it. The rubber strap with Clous-de-Paris motif is very soft and flexible on the wrist, but giving enough support to keep the relatively heavy watch in place. It reminds me a bit of those tropic straps from the past, which was probably intentional anyway. The watch comes with this JLC-signed folding clasp. A very well finished buckled and easy to operate, no pushers or whatever, just pull and push the clasp. Two rubber keepers keep the long end of the strap in place.
Although a lot is happening on the dial, I am talking about the inner rotating bezel, alarm time indicator and track, date window and large numerals here, it has been a very easy to read timepiece during daily wear. The creamy color of the markers, triangle on the bezel and the hour and minute hands lume perfectly during low-light conditions. The date aperture is very modest and located at 3 o’clock and replaces a Arabic ‘3’ numeral. Some people will go crazy of the white date disc with black printing, but from a practical perspective, this is way easier to read (especially if you’re not the youngest anymore). Also, from historical viewpoint the white date disc with black numerals makes more sense.
I actually used the alarm a couple of times. Especially when the watch is on your desk or night stand, the sound is quite loud. On your wrist, you will hear and notice it for sure as well. Just don’t forget the wind the alarm’s spring before you want to use it. With a fully wound spring, the alarm goes off for about 15 seconds. This should be long enough to warn or annoy you.
For me, the Polaris Memovox is the best pick of the Polaris line-up. For that reason, I pity the fact that they will only make 1000 of them. The dial is just stunning, the ‘vintage looking’ structure in the section where the numerals are is just perfect in day light. The choice to use a bit of patina-effect for the numerals is also a good one in my opinion. In the end, there is little to criticize for me about this watch except for the thickness perhaps. You are constantly aware of your watch, but that certainly isn’t a bad thing for everyone out there. The finish of the case is great as well; beautiful satin finish on the lugs and case band and a nice polished facet on each lug. A very thin polished bezel has been set around the boxed sapphire crystal.
The retail price of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox ref. 9038670 is $12,600.- (excluding sales tax) in the USA and around €13.000,- including VAT in Europe (depending on the tax rate of your country).
More information via Jaeger-LeCoultre on-line.
Ever since he was a young child, Robert-Jan was drawn to watches, even though it were digital Casio and quartz Swatch models at the time. In the mid-1990s, his interest increased when he started to read about mechanical watches in... read more