In everyday life, during meditation or before a free dive, the act of taking a breath is not the same. Involuntary in the first instance, it leads to a state of mindfulness in the second, and becomes vital in the third. Three breaths, all relating to life yet fundamentally different. Jaeger-LeCoultre invites us to reflect on this extension of time when presenting its latest release: the Polaris Mariner in Memovox and Date versions. We discover the star of this short film, Benedict Cumberbatch, meditating with the ocean before him, on Rakino Island in New Zealand. His thoughts, spoken as a voice-over, lead us almost without our realising into the ocean, the natural home of this new dive watch.
Jaeger-LeCoultre already set the stage a few weeks back with the Master Control Memovox Timer, a nostalgia trip back to the 1950s and 60s: two decades of creative freedom when the Grande Maison, as the Vallée-de-Joux watchmaker is known, launched a series of timepieces that quickly became a staple among mechanical alarm watches. Building on longstanding expertise in striking mechanisms – it made its first minute repeater in 1870 –, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced the Memovox in 1950. Nine years later it made headlines with the Memovox Deep Sea, the first dive watch equipped with an alarm. This was followed, in 1963, by the Memovox Polaris whose most celebrated version has to be the one from 1968, with date, baton hands, broad luminescent trapezoid markers and an inner rotating bezel. Possibly its most distinctive feature, however, was its remarkably audible alarm: a consequence of the triple-layer construction of the caseback, with one layer to ensure water-resistance to 200 metres, a second in bronze for sound resonance and a third with perforations so that contact with the diving suit wouldn’t muffle the alarm.
Whereas this summer’s Memovox Timer emphasises the original’s alarm function, including its characteristic “school bell” sound, the Polaris Mariner focuses on the dive watch aspect, being ISO 6425-compliant. Both the Memovox and the Date versions are cased in steel with a 42mm diameter and have a 300-metre depth rating. The crown that operates the ratcheting inner bezel is screwed-down so there can be no unintentional use. As an additional security, an orange band on the stem alerts divers if the crown isn’t completely screwed down. Different finishes on the three concentric dial circles, bold trapezoid markers combined with Arabic numerals for 12, 6 and 9, plus a SuperLumiNova® treatment for the hands, markers and numerals complete the picture.
The Memovox configuration is powered by Calibre 956, an automatic movement introduced in 2008 and comprehensively revised. Unlike the original, it has a sapphire back that shows the hammer in action, hence why Jaeger-LeCoultre’s engineers have moved the gong from the back to the side of the case. In an interview to French news weekly Paris-Match, Benedict Cumberbatch describes the alarm as “surprisingly loud, although much softer and quieter than a digital one, particularly when the watch is on the wrist.” If ever this becomes too much of a distraction during his meditation sessions, Mr Cumberbatch can always switch to the Date version whose Calibre 899 movement has had its power reserve upped to 70 hours.