espite being one of the most useful (and charming) of all complications, the alarm remains surprisingly rare in horology. In the 70 years since Jaeger-LeCoultre launched the first Memovox, it has become the reference in wristwatch alarms, appearing in timepieces designed for both urban lifestyles and underwater sports.
The Memovox story dates back to the late 1940s. As the post-war economy recovered, the world experienced a great burst of energy and inventiveness: technology gave rise to entire new industries, cities expanded, and the businessman-on-the-move personified the mood of optimism and confidence.
Against this backdrop, Jaeger-LeCoultre harnessed its mastery of chiming mechanisms to develop an alarm watch – an immensely practical timepiece that seemed perfectly suited to the times. While an alarm mechanism draws its inspiration from minute repeaters, its particular challenge is that the hammer must strike the gong multiple times at very high speed.
A new generation with a transparent sapphire case-back
This year, to launch the new-generation Master Control Memovox, Jaeger-leCoultre has taken inspiration from the first Memovox watches of the 1950s, giving it a contemporary style, while retaining the spirit of utility and charm that defined the originals. Continuing the tradition of adding useful auxiliary functions, the new Master Control Memovox Timer incorporates an entirely new alarm-setting mechanism, while the Master Control Memovox, brings clean-lined contemporary style to the classic alarm-plus-date model.
For this new generation of alarm watches, the Manufacture’s engineers have comprehensively revised the self-winding calibre 956. Previously, Memovox watches had a closed case-back, to which the gong was attached; however, the new Master Control case has a transparent sapphire back, allowing the wearer to enjoy watching the hammer in action. This demanded a complete redesign of the striking mechanism, with the gong now attached to the case side. A new, open-worked pink gold rotor, decorated with Côtes de Genève to match the fine finishing on the movement plates, ensures an unobstructed view of the strike-works. One important element remains unchanged, however: the signature “school bell” sound of the alarm, which lends such charm to the Memovox.
MASTER CONTROL MEMOVOX
Reinterpreting the graceful and uncluttered dial of the original 1950 Memovox in a streamlined modern style, the new Master Control Memovox presents the classical combination of alarm and date display with a silvery sunray-brushed dial.
The applied indexes add refinement, their elongated triangular shape – a signature of mid-century Memovox models – is echoed by the Dauphine hands, and a blue seconds hand adds a subtle pop of colour to animate the silvery-white palette.
MASTER CONTROL MEMOVOX TIMER
Over the decades, underlining the practical value of alarm watches, Jaeger-LeCoultre has added various useful functions to its Memovox models, such as a world time-zone indicator and a parking-meter reminder. In the same spirit, its engineers have now developed an entirely new useful function: the Timer.
This enables the owner to set the alarm based on the number of hours that should elapse before the alarm rings (for example, the duration of a meeting or the number of hours of sleep on a given night). Alternatively, the owner may set the alarm in the traditional way, based on a particular time (such as the time of an appointment or a wake-up alarm to catch a flight). The indicators are linked, so that whichever alarm-setting method is chosen, the second indicator will automatically move to the corresponding position.
The dial is laid out in concentric rings, in two shades of blue with a sunray finish, complemented by an inner ring engraved in bas-relief with polished numerals. On this inner ring, the elapsed hours-until-alarm are indicated by a small hand tipped with a red JL logo. Set at the outer edge of that ring, the Memovox’s signature triangular marker points to the time at which the alarm will ring.
The Master Control Memovox Timer will be produced in a limited edition of 250 pieces.
Both Memovox models are presented in the new 40-millimetre Master Control case. With its sloping bezel, dynamically curved lugs and mix of polished and satin-brushed surfaces, the design exudes a relaxed, contemporary elegance.