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Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic Hands-On

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic Hands-On Hands-On

Inspired by the iconic… God damn it… Although I am not surprised, I must say I am still strangely disappointed that Jaeger-LeCoultre did not last longer than 3, as in three words (title notwithstanding) before using the i-word in their official description of the new Polaris collection. Before this turns into a feature article on how the i-word has been shackling most major brands into their as-yet-tamest approach to watch design, I’ll move onto our hands-on look at the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic and Polaris Date – I’ll leave room for our colleagues to express their thoughts on the Polaris collection in other hands-on pieces.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic Hands-On Hands-On

All hands-on images by Ariel Adams

Jaeger-LeCoultre. What a glorious, glorious name. Not even the most ambitious marketing guru would in their wildest fevered dreams imagine a brand name so cool. I mean, it looks great in any serious typeface with its seemingly random capitalized letters and the self-imposed hyphen. It’s just the right length, and it gives the average French-speaking person that much desired fake sense of passing superiority as he or she ushers all these zhshsh‘s and cltr‘s through their teeth.

Stick it on any watch dial and suddenly the critics quiet down and everything is amazing and impressive and iconic. Just look at the Polaris Automatic. It isn’t until much later, I imagine, that artificial intelligence will be able to design this exact watch based on a few pictures of 1960s vintage watches and a knob that goes from sleep-inducing-stale to movingly exciting – said knob would remain glued to its base setting, of course.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic Hands-On Hands-On

I keep having my eyes go up and down the Polaris Automatic looking for anything – any detail, small or large – that I wouldn’t find just breathtakingly boring. Even the two hands are the same shape, not to stir you up too much. The bracelet, the dial, the virtually useless and not very legible, dotted rotating flange ring, the tiny “Automatique” (for goodness sake…) script in the most boring font style hitherto discovered in typography, the short and stubby lugs… It’s a boring watch described over the phone to someone who recently discovered he likes sketching watches. Admittedly, the trapezoid indices are JLC-specific.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic Hands-On Hands-On

The Polaris Date on the black rubber strap appears to have more character.

Jaeger-LeCoultre goes on and on: “Today’s man is someone who does it all. Always open to the new and untried, he finds surprising and innovative ways to make the most out of his life. For him, it’s about the journey, not the destination, and the experiences along the way. Today’s man doesn’t have a schedule he has to keep; he makes his own plan. For his lifestyle, he needs an elegant yet sporty [PRODUCT] that can do it all, one that keeps up with his active pace: the new…” [INSERT PRODUCT NAME].


That above description is so vague, it could feasibly be the sales pitch for literally anything. Washing machine, car, online casino, or, you know, a watch inspired by another watch from half a century ago.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic Hands-On Hands-On

My issue with all that above actually is not with the vagueness, but rather that I get the distinct impression the text was born much after the product had been finalized. A watch with a 40-hour power reserve (that drops to a whopping 38-hours for the $7,750-$8,700 Polaris Date) and a finicky, and again, not very legible inner bezel may have been impressive in 1968, but they aren’t in 2018, when a Baume & Mercier for literally 40% of the price of this offers 5 days of worry-free autonomy. I imagine today’s man must at times live his successful life with to-the-minute accuracy and, with the base Polaris Automatic starting from $6,600, just as a sort of reassurance, I’m sure he would have appreciated a COSC chronometer certification.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic Hands-On Hands-On

The Polaris Date’s caseback is a good thing for those who prefer seeing retro graphics to mechanical movements.

It’s about time that both the brands and us, the buyers, realize that for $7,600 an utterly disappointing 40-hour power reserve and finicky overall design just don’t cut it, even if the dial says God Almighty on it. And who, if not the Grande Maison can we expect to lead the way in that? Not Baume & Mercier, who in recent memory has been essentially tightrope-walking on the verge of bankruptcy and disinterest. Sure, the 1000 Hours Control of Jaeger-LeCoultre is impressive, but the brand has not been doing much in the way of communicating what they actually do in comparison to, say, Rolex and Omega – both of whom have recently advanced their in-house quality control procedures.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic Hands-On Hands-On

I feel safe in saying that, come 2038, the then-executive and marketing and watch designer people of Jaeger-LeCoultre will be making a full hula dance performance when they realize the brand has actually had some 21st century designs at the dawn of the century, not just past-evoking exercises. They’ll certainly appreciate the fact that there are going to be some watches (namely cool Master Compressors and thoroughly JLC-specific Duomètres) that they can pay 20th or 30th anniversary tributes to.

If it weren’t for those – momentarily either entirely discontinued or largely neglected – collections, the brand would find itself in a position where it has to make a 30th anniversary version of the 50th anniversary version watch.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic Hands-On Hands-On

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic Hands-On Hands-On

Jaeger-LeCoultre likes to call itself the Grande Maison. Sure, watch design need not be turned inside out come every SIHH, but the Big House has been far from asserting its greatness in recent memory. I know the vintage watch revival trend is a truly comfortable position for every brand that has fallen for it – you can’t go wrong by cherry picking your safest “icons” that other people thought up 50 years ago – but I refuse to accept the fact that the carefully chosen and I’m sure impressively talented watch designers and engineers at Jaeger-LeCoultre couldn’t come up with something properly awesome and contemporary, had they had the support of their brand. What’s grandness worth if you can’t humor yourself with a bit of creativity or controversy?

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic Hands-On Hands-On

Arthur Miller was quoted saying “The best work that anybody ever writes is the work that is on the verge of embarrassing him, always.” Sure, all major markets have at last matured beyond the point where they will buy any nonsense as long as it’s expensive enough, so experimental projects may or may not sell well – but it’s time the Grand Maisons start trading their current slow death for some mild punches that could only hurt their egos.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic Hands-On Hands-On

I’d have to go back a good number of years to recount Jaeger-LeCoultre taking things to the verge of embarrassing itself, and that really shows in recent years’ ADD-curing collections. I understand the brand needs safe, mainstream collections to keep itself in business – and I’m sure the Polaris and especially the somehow more handsome-looking Polaris Date will sell well to those who want a name long before any technological or comfort advancements over watches made in 1968… But it’s been a good few years now that I have been crossing my fingers for JLC to return to, well, what I discussed here.

