Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox 9038670

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox 9038670 captures the allure of the 1968 Memovox Polaris. Angus Davies looks closely at this vintage-inspired timepiece.

This detailed review of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox 9038670 includes live images, specification details and pricing.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox Limited Edition

This summer, thousands of school children sat examinations, hoping that in due course they will receive a fistful of certificates. As these children ultimately move on to further education or seek employment, the qualifications they possess will provide suitable validation of their understanding and, to some extent, their potential.

The problem with young minds is they often lack the worldliness to realise their potential overnight. There is no substitute for wisdom and accrued know-how.

In the world of horology, an impressive history and a plethora of achievements often distinguishes the finest practitioners of watchmaking from certain young pretenders. One company, with an impressive history and notable expertise is Jaeger-LeCoultre.

Founded in 1833, Jaeger-LeCoultre has been producing watches endowed with its own movements. It has trained and nurtured many watchmakers and artisans over the years. Watchmakers, enamelers, gem-setters and a myriad of other trades, collaborate to make exquisite no-compromise watches.

Over the years, several prestigious brands have turned to Jaeger-LeCoultre in order to procure a particular ébauche or movement component. The maison is a manufacture par excellence. While thumbing the pages of a brochure from 2012, I noticed the brand claimed to have made 1231 different calibres. During the six years which have subsequently elapsed, I am sure this number will have increased. The firm from Le Senitier is both inventive and prolific.

An innovative maison

Throughout its history, Jaeger-LeCoultre has been innovative. Its Reverso model, with an ingenious reversing case, was invented in 1931 and is widely regarded an icon. Queen Elizabeth II wore a watch on the day of her coronation which was equipped with the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 101, one of the smallest mechanical movements ever produced. 

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox Limited Edition

A further example of the maison’s pioneering spirit is manifest with the Memovox Polaris. Jaeger-LeCoultre unveiled its first Memovox model in 1950, equipped with an alarm intended to remind businessmen of impending meetings. Typical of Jaeger-LeCoultre, the company did not rest on its laurels. In 1956, the company launched the first automatic watch with an alarm function.

In 1959, Jaeger-LeCoultre took this concept further and conceived the world’s first diving watch equipped with an alarm. The aptly named, Memovox Deep Sea featured an alarm intended to ‘ensure the safety of divers’.

The continued evolution of the Memovox Polaris

In 1962, the firm from Le Sentier began developing a cutting-edge timepiece, the Memovox Polaris, equipped with the Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 825.

One year later, in 1963, the maison released 50 examples of the Memovox Polaris. However, it was not until 1965 that final production versions of the Memovox Polaris were unveiled.

Housed in a generously proportioned 42mm case, the scale was considered large for the era. Furthermore, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox Polaris proved even louder underwater with its ingenious triple case-back system. The first case-back, formed of bronze, provided a means for the alarm to resonate. The second protected the mechanism from water ingress and the third featured 16 openings, heightening the sound of the alarm, making it audible underwater.

The Memovox Polaris was water resistant to 200 metres and resistant to shocks and magnetism. Moreover, it was also equipped with an internal rotating bezel, controlled by a third crown.

Part of the Jaeger-LeCoultre paradigm is an insatiable appetite to continuously innovate and improve. In 1968, the Memovox Polaris embraced a new dynamic appearance, courtesy of its sporty dial. The Arabic numerals and trapezoidal indexes were coated with Tritium. A small triangular marker, positioned on the alarm disc, near the centre of the dial, indicated the alarm time. The baton-shaped hands were lined with luminescent material. Interestingly, earlier Jaeger-LeCoultre diver alarm watches featured either baton or dauphine shaped hands.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox Limited Edition

This year, the esteemed maison has chosen to celebrate the 1968 model with the release of a new collection, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris. This new collection of models is diverse with some watches evincing a contemporary appearance. However, perhaps the most interesting new release is the vintage-inspired Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox 9038670. This model looks to the past, capturing the styling of the dial and alarm function of the 1968 watch while embracing an interesting new case design.

The dial

A sense of nostalgia pervades the dial of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox 9038670. The ‘Tropic’ coloured hour markers and hands bestow a retro feel which I personally find very endearing. Arabic numerals are positioned at 6, 9 and 12 o’clock, while other hours are marked with trapezoidal batons, upholding the design language of the 1968 model.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox Limited Edition

The baton-shaped hour and minute hands are faceted and lined with a cream-coloured luminescent treatment. The original 1968 model used Tritium as a means of aiding legibility in restricted light. This material is seldom used now, owing to health concerns, albeit Jaeger-LeCoultre has not specified the luminescent treatment it has employed on this modern reproduction.

