"Memovox" is a portmanteau of "memory" and the Latin "vox", meaning "voice". It refers to the alarm function of the watches.
Manual Wrist Alarm and Memovox
The first Jaeger-LeCoultre alarm watches were introduced late in 1950 and used the brand, "Wrist Alarm". Shortly thereafter, the company introduced the "Memovox" brand, and this has continued since then. Intended to compete with the 1949 Vulcain Cricket alarm watch, the first Memovox models were manually-wound.
One innovation from Jaeger-LeCoultre was the separation of the power reserve for the timekeeping and alarm functions. The Memovox movements have always had a separate mainspring for the alarm. In hand-wound Memovox models, the alarm spring is wound using the upper (2:00) crown, which also sets the 12-hour alarm disc and activates the alarm.
Jaeger-LeCoultre's Calibre 489 was quite successful, but the company quickly began work on a successor. A short run of less than 2,000 Calibre 601 models was followed by the 1953 introduction of Calibre 814, which featured a date display and was much improved for servicing and reliability. Jaeger-LeCoultre also introduced shock protection to these movements, resulting in the Parachoc-equipped Calibre P489 and the Parachoc or Kif-equipped P814 and K814.
Memovox watches were also sold by Cartier, Gubelin (called "Ipsovox"), and Van Cleef & Arpels. Until 1980, all Jaeger-LeCoultre models, including the Memovox, were sold as "LeCoultre", and many cases were locally produced as well. In North America, Vacheron Constantin LeCoultre, a subsidiary of Longines-Wittnauer, handled final assembly and distribution, so some differ in case and dial detailing.
Calibres 910 and 911 were introduced in 1964, replacing all other manual-winding Memovox movements. Calibre 911 added a date window and was produced in greater numbers, lasting in production until the 1980's. Van Cleef & Arpels "Memodate" used Calibre 911 and included a timezones bezel.
In 1956, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced Calibre 815, an automatic alarm movement, in the world's first automatic alarm watch. Due to the fact that the alarm hammer hit a protuberance from the case back, these first movements were bumper type, only swinging about 110°. Like manual Memovox movements, a second barrel was used for the alarm function.
To celebrate the 125th anniversary of the company, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced two special Memovox models in 1958:
- The Memovox Parking included a blue "parking" symbol and was designed to remind the owner to feed the parking meter.
- The Memovox World Time included world timezones printed on the central disc, giving it a second function as a world timer.
Memovox Automatic with Date
Also in 1959, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced a Memovox Automatic (Model E855) with a date module added to the automatic movement. Calibre 825 is very similar to Cal. 815 apart from the date display, but this feature would see much greater production. Indeed, over ten years, as many as 45,000 examples were produced. Model E855 was also sold by Alfred Dunhill and Gubelin ("Ipsovox") as well as LeCoultre in the USA.
Other models using this calibre include the Polaris dive watch, Model E859. Unlike the Deep Sea, the Polaris had an internal rotating bezel operated with a third crown. It also included a perforated nickel-plated brass housing to improve sound transmission. The Polaris was offered in two editions (1965 and 1968), each with differing dials and hands.
Memovox Model E861 was the last to use the classic Calibre 825 movement, sharing its case with the later Model E873.
In 1969, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced an improved movement, Calibre 916. Known as "Speedbeat", it featured 28,800 A/h oscillation for greater accuracy and resistance to motion. Additionally, the winding rotor rotated completely around a wide hole, allowing the case back protuberance to be struck at the center. All versions of Calibre 916 feature a date window.
Calibre 916 was used in many models:
- Polaris II (Model E870) featured a stylish oval case with a rotating bezel
- Model E871 had a broad rectangular housing
- Model E872 had an upright rectangular case
- Model E873 had an oval case in steel or yellow gold
- Models E874 and E875 use the classic round case, the former being gold plated and the latter in steel or yellow gold
- Model E876 was the Memovox Snow Drop
- Model E877 had a round monocoque case in steel or yellow gold
European models with larger cases featured a "GT" logo, for "Grande Taille" in French. American models used an applied "HPG" logo, standing for "High Precision Guarantee". Watches with Calibre 916 were also sold by Girard-Perregaux, Tiffany & Co., and Favre-Leuba ("memo raider").
Calibre 916 lasted in production through the 1980's, though series production of "Speedbeat" Memovox models ended in 1980. One notable later Memovox with this movement was the Jaeger-LeCoultre 150th Anniversary model of 1983. Another special edition was the 1986 35th Anniversary Memovox Jubilee model in yellow gold, produced in a limited edition of 350.
In 1989, Jaeger-LeCoultre finally replaced the old Calibre 916. The new Calibre 919 was a technical masterpiece, adding a perpetual calendar and moon phase display to the mix. It also featured a brass gong, forever changing the familiar buzz of the Memovox. The Grand Réveil featured yellow gold, rose gold, or platinum cases.
The manual winding Memovox was updated in 1994 with the gong, becoming Calibre 914. The hand-wound Memovox was the first with a transparent sapphire case back, allowing the owner to watch the alarm function in action. Additionally, an automatic movement without the perpetual calendar, Calibre 918, was also introduced. This was used in the Master Réveil, Master Compressor Memovox, and the AMVOX 1.
In 2003, the calibre was again updated, becoming Calibre 956. Watches with this movement included the base Memovox, the Master Compressor Memovox dive watch, and the Master Compressor Extreme W-Alarm, which uses the similar Cal. 912 with a second timezone. In 2008, Jaeger-LeCoultre celebrated their 175th Anniversary with the Memovox International, in stainless steel or rose gold, the Tribute to Polaris 1965, in stainless steel or platinum, and the Tribute to Polaris 1968.
In 2010 the Memovox re-edition Master Memovox is presented, which has to pass the strict 1,000 hours test.
In 2011, the company introduced two versions of the Tribute to Deep Sea Alarm Automatic, one each for the US and European Deep Sea design, in stainless steel.
The Memovox concept was further updated in 2003 with the introduction of the Master Grand Memovox and the Master Grande Réveil. In these watches, Calibre 909 adds a switch so the wearer can select either the brass gong or a quieter vibration mode.