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic comes in a 41mm-wide, 100m water-resistant steel case with the in-house Caliber 898/1 with 40 hours of power reserve, while the Polaris Date is 42mm wide, with 200m of water resistance, and the Claiber 899/1 inside with 38 hours of power reserve. A variety of straps as well as a 3-link steel bracelet is available for either. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic is priced between $6,600 and $7,600, while the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Date retails for between $7,750 and $8,700.

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  • Yanko

    $ 300 Seiko has better dial and case. What’s going on here?

    • Raymond Wilkie

      Not quite, but I see where you’re coming from.

      • IG

        From the Seiko La-La Land?

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Great review David. I couldn’t agree with you more. Your right, the name is just so dammed sexy. Said in French ( which I have a higher qualification in ) it just rolls off the tongue. Now if I could just crack English! All this crap about the modern man just annoys me. Let me surmise your review if I may.

    • Sheez Gagoo

      “Jaeger” or “Jäger” is as German as Bratwurst and Schnitzel. It’s quite common here, that German speaking people have french names and French speaking have German names. We mix.

      • Sheez Gagoo

        Edmond Jaeger, watchmaker born in Alsace. (Dreiländereck, on the edge of France, Germany and Switzerland) has probably German or Swiss-German ancestors, as the name implies.

        • Haiku Lou Albéniz

          Can you elaborate on the Gagoo family name??

          • Sheez Gagoo

            Yes I can. In fact, there’s a secret behind my nickname, some of my Swiss-German fellows already discovered. My nick is based on the Swiss-German expression “Schyssgagu”, which literally translated means “crapturd”. comparable to the German “Scheissdreck”. I used English transcription, which makes it even more funny.

          • DanW94

            From the union of the ancestral houses of Lady Gaga and Mr. Magoo, of course.

          • Haiku Lou Albéniz

            Where’s Gene? Has he changed his name?

          • DanW94

            I don’t know. Maybe a self imposed exile of some sort. We need him him back. He’s the straw that stirs the proverbial drink…..

          • Good Gene 42K18

            Vegas, bay-bay!

      • Raymond Wilkie

        You are veritable fount of information Sheez.

        • Sheez Gagoo

          I love the Dreiländereck, because there are a lot of big malls and stuff is considerably cheaper in France and Germany. Or Italy. Or anywhere else on the planet, like David Bredan will surely confirm. And I’m quite used to some France- and Germany-only products.

  • Mikita

    Somehow.. these new JLC don’t work. No JLC magic. No magic at all. These watches look kinda too default for the price, I could have expected such a bland design from a kickstarter newbie or some of the entry Swatch Group’s brands like Mido or Longines, but not from the JLC. Not charismatic, not thought provoking, just very safe and can be mistaken with plethora of other brands. Grow some cojones, JLC!

    • Sheez Gagoo

      Welcome back! Btw. Do you know this stuff?Bottle was almost full in the early evening. Georgian friend brought it.

      • Mikita

        I’m not fully back, only in preview mode, but thanks! Sarajishvili is cool stuff! They have some really nice collections of wines like Kindzmarauli and cognacs such as the one brought by your friend 🙂 I have more experience with wines, still have to discover Georgian cognacs..

        • Bobby Peruse

          Hi there. I offer some friendly words of ‘wisdom.’ Cognac comes from France. And only France. Everything else is brandy. True them French can be pesky and snobby about it but there really ain’t nothin like the real thing, baby. The chalky soil of the Grande Champagne (small region at the heart of Cognac), the fruity distillates from the Borderies area.,, this diversity of terroir is unique to Cognac. I should know. I’ve tasted hundreds and am writing a book about it.

          • Mikita

            Hi! Thanks for your kind correction. I am far from being an expert 🙂 so for me the difference between cognac and brandy may be blurred. Anyway, what are your recommendations on a <$50 budget (for both cognac and brandy)?

          • Lash LaRue de Bayou

            Nothing worth buying under $50. Many options between $100-300. Delamain, The big three ((Remy, Henny, Courvoisier), Camus, Goyet, Frapin, Audry…..

    • Sheez Gagoo
      • Mikita

        Must be some really strong stuff! Didn’t you mix it with cognac.. did you??

        • Sheez Gagoo

          I did. There must be a Russian invasion in my head.

          • Mikita

            Damn.. happy recuperation day! 🙂

          • Mikita

            Did your friend bring a bottle of Borjomi for the morning? It works like a miracle vs hangover

          • Sheez Gagoo

            Indeed! This stuff is available here. Tastes like Vichi Celestin.

    • Sheez Gagoo

      My Zippo works with it!!!. Light a Dübel with it! !

  • Steve Loader

    I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something is telling me this isn’t a sponsored review.

    • Raymond Wilkie

      Well, it might be because it doesn’t say sponsered post maybe. I don’t know i”m just guessing here.

      • Steve Loader

        Yes smart-bottom, I know it’s not a review-actually-written-by-the-brand type sponsored post. I mean that many online reviews are actually done in collaboration with – and likely paid for – the brand being reviewed.

        • Raymond Wilkie

          What a very polite way of calling me a smart ass. If as a manufacturer i paid for this review I would be a bit upset.

    • Guadzilla

      Maybe it is a “You should have sponsored us” review?

  • Piero

    What an embarassing product from JLC, such a disappointment.
    I appreciate the objective review.

  • I suspect this review would read quite differently had the MSRP been closer to $3500. Or had been a Grand Seiko, the reigning champion of phoned-in watch designs.

    Skepticism breeds more skepticism, which, I suppose, is either the intent, or side effect of the honesty displayed in reviews like this. Good job; its always important to step back every once in a while and consider what a sacred cow tastes like skewered.

    • David Bredan

      It’s not simply about the MSRP – I’m fine with a JLC retailing for more than $3,500. It’s about what I discussed above: calling yourself Grande Maison and your product iconic and then following the pack (from well behind) in character, performance and value.

      • PollyO

        It was a good write up David and I think you nailed the issue. JLC are were (are?) my favourite brand but the last year has seen them pretty much completely destroy my affection with a barrage of epic blandness.

