The fascinating story of the Memovox
In the middle of the last century, pushed by an economic boom and the arrival of a new generation of executives in the company, Jaeger-Lecoultre launched a buzzing timepiece which will become one of the most important references of all their lineup : The Jaeger-Lecoultre Memovox.
The first Jaeger-Lecoultre alarm watches were precisely introduced in 1950, under the name “Wrist Alarm”. Later this year, the same watch was finally introduced under the “Memovox” brand at the Basel Watch Fair. The name was not chosen by chance : Memovox is a combination of the latin words “Memor” (Remember) and “Vox” (Memory), which literally means “the voice of memory”.
Intended to compete with the 1949 Vulcain Cricket alarm-watch, the first Memovox were equipped with the in-house manual Calibre 489 and benefited from one great innovation from Jaeger-Lecoultre : The separation of the power reserve for the timekeeping and alarm functions. As a result, Memovox watches had two crowns for winding, and that’s still how the watch is recognizable at a glance. The dial is made in two parts, one of them being a rotating disc for the alarm setting.
The watch itself was a huge commercial success from the beginning, and quickly became popular among JLC’s target audience : Business men who needed an alarm function for their meetings… Which was also why the brand’s first slogan in 1950 was “Memovox rewinds, warns, awakens”.
Little by little, the watch would even gain popularity among celebrities, the most famous one being Charlie Chaplin who got one as a gift from Vaud in 1953, to celebrate his arrival in Switzerland.
This target audience would constantly evolve, and it is PRECISELY because of this amazing strategy that people will remember the Memovox name instead of Vulcain. In fact, JLC never stopped innovating and diversifying the series, switching their audience from serious business men to divers - Like they did with the Memovox Diver in 1959 - but also explorers or travelers. They even gave Vulcain a taste of their own medicine, by beating them in the race of developing the first automatic caliber with an alarm function in 1956 !
Memovox watches were also sold by Gubelin, Van Cleef & Arpels and even Cartier
Sometimes, the Memovox movement was even diverted from its original use, like the Memovox Parking and the Memovox Worldtime, launched on JLC’s 125th birthday, which would inform the user when to feed the parking-meter, and serve as a worldtime function for the second one.
And this, folks, is precisely how JLC managed to rise the Memovox to the rank of legend in everyone’s minds, and give us one of the most eclectic, interesting line-ups in the watchmaking industry !
Vintage Memovox watches line-up :
- 1950 : Birth of the Memovox (Caliber 489 and Caliber 601).
- 1956 : Release of the world's first automatic caliber with alarm function : Caliber 815
- 1958 : Memovox Worldtime and Memovox Parking were released to mark JLC's 125th anniversary.
- 1959 : Memovox Deep Sea, the first diver's watch with alarm function (Caliber 815, the one from 1956!).
- 1965 : Publication of the Memovox Polaris (Caliber 825)
- 1971 : Release of the Memovox Polaris II (Caliber 916)