If the Marchtime Baselworld expo is unquestionably the watch industry’s largest event, with over 1,300 exhibitors, then the Salon International de Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) with a mere thirty-five is certainly it’s most exclusive. An invitation-only showcase originally founded by the Richemont Group, owners of luxury brands such as Cartier, Panerai and Jaeger-LeCoultre, it has evolved to become an unmissable event at which many of the world’s top marques stage their main presentation of the year. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at the new releases from all three brands, which of course you will be able to discover for yourself in our Grafton Street and Dundrum stores.
For Jaeger-LeCoultre, which is celebrating its 185th anniversary in 2018, SIHH introduced us to something new from its signature Reverso collection, a colourful update to its newer Rendezvous collection, and most significantly an all-new collection which will fill a void in its luxury sports sector presence.
A dyed in the wool classic, for many the Reverso is the first thing that springs to mind with the mention of the Jaeger-LeCoultre name. Created in the heyday of the Art Deco era, in the 1930s, it was designed specifically for the polo player, its reversible case protecting the delicate frontage from the occasional but inevitable whack of the polo mallet. Thanks to its ingenious design and its versatility the Reverso took on a life of its own, impervious to the effects of changing tastes and trends through the passage of time, and has been the platform for many variations down the years, with single or double-faced options, as well as going from petite feminine pieces to large, sporty masculine versions, it has stayed the course with ease.
For SIHH, Jaeger-LeCoultre unveiled a single one hundred piece limited edition in pink gold. The Reverso Tribute Duoface Casa Fagliano celebrates the shared values between the Grande Maison and those of Argentinian artisan bootmakers Casa Fagliano. An unusual partnership one might think, but complementing the two dial model a hand cured brown leather strap is of exceptionally high quality, and indeed the two companies have been working together for several years.
Elsewhere, the delightful Rendez-Vous, which was a very well received new ladies collection this time last year, welcomed a slightly smaller model to the family. Despite its 34mm size, the Rendez-Vous Night and Day Medium still packs in a meticulously manufactured self-winding movement, and underscores the brand’s long-standing commitment to a sector, foolishly often overlooked in higher end watchmaking; the hard-working, tech-savvy professional woman, who won’t be fobbed off by a quaint quartz runner-up to its male mechanical counterpart. And so Rendez-Vous is all about complicated horology for the discerning customer, and for its Night and Day, the sun and moon are depicted on a rotating disc which passes through its cycle once every twenty-four hours, against a backdrop of Art Deco infused elegance, and set off naturally with a blaze of diamonds around its bezel.
However, the main talking point within the huge and lavishly appointed Jaeger-LeCoultre area this year is very much the introduction of an important new collection, in conjunction with the revival of a famous name, which on its own evokes the brand’s spirit of exploration and adventure; the Polaris, with a limited edition tribute to its most legendary model, produced exactly fifty years ago; the 1968 Polaris Memovox.
Comprising five models, including the limited edition, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris collection is all new, but its inspiration draws heavily on nostalgia, and the brand’s early dive watches of the 1960s, which were designed to meet the needs of a new generation of discoverer, as the world opened up with accessible international travel and new, active leisure pursuits. The Polaris combined practical functionality and exceptional legibility with robust, go anywhere cases and the company’s renowned watchmaking reliability, tested to endure the rigours of water, ice and rocks.
Spearheading the charge at SIHH is the superb Polaris Memovox fiftieth anniversary limited edition, of which only 1,000 numbered pieces will be produced. A faithful tribute to the iconic 1968 watch, of which only 1714 examples were ever made, it recalls what had been the culmination of years of in-house development and evolution, and the first dive watch which paired an inner rotating bezel for precision dive timing with a mechanical alarm which could even be detected under water, thanks to a ‘double hull’ case construction which keeps the water on the outside, but creates the resonance which amplifies the vibrating alarm element. With its three crowns, to operate the bezel, set the alarm and perfunctory winding and setting functions, and its prominent luminous dial markings, it is distinctive and unmistakable, very cool, and not likely to be around for long.
If you’re a little too late to catch the anniversary Memovox edition all is not lost, because its classic retro look is also deeply ingrained in the new collection’s two base models, the 41mm Polaris Automatic and 42mm Polaris Date, both of which feature the sub-crystal rotating bezel and thus the dual crowns, which defined the original of the species. At a time when retro, vintage style is very much en vogue, these two models are authentic tributes to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s iconic 1960s designs, beautifully manufactured using modern techniques, and here to stay by the look of things.
The blue or black dials feature applied steel markers generously coated with powerful Super-LumiNova, which emits a luminous glow in low light conditions. Like the original, each dial also features three contrasting types of finishing; light catching sunray in the centre, a coarse grainy band beneath the applied hour markers and a smooth, satin minutes ring around the periphery.
In the modern luxury sports watch sector, a chronograph is pretty much an essential element in any brand’s portfolio, and so in rounding off the 2018 Polaris collection Jaeger Le-Coultre have introduced not one but two entirely new models, which, while presenting a more contemporary twist to the base models in terms of their styling as well as functionality, still retain much of the 1960s DNA.
As what is going to be an important new watch for the brand, the Polaris Chronograph seems to have all the boxes ticked to make its presence felt among this hotly contested sector. Cool and sporty in a 42mm stainless steel case, with immaculate detailing and striking good looks, it’s a versatile piece which lends itself perfectly to either formal or casual wear and if a true sports watch has been a long time coming, Jaeger-LeCoultre have nailed it with this timeless design.
Completing the package is the collection’s big brother, the 44mm Polaris Chronograph WT. Featuring the world timer function, which displays the time simultaneously across twenty-four time zones, in addition to the chronograph, it’s also the most complex Polaris. A crown at the ten o’clock position rotates the ring of city names, against the inner 24-hour ring which itself rotates counter clockwise, divided into day and night halves, so that the traveller can easily see home or any other timezone, as well as having the hands set to local time.
From the classic Reverso Fagliano, and the delicate femininity of the Rendez-Vous to the new Polaris collection, all are unified with the exceptional standards of in-house Swiss watchmaking, which has been synonymous with this Grande Maison as it celebrates 185 years. From what we’ve seen inside its lavish Geneva showcase at the Salon International de Haute Horlogerie, a big age does not always mean growing old.
– Written by Johnny McElherron