        • David Bredan

          I agree with you and also what Tim said above. I still love the brand, but it’s a tough love at the moment. It will need a concrete direction and some more room to play with and all will be fine.

          • Sheez Gagoo

            Hey David!. Do you know this Hungarian song that goes wüüü wü wü wü wüüü wü wü wü wüüü? It? S fuun!

  • IG

    It seems Mr. Bredan doesn’t really like the new Polaris series and he doesn’t sugar-coat it.

    • David Bredan

      Wait for what’s coming for the FiftySix…

      • Steve Loader

        Oh no! The only vach I’ll ever have a chance of affording, and you’re going to cut the ropes on my socially-upward aspirations even before i’ve started the climb!!!

  • Guadzilla

    So this entire article is not about the watch, but about the fact that it doesnt appeal to you. You could have just said “I dont like vintage reissues and this watch isnt for me” and said pretty much the same thing as that overly wordy exercise in pandering to your ego.

    In photography, “I like/dont like this photo” is something no self-respecting critic ever does. Because that is a statement about the reviewer, and not the photo. A good critique talks about the various elements of the item being reviewed, and lets the reader decide for himself or herself whether s/he LIKES it it or not.

    Something for “professional” reviewers to ponder over.

    • David Bredan

      Right. And if I discuss just the specs then someone else will come and say we don’t have an opinion / we are not critical enough and so on… Or, if I do voice my opinion but keep it as short as you suggested, then I leave a hundred doors open for misunderstandings and soon after many angry, angry comments.
      Last, nowhere in my article do I not let the reader decide for him- or herself whether s/he LIKES it or not.

      • Guadzilla

        People dont buy solely on the basis of ‘power reserve per dollar’. For enthusiasts, provenance and history of a watch play a role in why they buy watches.

        You could have written a paragraph about the movement and talked about other aspects of the watch. Instead, you made the entire post about one thing “it’s a re-issue and the PR is only 40 hours, ergo it sucks”. JLC has had plenty of other very interesting releases over the past few years, but going by your article, releasing one re-issue of an old model invalidates all of that as well.

        This wasnt a review of the watch – this was an exposition by you to show how acerbic you could be as a writer.

        To be clear: I am not disagreeing with the validity of what you wrote. I just think it is strange that this is the ONLY thing you would focus on during the entire article.

        • David Bredan

          “People dont buy solely on the basis of ‘power reserve per dollar’. For enthusiasts, provenance and history of a watch play a role in why they buy watches.” That’s the first time I hear about this.

          “made the entire post about one thing “it’s a re-issue and the PR is only 40 hours, ergo it sucks” That’s two things and never mind that there’s plenty more in this post and the article I linked to at the end.

          “This wasnt a review of the watch” You are right, this was a hands-on look, not a review.
          “this was an exposition by you to show how acerbic you could be as a writer.” Sadly, most negative reviews are acerbic by nature.

          • Guadzilla

            SMH. Never mind, you are not going to get it.

            When your response devolves to the level of “that’s two things, not one”, that tells me a lot about your mindset.

          • David Bredan

            I guess we won’t agree on this indeed.

          • egznyc

            I, for one, like your acerbic wit. And I’m guessing you’ve spent at least as much effort in the comments as you did writing the hands-on article, too. Thank you for engaging.

  • Sheez Gagoo

    Is this watch simple or minimalist? Or just lazy? Maybe a first, misguided attempt with a potential to develop into an interesting collection? Time will tell. And David Bredan.

  • GunjinBT

    I have to say I feel completely opposite. I think these are quite lovely, and am very glad that JLC have moved away from the tacky hyper-masculine dreck they were making.

  • Warsh

    I couldn’t agree more! And good to see ABTW calling this BS out. You’d be a fool to buy one of these. I loved the bit about God on the dial…..:)


    Maurice Lacroix meet your father JLC

    • Haiku Lou Albéniz

      Maurice: I am your faaaaaaather!

      • DanW94

        You’re wild at heart, Bobby Peru….

        • Bobby Peruse

          I wear snake skin straps. A sign of my individuality, Lula.

  • Marius

    Although I don’t find these new JLC releases terribly inspired, I do have a few problems with this article.

    Firstly and most importantly, one has to keep in mind that JLC is part of the Richemont Group. As such, JLC doesn’t have complete freedom over its product development. What’s more, over the last few years, Richemont suffered from declining sales which made this group rethink and change its managerial structure and strategy. Right now, Richemont focuses more on having an efficient group strategy, rather than an individualistic brand approach. It clear that Richemont is interested in releasing fewer grand complications, and instead, focuses on more “affordable” watches with a rather generic, mass-appeal, such as this Polaris, or the Vacheron FiftySix and co. Currently, Richemont is interested in producing watches that sell very well, so they can cover the losses incurred over the last few years. I’m certain that if JLC had complete freedom, their product line would be quite different. Sure, collections such as the Amvox or the Extreme Lab 2 were great, but the problem was that these watches were expensive (Amvox €20,000 – €50,000; Extreme Lab €55,000), so they weren’t exactly financial heavy-hitters.

    Secondly, this article talks about the 100-hr power reserve of the Baume&Mercier. Besides the fact that the JLC is another league when compared to the B&M (in terms of brand prestige, movement finish & decoration, as well as overall fit &finish), I have to say that the power reserve is, for me at least, unimportant in the case of an automatic watch. In fact, high end brands such as Lange, Patek, Vacheron, AP, Breguet, and co. all feature power reserves of around 40 hours, and I doubt that anyone is terribly bothered by this fact. I highly doubt that buyers of over €6,000 timepieces view the power reserve as a decisive purchase factor. Sure, long power reserves are extremely useful for complicated watches such as perpetual calendars, as these timepieces are quite difficult to set. However, for a simple three-hander, winding the watch regularly constitutes one of they joys if owning a mechanical watch. If a person is regards the winding of a watch as a big inconvenience, then maybe he/she shouldn’t buy a mechanical watch in the first place. Not to mention that most brands achieve a longer power reserve in an “artificial” manner, namely by decreasing the operating rate to 3 Hz, or by using small balance wheels & balance springs (Panerai).

