Jaeger-leCoultre Rings The Changes With Three New Chiming Watches
Today we might set the alarm on our smartphone to alert us to a meeting or (god willing) the imminent departure of a flight. But in the 1940s the aspiring business type lacked this crucial time-flagging facility unless prepared to lug around an alarm clock.
Enter, in 1950, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox – not the first alarm watch to reach the marketplace (Vulcain’s Cricket pipped – or should that be chirruped – it to the post) but certainly the most enduring. By cleverly modifying a chiming function to serially trigger at a rapid rate, the Memovox emitted a shrill “school bell” alarm at the assigned moment – the last word (at the time) in executive oneupmanship that a decade later could be regarded as onedownmanship after the model was successfully waterproofed and relaunched as the Polaris Memovox in 1968.
Since when the Memovox has been an illustrious if ultimately under-the-wire model in the brand’s horological armoury. No longer. Following the launch of its re-conceived, retro-dressy Master Control range, the Memovox – and its functionality as a useful tool for the harried clock-watcher – has been reassessed. And if the alarm itself sounds positively antideluvian compared to the myriad options available on the average smartphone, the watch itself most resoundingly does not.
Master Control Memovox, © IMAGIE.COM
Part of the Master Control line, the new-era Memovox models have received a complete makeover in terms of their technology, while successfully imbuing a sense of the house’s storied horological past. Innovations include a clear caseback (previously, Memovox models required a closed caseback, to which the gong was attached), through which can be seen the revised Calibre 956 self-winding movement. The gong itself is now attached to the side of the 40mm case, clearly visible thanks to an open-worked pink-gold winding rotor.
Although the dial design owes much to the original, the layout has been streamlined and refined, with the signature triangular indexes now applied to a silvery, sunray-brushed dial. Dauphine hands and a blued seconds hand contribute to the retro look.
And in the spirit of innovation for which Jaeger-LeCoultre’s chiming mechanisms are renowned, a new function has been added. In addition to allowing the user to choose when the alarm sounds, the new Master Control Memovox Timer can be used to mark an allotted period of time – useful for keeping meetings on track, if nothing else.
Master Control Memovox Timer, © IMAGIE.COM
To incorporate this extra feature, the limited-edition (to 250 pieces) Master Control Memovox Timer features an elegant “sector” dial, with the time-elapsed alarm function indicated on the inner ring, displayed using a small hand tipped with a red Jaeger-LeCoultre logo. The outer ring (equipped with the traditional triangular marker point) displays the alarm setting.
And if the Master Control series represents the more affordable end of the Jaeger-LeCoultre offer, then do not fear: its high complications department has not been idle either.
From a horological perspective, Jaeger-LeCoultre has been incorporating sound into its watches for 150 years, with the launch of its first minute repeater in 1870. It's since produced more than 200 chiming watch calibres, including the world's first ultra-thin minute repeater in 1900.
Referencing this long history, in 2019 the company unveiled two new minute-repeaters in its Master Grande Tradition series. As the name suggests, each combined further complications (one featured a multi-axis gyrotourbillon fitted to its new Calibre 184 and a Westminster chiming mechanism, the other a perpetual calendar fitted with its new “duplex” gong system in the automatic Calibre 950). And now they are joined by a third – the new Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication.
Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication
Limited to two eight-piece editions in pink- and white-gold respectively, as the Grande Complication features an orbital flying tourbillon, in addition to which is a sidereal time display, complete with a celestial star disc indicating the constellations in the northern hemisphere. The minute repeater is equipped with Jaeger-LeCoultre's own patented cathedral “crystal gongs”, which are secured directly to the sapphire crystal for greater amplitude. The case measures 45mm and comes with a bezel set with 44 baguette-cut diamonds. jaegerlecoultre.com