The new releases for 2020 that Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced, late April, on the Watches & Wonders platform were dominated by the relaunch of the Master Control collection, now joined by a version with date display, a complete calendar version, a Geographic and a model that boasts the unusual combination of chronograph, triple calendar and moon-phase. Nor is this the full extent of what the Grande Maison has lined up in a year that is also a celebration of chiming timepieces; a rich heritage for a company that produced its first minute repeater in 1870 and went on to make more than 100 minute repeaters over the next three decades. It has developed over 200 chiming watch calibres in all, mastering all forms from the relatively simple alarm to the ultimate complexity of the grand sonnerie and Westminster chimes.
In keeping with this theme, Jaeger-LeCoultre is introducing two new Memovox, a watch with a distinctive “school bell” alarm that has remained, in the brand’s words, “the reference in wristwatch alarms” throughout the 70 years since its launch. Its popularity has remained strong, helped by regular updates and the addition of practical functions. Originally launched in 1950 with a manual-winding 489 calibre, the Memovox captured the mood of post-war effervescence, when every minute was to be lived to the full. An automatic version followed six years later, driven by the 815 calibre. A date display was added in 1959 (Calibre 825), the same year as the Memovox Deep Sea. The enterprising spirit of this first ever dive watch with an alarm was confirmed in 1963 by the launch of the Memovox Polaris. A triple caseback enabled the alarm to be clearly heard even when diving at the limit of the watch’s 200-metre water-resistance.
Jaeger-LeCoultre adds to its Polaris line
Many more interpretations of the Memovox would follow. For example, in 1970 the Memovox Polaris II came equipped with Calibre 916, a new movement developed by Jaeger-LeCoultre, beating at 28,800 vph and wound by a rotor that turns freely in either direction. The next decade marked the arrival of Calibre 919, the first combination of an alarm and a perpetual calendar, with the added distinction of striking on a bronze gong. Further innovation came in 2005 with the Master Grand Réveil whose alarm could be set to chime or to vibrate. It was followed, two years later, by the Master Compressor Extreme W-Alarm (Calibre 912), a worldtimer with a digital alarm display. Lastly, in 2010, the brand introduced two more interpretations: one a clear descendant of the original Memovox and the other, the Master Memovox International, that featured the same alarm disk, inscribed with 24 world cities, as a model from 1958. Both came equipped with Calibre 956, a movement that made its debut in 2008 and was largely inspired by the original Memovox calibre.
This year’s Master Control Memovox new releases, both directly inspired by the original 1950 model of this “urban” alarm watch, are also driven by Calibre 956, though with comprehensive changes. Jaeger-LeCoultre’s engineers have redesigned the striking mechanism by attaching the gong to the side rather than the back of the case. The pink gold rotor is also openworked to allow a clear view of the hammer through the sapphire back that replaces the closed back of the original. What hasn’t changed is the alarm’s distinctive “school bell” sound. These mechanical changes are housed in a Master Control Memovox with alarm and date, described by Jaeger-LeCoultre as “reinterpreting the graceful and uncluttered dial of the original 1950 Memovox in a streamlined modern style”. The second iteration is the Master Control Memovox Timer whose alarm is synchronised with a timer. Both models are presented in a 40mm steel case. The Timer is a 250-piece limited edition.