Two new takes on the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph
Since its fabled relaunch in 2018, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris collection has gone from strength to strength, establishing itself as the sportiest cornerstone of the brand’s collection. Now, two lacquered chronograph dials expand the range and bring an artful approach to the line.
The Polaris was always regarded as a classic. The deft handling of its renaissance was a feather in the cap of JLC and seamlessly fleshed out a catalog that sorely needed a modern interpretation of the Polaris in its ranks.
So often, these callbacks go wrong. It is easy to find fault with reimagined pieces that occupy such a special place in the hearts of watch collectors, but here, Jaeger-LeCoultre exercised both ambition and restraint to great effect. Modern proportions and materials bring to life a much-missed concept underpinned by new in-house caliber. The addition of the chronograph model to the collection further hammered home the line’s ability to speak to a sports-loving audience, and these new dials do an excellent job of connecting the Polaris collection with the Master Control novelties released earlier this year.
As simple a thing as it is, the flash of red/orange at the apex of both sub-dials and the main dial creates a visual link with the subtly sublime Master Control Annual Calendar in Rose Gold (reference Q413257J) that sent shockwaves through the industry upon its announcement in mid-2023. That model’s edgy colorway set the tone and these pieces now compliment it in a way that should excite fans of brand congruity. It shows JLC’s willingness to establish a new visual identity shared across collections and, while it seems like a small thing, the ability to carve out a chromatic niche for such a well-known brand, should not be underestimated.
Rather than having a single model sporting a new aesthetic, the brand is developing a visual language that could, if this path is pursued further, have watch lovers and analysts alike commenting that anything that looks like it, looks like a JLC imitation. To do that with color is not straightforward, and it enthuses me personally to see Jaeger-LeCoultre attempting it with so much success so far.
The crux of pulling off such a move is to do several little things well at once. To be seen as special and identifiable, the brand must mix elements of tradition with elements of futurism (or at least cutting-edge modernity) and do so in a way that is not uncomfortably jarring to the eye. In the case of these 42mm Polaris Chronographs, pairing a warm gray dial and a deep blue fumé lacquer dial with either black or deep blue sub-dials, fearlessly accented by a splash of red/orange repeated on the tip of the seconds hand, lends a gritty dynamism to an otherwise classical dial finish.
The size of these chronographs is near-optimum for true-to-size wearability. While the 13.39 mm thickness is, when matched with a 42 mm diameter (and 48.5 mm lug-to-lug), perhaps marginally thicker than ideal, the sprawling dial and ultra-thin bezel will give the impression of the watch sitting closer to the wrist than its raw specs might suggest. The “double fumé” design, which sees both the outer ring of the central dial and the central portion gradating toward their respective edges tricks the eye into believing the dial elements are migrating outward. Again, this helps with the overall visual impact of the watch and makes it feel as if the watch is falling towards the wrist rather than fighting against its steel frame.
While some may lament the absence of a steel bracelet option for the warm gray dial, I would pick the warm gray on its beige canvas strap over the other three available combinations. Not only does this feel the most “ready for action” to me, but it also continues the softer colorway all the way around the wrist. The blue dial on the steel bracelet will be a must for many, but when it comes to originality and the stricter adherence to the conceived design code, the gray and beige work exceptionally well together in my opinion.
The warm gray dial is at once strikingly bright and breathtakingly serene. In an era in which we demand a lot of versatility from our watches, I believe this model scores highly in that regard. It can be dressed up or down with ease, and the quick change black rubber strap (included with both dial options) means this piece can go from daytime to dinner in a heartbeat.
JLC’s very own Caliber 761 derives its power from an oscillating mass charged with winding two barrels. This fully integrated column-wheel chronograph continues Jaeger-LeCoultre’s long-held reputation as one of the finest movement producers the industry has in its ranks and is a joy to see through the sapphire display case back that reveals it and its elegant finishing in all its glory. An evolution of the 751, this caliber adds a running seconds hand at 9 o’clock — a feature absent in its predecessor (replacing the 12-hour counter that had previously occupied the same spot). Furthermore, in light of this new feature, a hacking seconds feature has been added.
Ultimately, this watch is a welcome addition to a collection that continues to build on the 1960s legacy of this model family. With a solid core offering established, expect the gloves to come off as JLC looks to push the Polaris in evermore exciting directions.
Jaeger-Lecoultre Polaris Chronograph Specs and Price
Reference: Q902843J (grey dial), Q9028181 (blue dial)
Movement: Automatic Caliber 761 with a 65-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, and a 30-minute chronograph with central seconds indication and tachymeter
Case: 42 mm × 13.39 mm stainless steel, water resistant to 100 meters
Dial: Warm gray lacquer or a deep blue fumé lacquer
Strap: Beige canvas and additional rubber strap (grey dial); steel bracelet and additional rubber strap (blue dial). Both models are supplied with an interchangeable folding buckle.
Price: USD 14,300 for the warm gray, and USD 14,800 for the blue
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FROM THE SHOP
|Movement||Self-winding caliber BR.CAL-301; 42-hour power reserve|
|Functions||Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph and date|
|Case||41mm; CuAI7Si2 bronze; water resistant to 100m|
|Dial||Sunray brushed with applied, gold-plated indices|
|Strap||Black calfskin; satin polished bronze folding clasp|
|Limited Edition||Limited edition of 50 pieces|