Fancy the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox? Find out how it all began

Fancy the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox? Find out how it all began

This is another feature from our ‘Vault’ series. Courtesy Jaeger-LeCoultre, here we take you through the birth, genesis, design and evolution of the famous Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox watch.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox
Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox
Copyright “©Jaeger-LeCoultre”. All rights reserved.

Early 1950s

The memovox first burst into the watch world with a loud ring in 1950. It has since become an iconic mechanical watches equipped with an alarm, and perhaps one of the best value propositions in the market today. It’s revamped look in the way of the Memovox Polaris model came in 1968, and that has since inspired new Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris collection that we talk about here.

A 1950 advertisement read: “Memovox reminds, notifies, and wakes up.” This pretty much sums up the key defining feature of this watch collection.

Besides helping sleepyheads wake up, it also designed to help businessmen remember their meetings through its chiming function, a feature well appreciated by the busy working man post the World-War 2 scene.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox
Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox drawing by Product Design Director Lionel Favre
Copyright “©Jaeger-LeCoultre”. All rights reserved.

Memovox’s architecture is defined by very sober and classic lines, and the original manually wound mechanical watch version set itself apart with an additional crown to control the alarm function.

It was so popular and cool that the Swiss authorities of the Canton of Vaud, where the Jaeger-LeCoultre Manufacture is located, selected this as a gift for Charlie Chaplin in 1953.

Mid 1950s

In 1956, Jaeger-LeCoultre further developed this Memovox line by introducing the first automatic watch in the collection.

The mid-50s also saw two eclectic variants being introduced: The Memovox Worldtime showing the time across the world in the blink of an eye and the Memovox Parking, a watch that monitored the parking meter and informed its wearer when the meter ran out.

Late 1950s

In 1959, going beyond the simple functions of an alarm or a reminder, Jaeger-LeCoultre revealed the Memovox Deep Sea. This was to become the world’s first diving watch that was equipped with an alarm. Sounds cool, but it had an added advantage: its purpose was to ensure the safety of divers.

The 1960s

The early 1960s brought further advancements to this ever expanding range. In mid 1960s JLC introduced the Memovox Polaris fitted with the Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 825. It was a homage to the keen minds of the time that were fascinated with all kinds of exploration, whether it was space, the great depths of the sea, or the poles.

It was water-resistant up-to 200 meters, and was also resistant to both shocks and magnetism. It was further equipped with a rotating bezel that was no longer external but rather internal, controlled by a third crown. The main intent behind its creation was to come up with a watch system that would make it possible for the alarm to ring loudly under water. For this purpose, JLC developed a triple case-back system.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox
Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox Polaris 1968
Copyright “©Jaeger-LeCoultre”. All rights reserved.

The late 1960s led to Jaeger-LeCoultre designed a new, more sporty dial for this watch. Its numerals were transferred and coated with Tritium®, just like the hour makers, redesigned in a trapezoid shape, and the small triangle indicating the time of the alarm. The hands were baton-shaped and also covered with luminescent material.

This would go on to inspire the current Polaris range.

The 1970s

Never to quit and just marvel at their achievements, in 1971, JLC introduced a new, more advanced version called the Memovox Polaris II.

This boasted all the latest technological advances such as the Caliber 916. The key feature of this movement was that its balance wheel beat at a rate of 28,800 vibrations per hour thereby providing the watch with a higher standard of precision. The winding system was also innovative, with a weight capable of turning freely in either direction around its axis to wind the barrel.

The caliber was so effective that it has inspired the current Caliber 956 that powers the Master Compressor Memovox.

The 1990s

As the century was drawing to a close, in 1998, a new iteration called the Master Control Memovox was introduced. This was driven by JLC Caliber 914, and was a result of one thousand hours of testing.

Early 2000s

In 2000 came the Master Grande Memovox Caliber 909-440/2, equipped with a perpetual calendar, moon phase display, and a hanging gong replacing the customary resonance case-back of the classic Memovox models.

Late 2000s

Following such a grand run, JLC decided to pay tribute to its Memovox legacy and in 2008 Jaeger-LeCoultre presented two Memovox Tribute models: the “1965” and the “1968” models.

While both these Memovox Tribute to Polaris watches remained totally loyal to the spirit and the aesthetic of their forerunners, they were endowed with the latest Jaeger-LeCoultre technical innovations in order to meet modern standards in terms of precision, sturdiness and reliability. The case is fitted with a water-resistant case-back maintaining its role as a resonance chamber, and an external case-back featuring 16 round openings in keeping with the original aesthetic.

Early 2010s

In 2011, JLC paid tribute to its Deepsea model from 1959 and presented it in a limited series re-edition.

Copyright “©Jaeger-LeCoultre”. All rights reserved.

Just like the original, it comes in both European and US versions. It is equipped with a 40.5 mm diameter steel case and powered by automatic Memovox Caliber 956, the European version (in a series of 959 pieces) is distinguished by its black dial, while the American version (in a series of 359 pieces) features a black/gray dial bearing the “LeCoultre” signature.

Mid 2010s

In 2016, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its alarm watch with an automatic movement, Jaeger-LeCoultre marked the occasion with an exclusive limited edition model available only in its boutiques.

The blue, vintage-style watch is presented with a very contemporary case and finishes while housing the Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 956.

It has been more than 60 years since it first appeared on the scene, yet the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox is a timeless watchmaking masterpiece that despite its various incarnations has stayed at the top of the watch innovating game.

To find out more about this and other Jaeger-LeCoultre watches, visit the Jaeger-LeCoultre website here.