Review: Memovox Alarm Watch Returns With The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition

Review: Memovox Alarm Watch Returns With The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition

Review: Memovox Alarm Watch Returns With The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition Wrist Time Reviews

Jaeger-LeCoultre brand fans will no doubt enjoy the news that the Memovox collection is back - starting with this brand boutique-only Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition limited set of watches. The Swiss brand claims that this refreshed retro-style release of the brand's cult favorite alarm watches is due to the Memovox's 60th anniversary, having been debuted in or around 1956. It has been a while since one of the major luxury watch brands even released a new alarm watch. While chiming musical mechanical watches as high-end exotic treats are relatively popular, alarms are not. The real question of the Memovox in terms of success is whether or not Jaeger-LeCoultre can get fans excited about this complication once again, and at this price point.

Aside from an odd watch by Tudor and some Cricket watches produced by Vulcain, there are very few modern alarm watches being produced. I think part of the reason for that is due to the purpose of the watches themselves. Herein lies an incredible irony. The alarm complication isn't really that at all - at least not in the modern sense. We tend to think of a primary function of alarms being as something to wake us up from sleep, but that wasn't the purpose of these watches. Rather, it was to set an audible reminder about something that you needed to do.

Review: Memovox Alarm Watch Returns With The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition Wrist Time Reviews

Review: Memovox Alarm Watch Returns With The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition Wrist Time Reviews

Prior to a digital world, having a reminder device on your wrist was actually quite convenient. You could only set watches like the Memovox a limited time in advance, so it was best to remind you of things you needed to pay attention to at times in the near future that didn't require an exact minute and second. Thus, this functionality is still theoretically useful today (like a mechanical chronograph), and in that regard, it is odd that alarm watches are not more popular.

Review: Memovox Alarm Watch Returns With The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition Wrist Time Reviews

Review: Memovox Alarm Watch Returns With The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition Wrist Time Reviews

However, I think the problem is in the noise itself. Minute repeater watches, for example, have a lovely musical quality to them. Alternatively, most alarm watches have a buzzing or vibrating sound that is... well, far less elegant. For an alarm to be heard, it must be louder than a soft chime, but of course it needs to sound pleasant. I don't think the sound of the in-house-made caliber 956 in the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox is that bad, actually. Rather than being a mechanical buzzing, it is more of a rapidly repeating chiming which is a bit more melodic than the admittedly louder, but often more annoying-sounding mechanical alarms you can sometimes find elsewhere.

Review: Memovox Alarm Watch Returns With The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition Wrist Time Reviews

Review: Memovox Alarm Watch Returns With The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition Wrist Time Reviews

What is elegant is the "Memovox" name which quite neatly translates into "sound device noise for things you need to remember." This boutique edition model comes as a direct homage to a slightly blue model called the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox Snowdrop that the brand once produced. As the name suggests, Jaeger-LeCoultre will be debuting this new watch collection this November 2016, but exclusively at its brand boutique stores. What that means is that this blue and steel version of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition will be sold only at brand boutiques, and that all Jaeger-LeCoultre authorized dealers will need to wait a few months until they can start carrying other models that will come in this collection. I am guessing that the standard Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox watches will come with a black dial. I think it would be really cool for Jaeger-LeCoultre to build one in titanium too.

Review: Memovox Alarm Watch Returns With The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition Wrist Time Reviews

This is part of a series of experiments the watch industry is doing in order to sell more directly to consumers within their brand boutiques. A common trend along these lines is focusing on lower-priced steel watches as opposed to precious metal-cased watches as boutique exclusives. This dark gray/blue model will be a limited edition of 500 pieces, and as I noted, I fully expect for at least 1-2 additional Master Memovox watches to show up at Jaeger-LeCoultre stores and authorized dealers in 2017.

Review: Memovox Alarm Watch Returns With The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition Wrist Time Reviews

Review: Memovox Alarm Watch Returns With The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition Wrist Time Reviews

Review: Memovox Alarm Watch Returns With The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition Wrist Time Reviews

Design-wise, the 2016 Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition is a modern interpretation of the vintage models from the 1950s. Size is more modern but still medium, as it is set in a 40mm-wide case which is water resistant to 50m. I personally think they could have gone to 42mm wide with ease. The case is a thick 14mm because there needs to be space in the rear for the alarm coil and for sound to resonate. If you are a fan of Jaeger-LeCoultre's Geophysic collection, you'll likely also have a fondness for the Master Memovox.