    Thirdly, the fact that JLC is called la Grande Maison has nothing to do with the power reserve. This brand is called la Grande Maison because it has over 1,200 in-house calibers in its portofolio, and because it masters pretty much every complication ranging from ultra thins to gyrotourbillons to skeletonized to minute repeaters, and the JLC 920 caliber has been extensively used by AP/PP/VC.

    Lastly, its good to see ABTW criticising Patek and JLC. However, for the sake of consistency, I would like to see ABTW adopt the same critical spirit towards other brands such as Brewmont, Tag Heuer, Hublot, Richard Mille, etc. It’s very hard to take such criticism serious when the next article argues how refined and sporty the latest Brewmont AC1 is, or how amazing the latest Hublot black-on-black is, or how super advanced and revolutionary the latest Richard Mille €1 million monstrosity is.

    • David Bredan

      I wonder what are 1,200 in-house calibers good for when you can’t lead the pack today (or be even remotely close to it) in the product segment clearly very important to the brand? Halo products like genuinely impressive Gyrotourbillons or the cost-optimization of other “manufactures” don’t matter much at all in judging the performance or value proposition of this product… Unless you are buying it for the name, which scenario I have addressed above as being absolutely possible for some. Can’t wait for next year’s model to actually say Grande Maison on it somewhere, to keep this new type of clientèle happy. JLC used to cater for a discerning type of buyer (in my memory, at least) and I just can’t see a hardcore watch guy say “yeah, wow, the new Polaris Automatic is the real deal! JLC at its finest!”

      It is obvious that Richemont needs JLC to do better in the affordable price segment, and that’s exactly why this new collection, I think, is disappointing. While Richemont (and many others) suffered, buyers started spending their money much, much more carefully. Gone are the days when overpriced garbage would sell by the boatloads in young, inexperienced markets. Today’s customers, I’m told, are more educated and curious and careful in how they spend their money (and that holds true not just for luxury watches). There still are newbie buyers, but just from what types of products big brands are quietly discontinuing and how they are (re-)positioning themselves testifies to this assessment. The Polaris Automatic looks like it does, I think, largely precisely because it wants to appeal to this new, more sensible type of customer, who wants to feel safe about his next purchase. My issue with it, is that they have overdone it and it’s become too stale, too careful of an offering to be a proper JLC. This watch won’t have neither the looks nor the performance to justify a 169% premium over that BM in the eyes of many. But hey, let’s leave the B&M out of the equation and just compare the Polaris Automatic to previous entry level JLCs – it’s not holding up brilliantly.

      Last, our critical or supportive tone really depends on the author and the topic coming together, something we have never forced or dictated to any of the writers on the team, even if we do disagree about preferences – which is why I left some other Polaris watches available for a hands-on take from others so they can have their say as well. If I disagree with Ariel (for example) about his support for a brand, I’ll write a critical article about it – but I’ll only do so if I care enough about the brand or the product. Otherwise I’ll rather focus on writing about stuff I like.

    • Edmund Choy

      Well said. Running a business is a balanced between economic sense to cater to the masses to ensure survivability and also not to overemphasize on creativity to a point of creating a watch that few can afford to pay the overheads. It’s not as if JLC has no creativity but this polaris sports watch segment is meant for the masses.

      The so call professional reviewers are getting emotional on this. End of the day it’s a business.

    • Tempvs Mortvvs

      Bremont, Hublot, Richard Mille and Zenith are untouchable. This JLC is a boring and bland watch, yes. But these guys are so restrained, at worse, on those brands that i really think their motives are suspect. Very suspect.

    • midnucas

      Very well said. So of course my comment now is going to sound negative because I’m going to focus on the one bit I didn’t agree. I do find that the 40-hour power reserves on so many JLCs is something worth unfavorably remarking on. Lots of other companies with in-house movements today have movements with 60+ hour power reserve; why doesn’t JLC?

      Or actually, note that JLC *does* have a 65 hour movement—the 75x chronograph movement series, as found for example in the Polaris chronos, which feature dual barrels. Why hasn’t that filtered down into their base movements? That’s not a rhetorical question, it does admit of interesting answers that a watch journalist could perhaps suss out. If I may indulge in some bit of baseless speculation, I figure JLC simply has prioritized other features rather than long power reserve.

  • Steve M

    David, if your goal was to create discussion – full points. It almost appears the JLC think tank took a page from other brands and their revival pieces and jumped on the bandwagons of Omega and Panerai and try to live in the past. So disappointing for such a brand with so much history.

    • David Bredan

      Thank you. Many big brands have been playing safe lately, which is understandable – but sometimes some of us will agree they go a bit too far in being careful. Panerai, though they have their own sorts of problems…, have launched some novel materials and cool pieces recently along with the usual retro-reiterations, so there’s some refreshing stuff there and the same goes for Omega too.

      • Gokart Mozart

        Just read this article now David from the link on the Polaris Worldtimer, so the comment is a bit late.

  • Edmund Choy

    I think the bashing is a bit overboard. The royal oak has a PR of 60hrs, does it warrant costing 3 times more than this JLC piece or close to 10 times the price of the B&M? Why not get a quartz that last longer and is more accurate? In fact, Rolex, AP and PP has been milking their sports model for the longest time and it’s not criminal?

    I feel the strategy of JLC is to take market shares from Rolex and Omega explorer/seamaster series thus the simplicity and understated design. JLC can up the ante if need be as shown in their duo metre etc series but those complications are not for sports watches.

    This is an economic and business decision.

    • DanW94

      Perhaps, but we all know what happens when companies start releasing products based solely on economic and business factors. It becomes a numbers game and inevitably creativity along with attention to detail suffer.

      • Edmund Choy

        I agreed on your point but a company does not survive just on creativity alone. Ressence made absolutely creative watches but would you buy them over what’s on the market totally?

    • David Bredan

      AP: PP: I think I was fairly critical in these two recent write-ups so it’s not like they got a pass either, but I can’t possibly run a full list of all disappointing collections and new releases in these articles, can I?
      The Royal Oak costs 3 times more than this because (they think) they can charge that much. That’s so preposterously expensive, it’s a different market segment entirely and its exclusionary pricing is a big part of the APRO’s appeal in the eyes of its clients. JLC put this watch up against some Rolexes and Omegas, but in a lot of ways this doesn’t measure up against the competition.
      And I agree with @DanW94 on what he said below.

