It could be argued that the somewhat curved proportions of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris collection could have responded better to some added visual complexity. Introduced in 2018 with just three narrow hands, a slim bezel and strong lugs, the result is a wide dial that leaves plenty of room and little else to be desired. Enter the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Perpetual Calendar, and with it, one of the best ways to spice up a three-hander: a full calendar with four subdials.
Makes it appear in the JLC’s Perpetual Calendar layout Very correct. It balances taste between text and texture, functionality and excess. Optometrists will give you more accurate figures, but we’ll hazard a guess, and most people queuing up to buy one of these 30-grand luxury timepieces can’t easily read the tiniest bits or most of the perpetual calendar. Indications, not under any circumstances – and yet this barrier is not sufficient to deter any of them.
Some watches absolutely nail proportions, more specifically the balance between case diameter, bezel thickness and dial width, as well as the volume and size of the dial elements and the amount of space between them. While beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder, the Polaris Automatic rarely gets a mention among well-proportioned luxury watches.
Presented beneath a boxed sapphire crystal that instantly produces its own brilliant halo in almost any light, four not-so-small subdials and a wide vignette – a dark graduation around the edge of the dial – restore visual balance to the Polaris. A dark blue, almost black, vignette effect around the edge ring and minute track creates the impression of a narrower, positively more compact dial, while the engraving on the four subdials at all but the 12 o’clock hour marker creates the opposite effect, an expanding dial.
It is long before the brain can calculate all these opposing forces, but the eye appreciates their cumulative effect in a mere visible watch. right. One’s brain is just enough to think of what might be called a complete or full calendar display with every indication on the dial, and none on the caseback side: beyond the three centrally positioned hands for the time, there are the date, day of the week, month, four-digit year, moon phase traditionally displayed in the Northern Hemisphere, and The retrograde hand for its southern counterpart is indicated by a “security zone indicator” just above the center that turns red between 8pm and 4am. This is the day when the perpetual calendar can only be adjusted at the extreme risk of turning the 868AA caliber into a snowglobe of 351 watch components. Oh, and as a true Polaris feature, there’s a rotating inner bezel ring with 60 graduations for added timing benefits.
All calendar functions are adjusted by a single pusher set flush against the left side of the case. IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s sister brand of luxury group Richemont, famously offers watches with a perpetual calendar that is fully adjustable via the crown without any additional pushers. While that distinction has yet to carry over from IWC to Polaris, the latter still offers an impressive 100m water resistance rating, a rare feat among perpetual calendars and watches typically equipped with adjustment pushers this small.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 868AA caliber is a self-winding mechanical movement with modern specs: it operates at a frequency of 4Hz and combines it with an extended power reserve of 70 hours. It wasn’t that long ago that the brand’s watches offered just 40 hours of autonomy, which I reviewed here along with this awesome Navy Seals collaboration that I own. The modular construction of the 868AA movement isn’t great from a watch enthusiast’s point of view. Flip over the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Perpetual Calendar and you’re greeted with a sapphire crystal caseback that reveals a more interesting or complex movement than the three-hand base model. Because all the mechanical wizardry that makes a perpetual calendar work is a so-called module installed on the dial side of the base caliber. With no cutouts on the dial, none of its parts can be seen and appreciated – for that you have to look at the correct readings of the calendar.
On the wrist, the Polaris Perpetual Calendar looks great, at 42mm-wide and just 11.97mm-thick – not bad, given the boxed crystal, rotating flange ring assembly, 100m water resistance rating, extended power reserve, self-winding and modular. Construction. Both the stainless steel and pink gold pieces can easily change their straps or bracelet: the former comes on a three-link bracelet and box-shaped rubber strap, while the latter is fitted with a blue rubber strap and alligator. Strap with a folding buckle.
Take a closer look at this luxury piece and pull up Polaris for weakness – or at least the prototype we saw at Watches & Wonders Geneva 2022 – soon to be revealed. Again, it’s worth emphasizing the fact that the pieces we’ve seen may be prototypes, but upon closer inspection, the dial quality isn’t on par with other watches in this elevated price segment. For well under $30,000, we’re used to seeing better-defined textures and nice and sharp pad printing of texts. The perfectly applied hour markers and consistent reflection of the faceted hands give the front of the Polaris Perpetual Calendar a very luxurious feel – but then again, the grainy texture of the main dial, the muddy, ill-defined circular pattern on the subdials. And the rough edges around the moonface aperture don’t add up to a great macro experience. Grand Seiko Dials, the two big German brands, and a variety of Swiss competitors often offer a lot more eye candy, and sometimes at a much lower price.
In summary, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Perpetual Calendar ups its game by offering great everyday wearability, thanks to its easy-to-change bracelet, good water resistance, extended power reserve and a wide range of features and functions. In a good looking and comfortable wearing package. While its basic caseback view is undoubtedly understandable, the quality of the dial, and especially its fine details, needs some work before it measures up against the competition.
Price of Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Perpetual Calendar Q9088180 in Steel $29,600 USDThe pink gold version retails with reference Q9082680 $44,300 USD. Perpetual calendars from Richemont’s sister brand Montblanc retail for $16,600 in steel, and while Baum & Mercier retails for the Polaris’ more rounded and robust package, a more modern base movement and the Jaeger-LeCoultre name. Red gold goes for $26,800. You can find out more on the brand’s website.