Review: Memovox Alarm Watch Returns With The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition Wrist Time Reviews

Review: Memovox Alarm Watch Returns With The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition Wrist Time Reviews

The real trick of the original Memovox was having a disc on the dial to serve as the alarm setting display, as opposed to a fourth hand. This disc has a small arrow on it, painted with luminant, which is used to set the alarm time. The way it works is very simple. To set the alarm, you use the upper of the two crowns on the side of the case. Pull the crown out and turn it in one direction to adjust the alarm time, only in one direction.

Review: Memovox Alarm Watch Returns With The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition Wrist Time Reviews

Review: Memovox Alarm Watch Returns With The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition Wrist Time Reviews

Turn the upper crown in the other direction and you adjust the date. This crown is also how you turn the alarm on or off. This feature is extremely basic as well, insofar as that the alarm only works if the separate mainspring for it is wound. The alarm functions until that spring is wound down. Once it is, the alarm will not work again until you wind it back up. A fully wound alarm spring might allow for the alarm sound to go for 10-20 seconds or so until it dies out.

Review: Memovox Alarm Watch Returns With The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition Wrist Time Reviews

Review: Memovox Alarm Watch Returns With The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition Wrist Time Reviews

I really would have liked Jaeger-LeCoultre to take this opportunity and make this complication a bit more user-friendly. Yes, it is cool that they remade a popular enthusiast watch, but they really didn't do much to modernize this complication. It just feels like a missed opportunity. What could they have done? A number of things, really.

What do you think?
  • I want it! (10)
  • Thumbs up (7)
  • Interesting (1)
  • I love it! (1)
  • Classy (0)
  • SuperStrapper

    Not sure if want? When I saw the title of the article I immediately assumed this would be some kind of Extreme Lab update, as you mentioned Ariel, so I am disappointed that it’s not. Aesthetically it is mostly pleasing, although the date display looks a little cheap. I like it in steel but think it is a little too sporty to be all polished, and some contrasting finishes would haver been nice.

  • Extreme, bell-ringing, handsomeness.

  • David Williams

    Very tastefully done – and useful too!

  • Shawn Lavigne

    love JLC.

  • DanW94

    Not a bad looking watch but a tad on the dull side. If I was in the market for an alarm watch I’d choose a Vulcain 50’s Presidents. They have a ton more character aesthetically and have just as rich of a history as the Memovox. Cheaper too.

    • ??????

      Agreed

  • benjameshodges

    Real shame they didn’t put more weight behind the engineering. JLC is better than that. The German watch houses are where I’m seeing more innovation these days.

  • Marius

    According to this article: “… making the new Master Memovox a baby version of the Extreme Lab 2.”

    I don’t see what the Extreme Lab 2 has to do with the Memovox. The Extreme Lab has a movement that requires almost no lubrication and that features complications such as chronograph with jumping digital minute, GMT, etc., being able to whistand extreme conditions (the retail price is over $55,000). As a result, I don’t quite understand what aspects and features of this watch could be transferred and adapted to the Memovox. What’s more, the Memovox has always been intended as an elegant and stylish watch, whereas the Extreme Lab puts a lot of emphasis of being extremely tough and shock resistant.

    P.S. As far as I know, the Ulysse Nardin Sonata Classic is the only watch with an alarm function that can be set to the minute.

  • Dinkee, H. O.

    Could you imagine how nice one of these might look as a Hodinkee special edition? Like this new Nomos Hodinkee, for example. Opinions on a JLC Hodinkee special edition??? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9d317348721b9022203d1c87fc2d890c1485626240876c9a8593b7177bc74669.jpg

  • Raymond Wilkie

    I’ve filed this under my super boring list.

    • Sheez Gagoo

      …but you liked that dull Fred. Constant a while ago?

      • Raymond Wilkie

        I would have that ” dull ” Frederique Constant ( FC-710 ) any day of the week over this Jaeger-LeCoultre and save myself $8.000. The styling is awful the hands are just soooo boring. The whole overall look is dated ( if someone says retro i’ll go nuts ) and not even an open back to give you something to look at, And am a sucker for an onion crown.

  • Boi1der

    I like the vintage styling. I wish they would have stuck with the dauphine handset. The mock canvas strap made of leather is silly to me and cheapens the overall look. As for as improvements to make a classic better, I say, If it aint’s broke, no need to fix. Plus innovation comes with a price tag.

