They’re not as sexy as tourbillons or as impressively complicated as perpetual calendars, but mechanical alarm watches may possess one of the more useful complications for a weary traveler or an overworked executive who might need a little reminder about that big board meeting. In a way, it’s curious that more watch brands haven’t embraced them. Here are five worth noting.
The Blancpain Villeret Réveil GMT, part of the brand’s classically styled Villeret collection, features a mechanical alarm as well as a second-time-zone indication. A subdial at 3 o’clock, with 12 hour markers and two hands, displays the time programmed for the alarm, which is set via a push-piece at 8 o’clock, which engages a column wheel. An “On/Off” indicator at 1 o’clock shows the wearer at a glance whether or not the alarm is activated. The alarm’s chime is produced by a hammer striking a gong. The watch’s GMT function uses a center-mounted, blued serpentine hand (a Blancpain hallmark) to indicate the time in a second time zone on a 24-hour scale.
The movement is Blancpain’s manufacture Caliber 1240H, a self-winding movement with a silicon balance spring and a power reserve of 45 hours. As in other Blancpain watches with alarm functions, the movement is equipped with two barrels — one for supplying energy to the movement, the other to store energy for the alarm’s striking mechanism. Caliber 1240H’s automatic winding system winds them both simultaneously. Prices for the Blancpain Villeret Réveil GMT — available in steel or rose gold, on either a leather strap or Milanese bracelet — range from $24,700 to $55,700. Click here for more details.
With the Breguet Marine Royale 5847 — part of its boutique-only Les Exclusifs de Breguet collection — the Swiss watch brand founded by watchmaking pioneer Abraham-Louis Breguet has created not only a distinctive sport-luxury timepiece with a mechanical alarm, but one that could actually prove useful for divers. The alarm function incorporated into this watch’s automatic movement is designed to work underwater, to a depth of 300 meters, meaning it can be set to remind a diver when his air is running low and it’s time to resurface. Despite this practical “tool watch” complication, the Marine Royale 5847 is still seriously elegant and emphatically Breguet: the chocolate-toned dial (which matches the textured rubber strap) has a hand-engraved rose engine pattern, and the case, along with its unidirectional rotating bezel, is made of 18k rose gold. The watch has a date window at 6 o’clock, a power-reserve indicator at 10 o’clock, and an “alarm on” indicator at 12 o’clock. The Breguet Marine Royale 5847 retails for $46,300.
From Germany comes a watch that can truly be called not only an alarm but an audible appointment calendar. The Glashütte Original Senator Diary (in rose gold below) is the only mechanical watch whose alarm can be set more than 30 days in advance. Here’s how it works: First select a date by pressing the pusher at 8 o’clock until the letter “D” for date appears in the window of the calendar subdial at 9 o’clock. Turn the 10 o’clock crown until the red-and-silver pointer is indicating the desired date on the subdial (1 through 31). Press the 8 ‘clock pusher once again for the “H” to set the desired hour (indicated in the aperture at 6 o’clock). Turn the crown again to set the hour in quarter-hour intervals (from 00.15 to 24.00). Press the pusher once more to set the alarm (a “bell” symbol appears in the window), and turn the crown to wind it. The alarm (which is powered by a separate spring barrel built into the Diary module, so it will remain wound even if the watch runs down) will ring for up to a minute. To stop or cancel a set alarm, press the pusher again until you see the “alarm off” symbol, a bell with a black line struck through it.
The Glashütte Original Senator Diary has gold hands and applied indices and and a panorama date at 3 o’clock operated by a pusher and crown on the right side of the case. The movement, in-house Caliber 100-13, is made up of a staggering 600 pieces, including the 340 that comprise the technically complex alarm/appointment module. The watch is priced at $39,000 (rose gold), $24,400 (steel on bracelet), $23,100 (steel on leather strap) or $41,400 (white gold) and all are available on a Louisiana alligator strap.
Among its many horological accomplishments, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced the first watch with an automatic mechanical movement with alarm, the first Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox, in 1956. That groundbreaking movement, Caliber 815, was superseded by its modern version, automatic Caliber 956, in 2008. That movement — upgraded for the 21st century in terms of accuracy, reliability and robustness — powers the modern version of the Master Memovox (in steel, below). Caliber 956 has a large free-sprung balance and a winding rotor on ceramic ball bearings designed to not require lubrication or maintenance. Its gear wheels have a new tooth profile for smoother transmission, and it has a contemporary frequency of 28,800 vph, a power reserve of 45 hours and a quick-change date mechanism.
The case of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox is 40 mm in diameter, available in steel or rose gold. The silvered dial is the picture of understated elegance: center-mounted hour, minute, and second hands; Arabic numerals at 12, 6, and 9 o’clock; date aperture at 3 0’clock; and a central disk with an arrow that points to the alarm time. The solid caseback bears the engraved “Master Control” logo, indicating that the watch has undergone Jaeger-LeCoultre’s rigorous quality control process. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox is priced at $11,100.
Last but certainly not least, Vulcain is perhaps the one watch brand whose most famous model is a mechanical alarm watch. The Vulcain Cricket — a mechanical alarm watch named for the shrill, “chirping” sound of its alarm — was released in 1947, containing the revolutionary Caliber 120. The watch quickly became a hit and a favorite of several U.S. presidents, including Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson and Nixon, which inspired the company to give the Cricket the lofty nickname, “President’s Watch.” Vulcain has been creating new versions of the Cricket ever since, including this year’s notable limited edition, the Vulcain 50S Presidents’ Cricket “Pegasus,” whose ornate grand feu enamel dial pays tribute to the Chinese Year of the Horse with an image of the mythical winged steed.
The watch has a 42-mm-diameter rose gold case with a domed sapphire crystal and a see-through caseback. Inside is Vulcain’s modern-day Cricket movement, Caliber V-20, with automatic winding, 31 jewels, a frequency of 18,000 vph, and a 42-hour power reserve in two barrels. The movement boasts several decorative elements, including côtes de Genève, rhodium coating, and blued screws. The integrated alarm has a duration of 20 seconds. The price of the Vulcain 50S Presidents’ “Pegasus” (available with two dials, with Pegasus “On the Mountain,” pictured below, or “In the Sky,” each limited to only 18 pieces) is $55,560.
This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.