      • Edmund Choy

        Rolex explorer and Omega seamaster is not crazily ahead of the Polaris.
        To say “That’s so preposterously expensive, it’s a different market segment entirely and its exclusionary pricing is a big part of the APRO’s appeal in the eyes of its clients.” is basically giving AP a free pass.

        Why don’t you compile an exhaustive list of brands who are resting on their laurels and share it to the community on your views of the luxury watch sector from a holistic view instead? Perhaps that would be more encompassing and efficient than the multiple individual articles that you have to painfully vent over?

        • David Bredan

          AP gets to skip this discussion because we’re talking about a watch designed to compete in the $6-8k segment and because I said I can’t possibly give a full list of other culprits every time I criticize something. However, I linked to my recent AP article, did they get a free pass there? No, but neither did I mention JLC in there.
          -2/+2 seconds accuracy, a 5-year warranty and 70+ hours of power reserve in a DJ41 is pretty good for $6.3k – and for $9k with a fluted gold bezel you get something that looks infinitely more refined and luxurious, while water resistance remains the same 100m, bracelet also has micro-adjust, etc.
          “Why don’t you compile…” because, as I’ve also said below, had I been brief, I’d have left a lot of room for assumptions on motives and reasonings behind my criticisms and that’s just a recipe for disaster.

          • Edmund Choy

            Now it’s about price range and not the power reserve. I see.

            I really think this series is not meant to be a direct competition to the dj41 but more against the explorer and railmaster segment. The new jlc steel bracelet does have micro adjustment.

          • David Bredan

            You are right, I didn’t add a reference to the power reserve, but if that’s what it takes to make you happy: 60 hours lasts from Friday night until Monday morning. Is that so much to ask from a company with 1,200 calibers in 2018?

            Right, so how come a dressy DJ41 outperforms the watch made for “Today’s man [who] is someone who does it all. Always open to the new and untried, he finds surprising and innovative ways to make the most out of his life. For him, it’s about the journey, not the destination, and the experiences along the way. Today’s man doesn’t have a schedule he has to keep; he makes his own plan. For his lifestyle, he needs an elegant yet sporty watch that can do it all, one that keeps up with his active pace: the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris.”

          • Edmund Choy

            You mentioned the 41 dj as dressy and that’s fine. But my argument is this JLC series is meant to be sporty and we all know it is. The direct comparison should be more against the explorer and railmaster of the world. It was launched as a sports watch but I think you will not accept the fact.

            I think we will agreed to disagree on this. I will leave it here.

          • David Bredan

            I agree with what you are saying. I think I was focusing on the DJ more because when a watch is equally or more capable than another, the lines between categories blur for some buyers if all they want is just one solid, daily watch they plan on wearing basically exclusively for years. Some look for a sports watch for its looks and then the DJ is of course out of the question. Others, who only want what a sports watch can do may broaden their spectrum of acceptable design if they realize they can find the same or better specs in a more casual/everyday look.
            I also agree the Explorer needs the update the DJ received.
            The Railmaster is a fair bit ahead though with 55h reserve, 0/+5 accuracy, proper resistance to magnetism and a rather in-depth METAS testing, plus a 4-year warranty. It’s also exactly $5k on the bracelet, so a steep $2.6k less.
            Thank you for the civilized discussion and sharing your thoughts, I really enjoy this sort of watch talk.

          • midnucas

            This comment illustrates the problem with this so-called “hand-on review.” Why do I have to dive into the comments section to learn that the bracelet has a micro-adjust?

  • Spot on. David, don’t change a word of this article to placate corporate politicians that might come knocking later today. Insipid tribute and tribute-style watches will continue to sap the creative chops of brands unless journalists and buyers push back. If JLC wants to position itself as the next Tudor or Breitling, La Grande Maison is well on its way. JLC’s lack of a permanent CEO and, more specifically, lack of Jerome Lambert, is taking its toll. I still love the brand unconditionally for the scope of its past work, but it’s a kind of tough love at the moment. I will continue to buy Jaeger-LeCoultre models planned and built during the ambitious years of the 1990s and 2000s. Thank you for superb journalism in the watch space.

    • Edmund Choy

      Curious…why didn’t you sound out your displeasure on your YouTube coverage at SIHH 2018?

      • My YouTube coverage was just wrist shots, product data, and images of the watches; I wanted to give you the tools to decide for yourself. To get that first-look, I had to stand in front of a queue of pissed-off journalists waiting to handle the watches while I monopolized the entire Polaris line for nearly 15 minutes (others took 2-3 minutes for still photos); I had already overstayed my time without adding opinions. On my web shows, which give me unlimited time to editorialize, I’ve been open about my milquetoast response to these watches. I’ve also written as much on PuristS Pro (where you can always find and PM me), and I expressed my reservations to Stephane Belmont of JLC at SIHH. Finally, I have a show summary set to post some time this week in which I clearly express that I thought JLC was too conservative this year.

    • David Bredan

      Thank you, Tim, appreciate your kind words. I’ve been on the hunt for a Navy Seal Automatic on the bracelet just to eventually put my money where my mouth is.

      • That’s a wonderful choice from a memorable era of JLC. I dig that watch’s simplicity and outright embrace of modernity. And its vulcanized steel bracelet with screw-fixed removable links is a million miles removed from the clumsy pin-and-sleeve arrangement on the new Polaris line.

  • Omegaboy

    I realize it’s a JLC, but it LOOKS like a Seiko crossed with an Explorer.

    • Kuroji

      You say that like it’s a bad thing.

  • SPITX206

    I like them. I liked the look and design of that particular JLC model so much that a number of years ago I bought the TT Polaris ’68 and it is still in my rotation today. As far as the creativity of the brand and this watch’s PR they don’t bother me at all. I both buy and wear what I like and only what I like.

  • I agree with David on this one. JLC has done some interesting watches over the years. But this is not one of them. And, given current technology, JLC certainly could have incorporated a movement with longer power reserve for that kind of money.

