Chapter Three: Alarming Developments

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A major player in watchmaking history since the 19th century, in 2013 Jaeger-LeCoultre celebrated 180 years of continuous development around its founder’s original workshop. This anniversary was commemorated by the introduction of some exceptional timepieces, as well as the holding of exclusive exhibitions and events around the world. In Chapter One, we documented the years 1559-1907, and the founding of the Jaeger-LeCoultre watch brand. In Chapter Two, we covered the introduction of such iconic Jaeger-LeCoultre timepieces as the Duoplan, the Atmos clock, and the Reverso, covering the years 1912 to 1931. In this chapter, we discover the origins of the Memovox, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s groundbreaking alarm watch.

After the cataclysm of World War II, the West enjoyed a period of unprecedented economic, demographic development that lasted for around three decades, governed by the essential values of efficiency, sturdiness, and enhancing human freedom through technology. Jaeger-LeCoultre contributed to this movement by creating watches intended for “the active man:” the resolutely involved in rebuilding and rethinking the world. Inventive efforts were directed towards achieving resistance to impacts, magnetic fields and water, to enhancing chronometric precision, and to incorporating useful functions such as alarm, calendar, or automatic winding. In 1946, Jaeger-LeCoultre presented its first automatic caliber: Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 476. Ever since, the manufacture has constantly innovated in this field with new features such as oscillating weight with buffers, others with a rotor or made of gold, unidirectional and later bidirectional winding, high frequencies, ceramic ball bearings, et cetera.

Perhaps even more than the automatic watch, the Memovox (which literally means “voice of memory”) embodied the highly organized and efficient time of the post-war boom period. Its alarm helped the owner keep track of the various typical aspects of daily life where timing is of the essence, such as waking up, appointments, train timetables or parking meters. In 1956, the Memovox line was enriched by a world-first model driven by Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 815, combining the alarm function with automatic winding.

Jaeger-LeCoultre 1950 - First Memovox watch
The first Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox watch from 1950
1956 Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 815
Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 815, from 1956


Jaeger-LeCoultre 1956 Memovox Automatique
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox Automatique (1956), the first Memovox with an automatic movement

Three years later, this caliber was to equip the Memovox Deep Sea: the first automatic diver’s alarm watch. It was soon followed by the Memovox Polaris, which became the symbol of the all-conquering exploratory spirit of the 1960s and served as a major source of inspiration for the current Master Compressor and AMVOX lines. Click here for details on the modern version of the Memovox Deep Sea and here for the modern version of the Memovox Polaris.

Jaeger-LeCoultre 1959 Memovox Deep Sea
A Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox Deep Sea from 1959
Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox Polaris
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox Polaris

On August 3rd 1958, the first American nuclear submarine reached the North Pole in a voyage taking it from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific by the fastest and most direct route. A few months later, the city of Geneva officially presented the Geophysic Chronometer by Jaeger-LeCoultre to the submarine’s captain, William R. Anderson, in tribute to this technical and human accomplishment.