The story of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox is a significant one in the history of the grand maison, quite simply, because it brings together two of its icons from a not-so-distant past.
We start first in the year 1950, when the caliber 489 was created, giving rise to the striking alarm mechanism that made the Memovox. As simple as it may sound: A preset alarm, set to remind the watch’s wearer of an appointment or some other crucial time in the day — Jaeger-LeCoultre took the compilation forward in many innovative ways. There was, for instance, a Memovox that was designed to remind you of the timing on your parking meter. So, when caught up in an engagement, your watch could remind you that your meter’s time was up and you best make your way to top it up before the fuzz comes along.
There were a handful of other such creative interpretations of the Memovox complication, but for now, on to the next watch in line with our present subject matter — and the second icon that concerns this story — the 1959 Memovox Deep Sea.
Here, Jaeger-LeCoultre put the unique alarm mechanism into a water resistant wristwatch. There in lay the opportunity to bring an innovation into the world of dive watches, like no one had thought of before. Therefore, nearly a decade later, finally came the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox, in 1968.
The Polaris Memovox is a dive watch, with an internal rotating bezel, hour, minutes and central running seconds; date and last but not least, the Memovox alarm mechanism.
What this meant for dive watches, is that now, you didn’t necessarily have to keep looking down at your dive bezel, to keep track of elapsed time under watch any longer. You had the alarm function of the Polaris Memovox to remind you of elapsed time.
As forward thinking as the watch was in the realm of dive watches, trouble is, it was conceived right as the Quartz Crisis lay around the corner. Production of the Polaris Memovox was, as such, ceased in 1969. But it’s not that Jaeger-LeCoultre had given up on the Polaris Memovox.
On the contrary, in order to give the watch an edge in the times that it found itself, the Polaris Memovox was given a definitive 70s makeover with the Polaris Memovox II. Going back to the 1968 Polaris Memovox though, what we have to establish here is that the particular watch was, therefore, in production for a very brief period. Experts in the subject matter have suggested that the number stands at no more than 2,000 pieces.
There is no doubt, however, that the Polaris Memovox was, and still is, an important timepiece to Jaeger-LeCoultre. As such, in 2008, on the occasion of the watch’s 40th birthday, the maison reissued the Polaris Memovox in a limited run of 768 steel pieces and 165 in platinum.
The 2008 re-edition was true to the 1968 version right down to the acrylic crystal. However, when time came to think about the 50th birthday of the watch, Jaeger-LeCoultre saw it fit to completely up the ante.
In an interview earlier with Revolution’s Deputy Editorial Director, Tracey Llewellyn, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Director of Maison Heritage and Rare Pieces, Stéphane Belmont shared about the conception of the 2018 Polaris collection saying, “We decided that it was time to come back with a masculine, technical focus and to create one elegant sports collection. It would be impossible to promote the many disparate pieces that we have with any real conviction, so we decided to put the other sports watches, like the Deep Sea, on hold and come out with one comprehensive collection. One of the watches most praised by our collectors is the Memovox Polaris from 1968, so this was the obvious piece on which to base our new sports collection.”
Essentially, there was so much richness held within the Polaris that the maison devoted its resources towards developing a completely new collection based upon it.
It starts with the time only Polaris Automatic, moving up to the Polaris Chronograph, the Polaris Chronograph WT (World Time) and the Polaris Geographic WT. Of course, for the purists looking for a watch that still bears the face of the original 1968 Polaris Memovox, you’ve got the Polaris Date. Or else, if nothing but the original will do, there is the 2018 Polaris Memovox, complete with the three crown implementation and, of course, the Memovox alarm mechanism.
As history has established by now, the Polaris Memovox is fated to always be produced in small numbers. It’s no different for the 2018 edition, which is limited to just 1000 pieces. But where so few of the 1968 version was produced, as a result of the troubled times that lay ahead, the 2008 and 2018 version have been kept to small numbers, to keep the special timepiece exclusive. Although, thanks to the collection that’s been designed around the Polaris now, more can have the chance to walk away with a piece of Jaeger-LeCoultre history, interpreted for the twenty-first century.