Jaeger-LeCoultre commemorates the 60th anniversary of their first automatic Memovox with the new Master Memovox Boutique Edition.
The charm of the Memovox will always be that, while its face is of a seemingly discreet classical timepiece, its movement hides a complication that is of great utility.
When it was first given to the world, the Memovox was Jaeger-LeCoultre’s answer to an increasing demand for mechanical alarm watches. This was the year 1950 — in the post-war era. Just five short years after the end of World War II, these were times of renewed ambition. People held important jobs and professions now that required for them to remain aware of their schedules in order to stay productive and lucrative.
Therein a wristwatch that was able to help remind the wearer of elapsed time by buzzing out the end of, say a stipulated amount of time, would prove immensely useful in making sure that one was not spending more time that allotted on a particular task.
I am unware as to whether this was the intended intention — but it is well known that as a result of how the mechanism of the Memovox alarm was designed — the sound that it produced when sounding an alarm was more a buzz than a gong that is typical of yet another well sought after complication, which is the minute repeater.
Now what is so elegant about such a mechanism, in my understanding, is — say an executive wearing a Memovox in the 1950s had to end a meeting within an hour. And the watch was set such that at the end of the hour it would sound an alarm to alert the wearer to end the meeting and move on to the next appointment on the day’s agenda.
It might’ve been considered rude, if at the end of that hour, the Memovox begun to produce a significantly more audible gong. Instead, a buzzing alarm means that the watch would’ve been discreet and therefore only serve as an alert for its wearer with — not just a sound that is just audible enough — but a vibrating sensation on the wrist. The equivalent of which today is essentially smartphones on silent vibration-mode, any time you’re at a meeting.
But, of course, necessity is the mother of all invention and so are all developments and improvements of existing creations. Which is why through purpose, in the matter of just six years, in 1956 Jaeger-LeCoultre managed to evolve the Memovox into an automatic timepiece using the caliber 815. This was a great leap for the watch and the maison because it further added to the Memovox’s worth to those who required the utility it provided by becoming a watch that was now autonomously powered.
The next step in the Memovox’s evolution was the Polaris (circa 1962), particularly of note because of its internal rotating dive bezel and the newer automatic caliber 825. The Polaris II, however, was an even larger leap because now the watch sported a whole new case shape — ushering in aesthetics of the 70s — in 1971 along with the caliber 916, which beat at a higher 28,800 vibrations per hour and were therefore christened — Speed Beat.
The 80s saw an obvious slowdown in the evolution of the Memovox, because of the Quartz Crisis before things picked up again in the late 90s and Jaeger-LeCoultre gave the world the first ever Memovox with a see through caseback in 1999, which used the caliber 914 — a manual wound version of the caliber 916.
Throughout the entire phase of its greater points of evolution, the Memovox’s principles have always remained intact. That, the Memovox is meant to be a discreet, mechanical alarm wristwatch. Which, therefore, would then suggest that one of the greatest points of its evolution was when Jaeger-LeCoultre managed to turn the Memovox watch into an automatic one.
In 2016, it has now been 60 years since that poignant development in the life and time of the Memovox. And thus, in commemoration of the monuments caliber 815, Jaeger-LeCoultre today, unveils the face of the Master Memovox Boutique Edition fitted with the new automatic caliber 956, which as a throwback to the Speed Beat watches of the 70s, also beats at 28,800 vibrations per hour.
The face of the watch was designed with inspiration from an exceptionally rare version of the Memovox created in the 1970s as well called, the Memovox Snowdrop. The watch’s case, however, is a fresh, contemporary design befitting of the elegant desires of the present day.
Lastly, as this is a special timepiece, marking a very special milestone in both Jaeger-LeCoultre’s and the Memovox’s timeline, the maison has seen it fit to produce it in a limited run of 500 pieces made solely available through their own boutiques worldwide.
Master Memovox Boutique Edition: Technical Specifications
Automatic Calibre 956; 28,800 vibrations per hour; 45-hour power reserve
Inner dial blue sunburst; outer dial Opaline blue
Baton, polished with Super-Luminova
40mm; stainless steel; 5 bar water-resistance