  • Larry Holmack

    Nice enough looking, although a tad boring. My wife would call this an “old man’s watch!”

  • A_watches

    sounds horrible, looks boring, too thick, ugly date..in a word, no

  • Yanko

    Hands look terrible.

  • otaking241

    Nice retro looks with an attractive tonal blue scheme. White date wheel keeps balance with the silver indexes. Not sure why they put it on a fabric strap but looks to have JLC’s excellent deployant clasp.

    Price is a punch in the gut when there a lots of vintage examples available under $3K, and I’m guessing the boutiques aren’t big on discounts. Nice watch but I’ll wait and see how these fare on the second hand market.

    • Sheez Gagoo

      Would look much better with a dark ostrich strap.

    • SuperStrapper

      Read it again: not a fabric strap.

      • otaking241

        If it looks like fabric what’s the difference?

        • SuperStrapper

          If a steel watch case is PVD in rose gold, what’s the difference between it and a gold case?

  • Yojimbo

    If EVER there was a watch post you should be embedding a video w/ sound for, it’s this one.

    There may be much better vid examples but this was what I’m posting because I’m not on the payroll 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5NcUW2BLYo&feature=youtu.be&t=41

    The watch is very attractive, no problem with the hands for me, the caseback is awesome but I think the band was a poor choice, don’t care about its backstory it looks kind of arse.

    • Raymond Wilkie

      I saw this video too and it defiantly showed off the watch but i found the background tick was too loud in relation to the alarm sound. It would annoy me if the ticking was genuinely that loud.

  • Sheez Gagoo

    That strap needs to be replaced, but I just felt in love. There is absolutely nothing to complain for me about the design, posage or usefullness of this watch beside the strap. Just love it. Adorable. If this watch isn`t perfect I don`t want to see or hear about it. True love. Even the sound of the alarm. Better than a purring cat on my chest.

    • Raymond Wilkie

      Of course, everyone is entitled to voice their opinion but,………….are you serious ?

      pp A cat owner.

      • Sheez Gagoo

        My cat sneezed in my face while purring on my chest.

        • Raymond Wilkie

          Be thankful it wasn’t facing the other way.

          • Sheez Gagoo

            In this case I would call it Bremont.

          • Raymond Wilkie

            Ooooh, the cat has claws !

          • WINKS

            A pussy fart…

        • word-merchant

          My cat used to insist on showing me its rear end, right up close, usually when I was just waking up. Having a cat’s chocolate starfish hovering two inches away from your face first thing in the morning is no way to start the day, let me tell you.

          • Sheez Gagoo

            Woken up by the subtle vibration of a memovox is slightly better than by the felline misbehaviour you described, in words I would buy. Unfortunately my mother tongue does not allow such an eloquent use of the English language.

          • My wife thinks having one of our (too many) cats sleep between our pillows is the greatest thing. But I always seem to get the back end pointed my way.

    • Sheez Gagoo

      The bezel could be a little bigger. Just half a mm.

  • Bill W

    I was wondering about something Ariel said about winding and setting while the watch is on the wrist. Do others do that? Because I’ve always had trouble using the crown while a watch is on my wrist.

    • laup nomis

      Never been able operate the crown while wearing a watch. I don’t believe I’m any more or less gumby-dextrous than the next man.
      The only thing I’ve ever done is to wind it while wearing it.

      • Bill W

        I understand. I’ve tried to wind on the wrist but I didn’t like the feeling.

        • I’m generally with you Bill (about winding on the wrist), but Richard Paige and I are about to release a watch with a 12 mm crown at 12 o’clock that is a pure pleasure to wind while on the wrist. We will announce and post in less than a week.

          • Bill W

            Cool. Looking forward to it.

  • The Deplorable Boogur T. Wang

    Good review Mr. Adams. I think JLC would take your observations very much to heart.
    By the way, Casio G-Shocks have had alarm functions for many years.
    Although they are sometimes a bit hard to hear.

    • SuperStrapper

      I have a gd-350 with vibrating alarm. Very cool feature. Maybe my favourite G module as well (maybe).

  • TriggerMG

    Ahhh the watch post community….either the most negative people in existence or just uber talented perfectionists .

    • Beefalope

      Or people with discerning tastes who are not blindly obsequious to brands.

      • TriggerMG

        Hardly…..find these same folks are more brand affected then most. Any chunk of poop put out over $50K gets adoration.