The internal bezel is marked with a 60-minute scale and can be rotated with the crown positioned at 3 o’clock. A combination of numerals, batons and dots adorn the flange and appear lucidly crisp. A triangular index is positioned at noon. A central sweep seconds hand provides a suitable means of informing the diver that the watch is operational.

Many horophiles prefer date discs to match the dial colour, however, in this instance the date disc is white, marked with black numerals. Personally, I think Jaeger-LeCoultre’s decision to use a white date disc was well-judged as the indication proves simple to read.

While a diver’s watch is, by its very nature, a utilitarian object, the Swiss brand has imbued the dial of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox 9038670 with a plethora of beautiful details. For example, the texture of the hour track is speckled, providing an agreeable contrast with the smooth adjacent alarm disc.

The centrally positioned alarm disc is rotated using the crown positioned at 2 o’clock. The triangular mark positioned on the alarm disc is aligned with the desired alarm time. The system proves user-friendly. This crown also serves to wind the alarm.

The case

The 42mm stainless steel case shares the same diameter as the 1968 Memovox Polaris. This diameter and the maximum water resistance of 200 metres should prove suitable for most wearer’s needs.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox Limited Edition

Three crowns grace the right hand flank of the case. The crowns at 2 and 3 o’clock operate the alarm and rotational bezel, respectively, while the third crown, positioned at 4 o’clock, is used to set the time and wind the mainspring.

A solid case-back graces the reverse of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox 9038670. The case-back is retained with four screws and engraved with text commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Memovox Polaris.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox Limited Edition

One of the biggest differences between the 1968 Memovox Polaris and its modern-day counterpart relates to the case design and surface treatment. On this latest version the bezel is highly polished, while the adjacent lugs and case-band are satin-brushed. The lugs are bolder, faceted and feature gleaming bevelled edges. The underside of the lugs and case-back are highly polished. This tasteful mix of case finishes augments the allure of the watch.

The timepiece is supplied with a black, textured rubber strap. Its sporty appearance successfully coalesces with the overall styling of the watch-head.

The movement

The automatic Calibre 956 comprises of 268 parts, including 23 jewels. The balance has a frequency of 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and the sole barrel provides 45 hours of autonomy. Despite being hidden from view, behind a solid case-back, the movement is beautifully appointed. The oscillating weight is embellished with Côtes de Genève motif and engraved with golden text. Blued screws abound, upholding fine watchmaking tradition.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox Limited Edition

The oscillating weight is marked with the text ‘1000 hours control’, indicating the watch has been subject to a comprehensive range of tests, ‘lasting a full 1000 hours’. The ‘regularity of rate’ is monitored. In addition, the watch head is subject to different temperatures and pressure, as well as being tested for resistance to shocks, magnetic fields and water.

Closing remarks

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox 9038670 captures the appeal of the 1968 original while encompassing subtle changes which heighten its allure.

Despite featuring a central sweep seconds, date and an alarm function, the dial is uncluttered and simple to interpret. The ‘Tropic’ coloured numerals and trapezoidal batons infuse the dial with a significant quotient of period style.

The three crown design does not encumber the wearer’s wrist and provides an intuitive means of operating the alarm, rotating the bezel and setting the time. Indeed, a reoccurring theme of this watch is the user-friendly interaction it shares with the wearer. For example, the alarm is set merely by rotating the triangular marker on the alarm disc to the desired time. It really is that simple.

The detailing on the case is magnificent. The satin-brushed case-band, the gleaming bezel and the faceted lugs harmoniously sit together and demonstrate the maison’s exacting eye for detail.

Mindful that the movement is hidden behind a solid case-back, many watch brands would embrace expedience and set aside finishing. However, Jaeger-LeCoultre is based in the Vallée de Joux, a region synonymous with making watch movements. The historical Swiss maison should be applauded for respecting traditions, executing the Calibre 956 to an impressive standard.

With the advent of the Polaris Memovox Limited Edition, Jaeger-LeCoultre has showcased its expertise wonderfully, repeatedly exhibiting a horological virtuosity accrued over 185 years, something which cannot be matched with three hours in an examination room.

Further reading

Technical specifications

  • Model: Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox 9038670
  • Case: Stainless steel case; diameter 42mm, height 15.9mm; sapphire crystal to front and solid caseback; water resistant to 20 ATM (200 metres).
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; central sweep seconds; date; alarm
  • Movement: Calibre 956; Self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 23 jewels; power reserve 45 hours.
  • Strap: Black rubber strap
  • Price: £11,100 (RRP as at 6.8.2018)
  • Limited Edition: 1000 pieces

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