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JLC Polaris vs Rolex Explorer: Head to Head Comparison

polaris vs explorer side by side

When it comes to luxury Swiss watchmakers, there aren’t many bigger than Jaeger-LeCoultre and Rolex. In fact, since before the 1900s, both brands have not only been creating some of the most stylish timepieces on the market, but they’ve been responsible for shaping the entire watch world.

But despite their individual achievements, watch fans across the globe like to put them head-to-head to try and understand which is better. And that extends to two of their most current models; the JLC Polaris and the Rolex Explorer. 

Both watches are an absolute dream for adventurers. Not only do they both have a great sporty look and feel, but they keep excellent time and are super easy to read. In this article, we’ll put both watches up against each other, comparing them on their designs, specs and price to help you understand which one could be the best for you.

So if you’re ready, it’s time to get the battle of JLC Polaris vs Rolex Explorer underway!

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Note – At the time of writing (July 2021), we’ve picked out the two retail models from both brands for comparison. That means we’ll be comparing the JLC Polaris Automatic (ref. 9008170) and the 2021 Rolex Explorer (ref. 124270). 

JLC Polaris vs Rolex Explorer – Dial Comparison

The first thing you’ll notice when you put these two watches side-by-side is just how similar they are. As commercially the more popular of the two, the Rolex Explorer has made the combination of hour markers and large numbers around the edge of the dial famous across the globe.

It’s now a classic look, with those bright silver markings contrasting nicely against the matte black dial. There isn’t much more detail on the Rolex, though, with the baton/lollipop hand combination a classic look that just shouts simplicity and style.

The JLC Polaris will be the watch for you if you’d like a little more jazz on the dial. Whilst the look and feel is very similar, the JLC brings a little bit more to the table. 

polaris vs explorer side by side

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The markings and numerals are brought in from the edge of the dial slightly to make room for some additional chapter ring markings – perfect for if you need to track time in greater detail. As you move into the middle of the dial, the matte black finish blends into a more glossy centre circle that creates a little more definition. 

Both hands on the JLC come in a long, slender baton-style with a very thin seconds hand rounding off the package. Like the Rolex, the JLC keeps the rest of the dial pretty minimal, with the logo and ‘Polaris’ branding small and discrete. 

When comparing the dials, it’s ultimately going to come down to personal taste. If you like something a little more simple, you’ll probably prefer the Rolex, which also benefits from a well-recognised design. If you want something slightly more textured on the other hand, the JLC takes all of the components of the Rolex and puts a little twist over the top. 

JLC Polaris vs Rolex Explorer – Bracelet Comparison

It’s always hard to compare between bracelets as, at their core, they’re very similar. That’s no different when it comes to the Polaris and the Explorer, with the decision ultimately going to come down to personal preference on the wrist. 

polaris vs explorer bracelet comparison

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The JLC Polaris is fitted with a steel strap specially designed to seamlessly blend into the case. It fits into the watch very well and is all linked together with a folding clasp that sports Jaeger-LeCoultre’s branding very nicely. 

The Rolex Explorer utilises the classic oyster bracelet found across a number of their models, including the Perpetual and the Datejust. That bracelet brings together a patented Oystersteel and Oysterclasp combination to create an all-round, gorgeous experience. 

Both watches also possess the ability to swap out the bracelet for other compatible bracelets or straps if needed. 

When comparing the two watches, getting both on your wrist is the best way to understand which bracelet feels better for you. 

JLC Polaris vs Rolex Explorer – Movement Comparison

As you can imagine from two heavyweights such as JLC and Rolex, the movements found in both watches are super high-quality Swiss masterpieces. 

The Polaris utilises JLC’s calibre 898E/1 movement, which can be adored within the watch thanks to the sapphire glass exhibition case back. Manufactured in house by JLC, the movement’s 30 jewels deliver 28,800vph (4hz) for up to 38 hours of power reserve. Overall, they’re some pretty standard specs for a watch of this quality. 

polaris vs explorer movement comparison

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Inside the Rolex Explorer, you’ll find Rolex calibre 3230 movement. Newly upgraded in 2020, the 3230 movement builds on the high performance expected from Rolex whilst making several efficiency improvements. The key difference here is that 31 jewels power a 28,800vph (4hz) output for up to 70 hours.

Given the quality of both of these brands, whichever watch you go for, you’ll have a highly accurate piece of Swiss engineering. If you want to view your movement in action, the Polaris’ exhibition case back will give you that insight. But, if a longer power reserve is important to you, the Rolex will keep you ticking over for longer. 

JLC Polaris vs Rolex Explorer – Specs Comparison

Sometimes the best way to compare two watches that are so closely matched is to dive into the technical specs. With so little to chose from in the design, bracelets and movements, there may be a particular feature you need from either watch to set it apart from the other! 

JLC PolarisRolex Explorer
Size (mm)4136
Thickness (mm)11.211.5
Crown TypeScrew-InScrew-In
Water Resistance (m)100100
Movement TypeAutomatic, Self-WindingAutomatic, Self-Winding
Power Reserve38 Hours70
Frequency (Hz)44
Movement Components195Unknown
Movement Jewels3031
ComplicationsNoneNone
Hacking MovementYesYes
CrystalSapphireScratch Resistant Sapphire

JLC Polaris vs Rolex Explorer – Price Comparison

It’s at the price comparison we start to see a little bit of difference between the two watches. With both being premium watches, you can expect to pay a good amount to get either on your wrist, but the differences are interesting. 

If you wanted to pick up a Polaris Automatic directly from JLC, you’ll pay £7,000, including taxes. It’s a high price to pay for any watch, but given the history and high-spec of Jaeger-LeCoultre, it’s not unusual and, actually, pretty good value.

On the other hand, if you head to Rolex directly for an Explorer model, you can expect to pay around £5,150. That price is pretty standard from Rolex and represents a pretty consistent price point for the Explorer in relation to the other popular Rolex models.

But the price doesn’t tell the whole story. When it comes to getting your hands on a Rolex Explorer, expect to be on a minimum six-month wait time. In reality, this could be closer to a year, which forces many people to head into the pre-owned market. 

If you’re happy to take a JLC second hand, prices start around the £5,250 mark from many US and European authorised dealers. That represents nearly £2,000 off the retail price, which is a great deal. 

On the other hand, look onto the pre-owned market for a Rolex Explorer, and you’ll be in for a shock. A good quality model from an authorised dealer will set you back at least £8,350. That’s over £3,000 more than the retail price from Rolex. Unfortunately, this is super common for Rolex watches, given the waitlist on every single one of their models. 

So when it comes to comparison, it’s an interesting situation. If you can somehow get onto the retail waitlist for a Rolex, it is the cheaper option. But in reality, especially when you consider wait times, the JLC will be the most available and the more affordable option of the two watches. 

Summary

When it comes to comparing the JLC Polaris and the Rolex Explorer, there isn’t much in it. 

The two watches look very similar, with the Polaris appealing to those who like a bit more design on their dial, whereas the Rolex is the watch for those that favour simplicity. 

Whilst the bracelets are reasonably similar, slight differences in the movement specs and technical specs may mean that one watch jumps out to you over the other. 

The price is really where it gets interesting. If you’re on a strict budget and want a new watch right now, the JLC will be the most accessible. But, if you can stomach up to 12 months wait time, the Rolex Explorer’s classic and popular appeal could just swing it for you. 

Ultimately, both watches are fantastic and come from outstanding Swiss watchmaking stock. Whichever watch you choose, the one thing that’s guaranteed is that it will look and feel great on the wrist!