        • Beefalope

          That is a good point, but it doesn’t comport with your first post. Either people on here hate everything or they like everything.

          • TriggerMG

            If it is uber expensive and comes from the right brand people seem to be reluctant to say so….even when it posses the same set of attributes that get crushed by a kickstarter brand for $300.

  • HectorAsuipe

    I can buy a couple Vulcains and a Tudor Advisor for that much. I appreciate the Memovox design, but not the functionality or price. That should be a $6000 watch and I shouldn’t have to suffer a boutique to buy one.

  • Wow, that’s a JLC? The minute hand looks like somebody chewed on it, and my $70 Poljot Aviator alarm is louder.

  • Omegaboy

    If I had the money, I’d go for it . . . if, the inner disk were the same blue as the dial, and, it had an exhibition case back. Beautiful, cool watch.

  • Mountainous Man

    That watch looks marginally too large for you already, Mr. Adams. 42mm would have pushed it over the edge.

  • ??????

    Surprisingly, I don’t like this new offer from JLC. Total miss IMHO. Handset doesn’t match the overall look and cheapens the watch, I would say it looks almost like on $50 Seiko 5 I have. Case is too beefy and overpolished, I see no character in it. Canvas strap? Are we about military watch? Put it on nice croco or alligator. And finally – the sound.. Either weaker than Vulcain or Poljot and has nasty tone. JLC, you can do it better.

  • Wandi Marco

    I am fine with the looks, I have no problem with the movement, but the price is just too expensive

  • laup nomis

    I like this. Nice size, I like the colour. The contrast between the blues is attractive as well as identifying the alarm function. I like the twin crowns, its very casual cum sporty. Although no one else likes them, I like the hands. The slatted batton style matches the hour indices, and looks very retro. The polished steel looks good too. The strap is a miss-step. I’ve started seeing that faux carbon/rubber look a lot lately, I don’t like it.
    Everything has a back story or a history lately. Its the advertisers selling us ‘authenticity’. Whatever.

  • word-merchant

    Sorry to write this, but this watch is rather dull and uninspiring. Seconds after looking at the photos I couldn’t tell you anything about it.

  • IG

    Should be hand-wound.

  • Beefalope

    Boring design, awful handset, unpleasant alarm, dumb stap, ridiculous price.

    This watch is unworthy of the JLC name.

  • beardedman

    Lovely as a retro piece and I think that is all they were (or probably should be) going for. Adding the items you suggested would really be very nice — in an age where those features might actually be useful. Instead we have Siri (or Cortana) reminding you of the meeting you entered in your calendar last week and forgot about. The world has moved on and this is a great nostalgia piece for those who are looking for that. (Although, at nearly $12K, I’m not all that nostalgic!)

  • Arne Hendrik Rasmussen

    No, no, no… It is a TRIBUTE to the original. Why tech update? Then it would be something else IMHO. There are reviews of re-editions like this, were the critique is opposite. The Speedmaster FOIS comes to mind, harking back to the CK2998. That of course lacked the cal. 321, and that was a bummer because…. they should have made it as original as possible and equipped it with that caliber (according to Hodinkee). This Memovox is a fantastic watch with a movement that is a true tribute to the white/blue E875 cal. 916, so are the functions.

  • Sheez Gagoo

    I had a Seamaster from the ninties that almost looked like this, but I forgot which one.

  • Not complete a direct comparison (since its hand wound), but the Alexander Shorokhoff Glocker watches have similar (buzzing) alarms for a fraction of the price. I know it’s a reworked Poljot which is based on an A. Schild AS1475 design from the 80s – 90s. And the visuals differ, but functionally this is the same sort of critter for a whole lot less cheddar.
    http://www.alexander-shorokhoff.de/index.php?id=139&L=0%5C%5C%5C%5C%5C%5C%5C%27

    • Sheez Gagoo

      I still have one of this A. Schild movements. I don`t know about condition and where it actually is, but thanks for the reminder.

  • Christopher Hawkins

    I was recently watching a watch on ebay that had a Certina cal 681 movement which was an alarm watch from the seventies. It had automatic winding for the alarm feature and a much more sensible way to set the alarm. So it seems that the movement JLC is basing this watch on wasn’t even state of the art in it’s day. It does seem extremely lazy to dust off a forty five year old mediocre movement and charge over $10,000 for it. “We’re a luxury brand- just give us money, rich people.”

  • Pingback: Ulysse Nardin Classic Sonata Watch For 2017 Hands-On | aBlogtoWatch()