  • ProJ

    Objective criticism. This is the kind of reviews we need to see more often on ABTW. For any JLC fan trying to defend this watch, just have a look on the case finishing photo. This is not to say that JLC doesn’t make fantastic watches. It’s just that this particular offering is short of their history and prestige. Richemont board of directors are the people to blame.

  • Yan Fin

    Thanks for a brilliant writing David. I finished reading your article with a great pleasure in spite of having zero interest in those extremely boring models.

    • David Bredan

      Thank you, glad to hear you enjoyed the read. I can’t wait for SIHH 2019 – I’ll never stop hoping for some properly new JLCs.

  • SuperStrapper

    Love the candor.

    I don’t find the watch to be that bad, it’s just not so remarkable either. And while I want to see it as a bracelet watch, it does appear more cohesive in design on the strap. The transition from the rather brutal lugs to the bracelet is drastic and visually jarring. Some slight refinement there would have gone a long way.

    Extra long power reserves are always Nice, but I only really take careful note of them in manually would watches. I’m not so fussed about having a 9 barrel power reserve in an automatic.

    • David Bredan

      Thank you for sharing @SuperStrapper:disqus. I wear two of my own watches in rotation (G-Shock GWX-5600C and my GS SBGC001) plus whatever I have in for review – and I’m always annoyed when whatever I have in for review stops after a day and a half on the shelf, when my other watches last longer. More generally speaking, I think every luxury watch should last a weekend, i.e. put it down on Friday night and pick it up still running on Monday morning. That should be a given, not a luxury.

      • SuperStrapper

        Yes, of course. I didn’t mean to insinuate that not being fussed about an extra long pr in an automatic watch meant that i would fund a substandard one acceptable. A 50 hour pr should be the standard and grow from there.

      • Kuroji

        if they say 38 I assume it’s more like 24 IRL.

      • Ron-W

        So true ! You would think Brands want me to buy more watches, and so i have to rotate and then it is really helpful a watch can make it through the weekend ! I dont want to have to set every watch every 2 days ! For handwound dress watches 5 – 8 day power reserve is a plus ( indicator on the back please ) but for automatics 60-72 hrs is just fine provided a 28K beat rate.

        Compliments to you David for answering most comments here, it is an unusually fair and balanced section this time and i hope this will set a new standard.

        Brands beware ; if it is mediocre ABTW and DB are on the case ! Telling it like it is !

  • Chaz

    Jay gur Lay Culture

    Bravo David!! I can even picture you with cigarette, shades and a bottle of scotch ranting about these watches a la Hunter S Thompson!!

    I love it! Sweet, mild, sweater vest wearing David Bredan goes full frontal in “frustration borne attack on non imaginative, short cutting watch brands”!!

    Again…BRAVO, sir!

    • David Bredan

      Haha, thank you very much, appreciate your kind feedback. No scotch had been hurt in the making of this article though!

  • alex ioancio

    I read an article written by this guy in hungarian . It was so accurate and pinpointed that I really made synthax analysis on it. He is a natural talent. Go further Mr David

    • David Bredan

      I really appreciate your kind feedback… and I’m ashamed to admit I have no idea about how synthax analyses work, but I’ll definitely look it up.

  • Ron-W

    Hi David, refreshing to read about a watch in this way. Helps me to be better informed about what is acceptable in a price range. This 5 -8K range is though with the DJ41 as a quality bench mark, and also the new Railmaster non LE or Heuer Autavia cal 02 are really good offerings with specs and historicaly inspired designs.
    Question : I thought the policy was only to be positive about watches, or not to write about them at all? What changed that this year. Also , can you explain more on the difference of a review and a-hands on regarding personal views or preferences?

    • David Bredan

      Hi Ron, thank you for your feedback. The “policy” is that we write about stuff that we like and/or care about it. I like JLC a lot and so I wrote up what I like and miss about it in the article that I linked to at the end of this one. This was more of a follow-up to that – I didn’t know what they were going to launch at SIHH at the time of writing that one. So there have not been any changes, but things did slow down and brands are launching not 3-4 collections or important updates, in which we each can find stuff we like, but they launch 1. As I said below, I like to focus on writing about watches I like or at least am fascinated by, but when it’s a brand I like and there’s a more long-term trend that affects that brand, I feel inclined to share my take and also to see what the audience’s feedback is.
      A hands-on article is an article about a hands-on (i.e. “live”) experience with a watch where we had time to take a closer look, ask questions, take pictures, etc. A review is where we have the watch for at least a week but generally much longer than that and comment in greater detail on its pros and cons, add more context, etc.

      • Ron-W

        thanks !

  • Tom J

    I would guess that the problem here is Richemont. I suspect that they are dictating that their brands create watches that sell at a particular price point, and with a particular margin. Given JLC probably had cost constraints to stay within, I’m not surprised they released a “safe” watch. One has to look no further than other Richemont brands. For comparison, Vacheron just related their 56 collection. The cheapest of which has a Richemont corporate movement that is finished and assembled by VC, all for the bargain price of $10,000. Ironically, the Baume and Mercer Baumatic does seem to be an excellent value considering it has a unique movement, and at a very reasonable price. So, at least someone at Richemont understands value, at some level.

  • David Lee

    It’s just a bit boring and uninspiring innit? It’s not offensive per se, but who’s going to lust after this?

    • Bobby Peruse

      Certainly not Iggy Pop!

  • Juan-Antonio Garcia

    its uninspiring and fighting in a very tough segment, but at the same time it has some je ne sais quoi, that makes it interesting, and attractive. More so in a rubber strap. A fetish I guess.

  • alex ioancio

    It is taking the text and making dissection of the meaning of the words and so on….

  • werner

    right, right, right. The only thing worth a merit is maybe the rubber strap. Otherwise uninspired design, poor power reserve for this day and age. The design of their stand at Sihh must absorbed all their creativeness. Last year’s master control with the skelletonised hands was a nice thing.

  • Timestandsstill

    Refreshing review and productive and respectful comment section for a change.
    One thing I do like about these watches is the three different finishes on the dial.

    • Chaz

      Love your profile pic!

      • Timestandsstill

        They are four cats, all brothers, that we rescued and bottle fed from one week old when the mother was killed by a dog. Picture is of them at about 6 months of age around 7 or 8 years ago. They were very close to each other. Two are now in new loving homes and two have passed away under separate and untimely circumstances but they were together with us for about 5 years. We have rescued and re-homed around 200 since then but these four were all very special.

