Is there a timepiece with an aesthetic quite as iconic as Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Memovox?
It got a bump in exposure this year, when it inspired the new Polaris collection. No doubt part of that appeal came when the brand tapped Hollywood actor Benedict Cumberbatch as the face of the line.
The Polaris looks to the Polaris Memovox from 1968 for inspiration. The collection features five models: Polaris Automatic, Polaris Chronograph, Polaris Chronograph WT (WorldTime), Polaris Date and a limited-edition Polaris Memovox.
The highlight is the Polaris Memovox, limited to 1,000 pieces, and boasts a look reminiscent of the vintage 1968 model, from the vanilla Super-LumiNova treatment to the trapezoid-shaped indices and the three-crown design. Another design highlight is the closed caseback engraved with a picture of a scuba diver, hinting at its history as a diving watch. It is driven by the Calibre 956, which boasts a power reserve of 44 hours.
The story of the Memovox, however, stretches back more than half a century to 1950.
Equipped with a useful alarm clock, the name “Memovox” is a portmanteau of “the Voice of Memory”, hinting at what it was used for. But unlike its contemporaries, the Memovox of 1950 featured an additional crown, used specifically to control the alarm function.
It was marketed as the must-have watch for busy businessmen who needed a gentle reminder of their next meeting or appointment. An advertisement from 1950 put the timepiece’s purpose succinctly: “Memovox reminds, notifies, and wakes up”, it read, setting the tone for future generations of Memovoxes.
We take a quick look at the history of the Memovox, highlighting its most memorable moments.
1950: Birth of the Memovox
1953: Charlie Chaplin is gifted with a Memovox by the Canton of Vaud, home of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Manufacture
1956: The Memovox line introduces an automatic with an alarm function – a first for the line
1958: Two new models are launched to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the maison: Memovox Worldtime and Memovox Parking (the latter monitors the parking meter and notifies you just before the time runs out)
1959: The Memovox Deep Sea makes its mark as the world’s first diving watch with an alarm function
1965: The Memovox Polaris, equipped with the Calibre 825, is revealed
1968: the Memovox Polaris is updated and upgraded, with a sportier dial and trapezoid-shaped hour markers.
1971: Memovox Polaris II, driven by the Calibre 916 beating at 28,800 vibrations per hour, is introduced
1998: The Master Control Memovox, powered by the Calibre 914, is launched
2000: The Master Grande Memovox Calibre 909-440/2 earns a reputation as a looker, boasting a perpetual calendar, moonphase display, and a hanging gong
2008: Two tribute pieces, in limited editions, are presented: the Memovox Tribute to Polaris 1965 and 1968
2016: The maison marks the 60th anniversary of its first automatic timepiece with an alarm function with an exclusive limited-edition watch inspired by the 1970s Memovox Snowdrop
2018: The maison launches its new Polaris line featuring design codes heavily influenced by the Memovox Polaris from 1968