        • Bobby Peruse

          See these eyes so green

      • Timestandsstill
  • midnucas

    So David, given that you’ve actually had it in your hands, what’s the watch like?

  • joe Shmoe

    holy crap! a review on ABTW that has real honest criticism! please give this man a raise.

  • I can’t believe this, ABTW not adulating ad nauseam a major brand???

  • Sarthak Sharma

    This review was such a breath of fresh air. Finally some honesty from a major watch review publication. Keep it up guys and maybe the watchmakers will finally realize they can no longer sell on name alone.

  • Kuroji

    Nicely done. Depite all of your very fair criticisms, I still like this watch. No sale at $7k though.

  • Adam

    This is not a “Hands-On” article about a particular watch. This is a personal opinion about the direction of a manufacturer, leaning on the style of a rant to make up for a lack of substance. You almost immediately veer off from giving a hands-on review, state you’ll get back on track, and then keep on with the rant.

    I would like, and expect to able, to read about the new bracelet in a hands on review. Instead, there is only a picture. Much of the detail that should be discussed is skipped except in the photo content. You don’t bother to state calibers, or even the case sizes, until the end in a short summary paragraph. In terms of objective detail, you offer nothing not already stated by the manufacturer on its website.

    You are of course free to write whatever you want, how you want. Have some courtesy, however, for potential readers. Please make an effort to title your articles honestly, rather than misleading people (or, worse, deceiving for a higher page count).

    • Chaz

      I suggest you find other blogs that endlessly fawn over EVERY new offering like advertorials in hopes they’ll be accorded more VIP treatment at events…invited to special suites at SIHH and Basel…given right of first refusal for gift bags, etc.

      As stated, this was not a full on review, but rather a first impression hands on. That DB went off on a bit of a rant is completely acceptable because he felt a favorite brand of his is in short cutting mode and resting on laurels instead of coming out with some truly new, innovating and exciting product. He feels we the consumer are getting the short end. It’s his opinion on a blog where we should appreciate the editors actually giving personal opinions.

      Last year JLC came out with those three “sector dial” models which everyone money shot all over but let’s be real…that was an exercise in lazy man marketing.

      We can just agree to disagree.

      • Adam

        I don’t know that we need to agree to disagree. And I don’t know that you understood my complaint.

        I am not opposed to “editors actually giving personal opinions.” But there is a title for this: Editorial.

        Passion is also something to which I am not opposed. And on that topic, and regarding the sector dials, (and being real, as you suggested): I quite like my sector dial geographic.

        • Chaz

          Cheers. That’s one of the cleaner, nicer Geographics. These watches could use some lume though.

      • Gokart Mozart

        Definition of Resting on laurels Rolex Oyster

  • There’s another thing that’s mighty boring: this page and any other page on this blog for that matter, crashing in Chrome on my iPad. Without fail. Every. Single. Time.
    It gets old and uninspiring and tiring very, very quickly. Kind of like this JLC release.

    • David Bredan

      That sounds infuriating. May we ask what type of browser are you using? I presume it’s an up to date version?

      • I’m mainly using Chrome on all the devices save for my iPhone. It’s all up to date.

    • Chaz

      My iPad chrome is working fine. Maybe time for a new iPad?

      • Maybe. But I tried it on my wife’s newer iPad and does the same thing. It is also “flaky” (mainly performance issues) on my one year old Skylake based workstation that has no issues processing photography or doing quite heavy CAD work (Solidworks). So…. I don’t know.

  • Bozzor

    I can sympathise with watch manufacturers: do an iconic look, and the criticism is “They have no new ideas…a shameless ripoff on a past great…the world has moved on.” Try something new and “No heritage, no loyalty to brand DNA…an answer to a question nobody asked…change for change’s sake.” Never easy to get the balance right…

  • Stuart mckay

    The main and overriding thing here for me is an in-house movement by an iconic brand costing 7k that only has a pathetic 40 hour power reserve. It is pure laziness by JLC and it is taking the absolute p### out of consumers. I would of bought one of their master control watches had the power reserve not been such an insult. Well done David! Hope your going to baselworld be good if Stacey did the blog with you again.

  • Paul

    Arthur Miller was quoted saying “The best work that anybody ever writes is the work that is on the verge of embarrassing him, always.”

    Which could also aptly describe David’s review here. I like this a lot — so many watch blogs read like promotional copy produced by the manufacturers themselves. This is different and raw and honest.

    Personally, I like the automatic very much. For me it’s a lot more attractive than a Sub (shock-horror!) and ticks the same boxes as an everyday, go anywhere watch. I don’t love the Date. I’m waiting patiently to see what the world timer looks like in real life.

  • James

    I actually love this piece on the bracelet as a dress diver. Thin, with a very cool rotating inner bezel. I’m strongly considering it as a replacement for my Omega Seamaster Bond 2220.80.

  • A_watches

    Well done James, I actually skipped your article to go straight to the comments on how utterly boring this watch is. To which I then discovered you had written an honest critique of this snooze fest Jlc seiko homage.

  • GalaxyGuy

    C’mon David, tell us what you really think!

    As others below have stated, I appreciate the honest and personal assessment Mr. Bredan has offered here. I have to agree that the 40 hour power reserve offered with this watch is a bit pathetic, but I depart from his opinion of the overall aesthetic of the line. JLC does not currently offer a line of conservative sports watches, and the Polaris line can fill this niche. Are there would be buyers of a Rolex Explorer 1 who may instead opt for a Polaris?
    I suspect that there are. No , there is nothing here to reinforce the greatness of the grande maison, but I imagine they will be able to shore up their bottom line. Perhaps they can use some of their extra cash to release a Duometre a Chronograph in stainless steel for, say $25k.

  • Gastarbeiter

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    The moment I saw the pics of the Polaris, I said to myself: “Did ORIS launch a new SixtyFive”?

    Totally get it, brands that one loves and cares for need to be told the truth.

    And I also totally agree, that should B&M extend the usage of their new calibre to other lines as well, they would be a smash hit!

  • Reprobus Marmaritarum

    Totally agree with this. JLC have been bereft of inspiration since the departure of Jerome Lambert. Endless variants of the Reverso, a naivemass overhyped Geographic, and the loss of any innovation in the sports watch segment. If the limits of their ambition is to pick up crumbs from the table set out by Rolex and coast on their Grande Maison name, they’re on a ticket to extinction. They need to rediscover their chutzpah, not their 473rd tribute to what they did in the 60’s. This is a boring watch and I say this as a fan of the master compressor series which has many of the same design cues, just better.

  • Ulysses31

    Things on this watch look strangely misaligned, and the finish looks distinctly sub-par. Am I just imagining this? The overall design is mind-numbingly dull. I’ll give you $800 for it, accounting for the blandness-discount.

  • benjameshodges

    Oh man that was a good read. Jerome Lambert’s parting left a risk-taking shaped hole at Jaeger-LeCoultre. While I wouldn’t doubt the watchmakers, it seems the suits at Richemont have relegated JLC to “just make old watches.” My problem is that I never even liked the Polaris design from 1968, but wish I jumped at the Deep Sea Alarm US when they reissued that so I can understand buyers asking for this.

    • David Bredan

      Thanks Ben!

  • Marios Papachristou

    Thanks for the non-review. Some of us like boring (although I think of it as sophisticated simplicity) omni-watches and have been waiting for simple SS sports watch on a bracelet from JLC for some time. I take your point about the 40 hour power reserve, but it’s pretty standard for an automatic Omni-watch (if you wear the watch all the time for every occasion, not an issue). You wrote nothing of value to anyone interested in the watch (how does the inner bezel turn? Is the bracelet clasp slim? Can the straps and bracelets be exchanged easily?) except that they are name whores without your taste for high art.

    I think this line was a lot of potential and am strongly considering the no-date (pending hands-on, all the more important since your review was devoid of insight except for castigating JLC’s ad pitch). It’s a conservative/classic exploreresque design with some tasteful details (3 finish dial, 2 finish bracelet). It has decent water resistance and an unobstrusive rotating inner dive bezel (does it turn smoothly? Can you adjust it underwater?). And it seems the bracelet clasp is pretty slim and functional, as opposed to the thick clasp on the explorer (a comment on this would have been great).

    ABTW needs to evaluate what they’re putting out. You’re not economists or psychiatrists, so lay off the dissertations on why a sub costs more and the psychoanalysis of why I like luxury watches. This critique of the watch industry is basically trend following the moser Frankenstein watch. Plenty of artistic pieces being produced. There’s also room for simple functional everyday pieces. No wonder Hodinkee destroyed you.

    • David Bredan

      Marios, I get the idea that you’re looking for reassurrance for an upcoming purchase and I’m glad you found the media outlet that never fails to supply you with that.
      To address the details you mentioned are missing, this was a hands-on article clearly tagged SIHH 2018, where we didn’t get a chance to test the rotating bezel under water, nor the long-term comfort of the clasp so I, unlike others, won’t praise those features until I’ve actually reviewed it mid-long term.
      I understand you like this watch, but my point was that it isn’t trying hard enough. You’re invited to return (with less anger) to let us know once you’ve decided to put your money down for one of these likable watches.

  • Rob

    ABTW has by far the worst articles out of any watch website.

    I hardly come here anymore and when I do like today I read an awful review. Do they get these guys off Buzzfeed?

    • David Bredan

      We appreciate your constructive criticism, Rob.

    • Fernando López

      IMHO this has been the best article I’ve read in ABTW.

  • Jeremiah Terry

    David Brendan is a young Hungarian Iconic watch enthusiast………lol

  • Jeremiah Terry

    I agree with the I-word section….Its a shame that instead of producing future Icons the brands are all reproducing what once made them great. Its as if the Swatch Group sent out a memo forcing all designers to stop designing and break out the vintage catalogues for inspiration. The best in my opinion are the Tudor Black Bay Heritage and the Oris 1917 Big Crown Pilot..But I agree its getting worn out.

  • Nello Alexandri

    If the last paragraph of your “review” were missing, a review would not exist. What remains is an unrealistic view of where the watch market is right now. Simply bashing JLC.
    People want heritage models with cleaner designs. That is what sells right now.

  • Ross Diljohn

    Uh…This might be the best article ever on this site. Well done.

  • John Robie

    This “review” reads like it was written by someone who doesn’t appreciate understated simplicity. The kind of guy who’d rather have a Nissan GTR over an Aston Martin. It reads like a “young watch enthusiast” with no class.

    • David Bredan

      Apologies, but I disagree with your assessment of myself – and also of the watch, as well as cars. The Lange 1 is understated simplicity. Or a van der Rohe chair is understated simplicity. This watch isn’t. I’d go so far as to say it hasn’t even tried to be that. It’s a big, wrist-wrapping slab of metal with two crowns for goodness’ sake, so it’s neither as understated, nor as simple as it could actually get – not even close. To my eyes it is lazy at best, tasteless at worst. The car analogy is so off, I won’t even get into explaining the countless ways how an Aston Martin is everything but understated in the real world.

    • JLeeMD

      Could not agree more John Robie. This comes across more as an immature rant than a review. I too thought “boring” when I first saw and handled it. That impression lasted months until I saw someone wearing it with a suit. I was stunned at how cool yet refined this “simpleton” looked! Classic JLC design

    • JLeeMD

      Couldn’t agree with you more John Robie. To be fair, I too thought the Polaris Date was rather plain when I first saw and handled it but IMO the same could be said of a lot of JLC’s watches. However, more recently, I saw someone wearing it with a suit and was stunned by how cool and refined it looked.

  • It is a beautiful watch, I like this

  • Lode_Runner

    The newly-released AP Code 11.59 is bizarrely reminiscent of the JLC Polaris. Having read this hands-on review again, about a year after its publication, makes you realize just how spot-on it was. My friends in the watch retail tell me that the JLC Polaris has been a commercial disappointment, primary because of the same reasons the author mentioned. It’s an underwhelming design, the case is 2-3mm too large, and the power reserve (the same as a base ETA 2824-2) is embarrassing for an in-house movement from such a storied brand.