Fueled by a pent-up consumer demand and rapid industrialisation, the post-World War II years witnessed a myriad of employment opportunities. This was also the time when watch companies started focusing on sleek, practical wristwatches over military timepieces.
Designed to help businessmen keep up with their busy schedules, the Memovox from Jaeger-LeCoultre made a remarkable entry in the 1950s. Equipped with an alarm function, the mechanically-wound watch distinguished itself with the additional crown on the side which helped control the chiming function.
This was also the watch the Swiss authorities of the Canton of Vaud presented to the famed film actor and director Charlie Chaplin in 1953 when he moved to Switzerland. Along with their eight children, Chaplin and his wife Oona lived in a beautiful neoclassical estate in Corsier-sur-Vevey on the banks of Lake Geneva.
Last April, the estate was converted into a museum dedicated to the life and times of Charlie Chaplin. The museum covers various aspects of the Tramp’s life—his childhood, movies, family and more. The Hollywood studio here offer a peek into the Chaplin’s cinematic world, taking visitors through the playful alleys and sets dedicated to some of his best films. It is in this very museum the 1953 Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox resides, fully restored by Jaeger-LeCoultre, which shares a long history with the artist and his family.
Housed in a yellow gold case, the legendary 34.5mm Memovox was inscribed with the message on its caseback: “Hommage du gouvernement Vaudois à Charlie Chaplin – 6 octobre 1953”.
Today, the 1953 Memovox provides a strong base for a long line of iconic Jaeger-LeCoultre mechanical watches with a chiming function, such as:
1. The Memovox Automatic, 1956
Three years after the inception of the Memovox, the Maison took the timepiece to a whole new level with the world's first automatic watch, equipped with an alarm function. They also diversified their audience further to include adventurers and sportspersons with adverts saying, “Memovox, pour l'homme d'action”. (Memovox, for the man of action).
2. The Memovox Deep Sea, 1959
Equipped with an automatic Calibre 815, the timepiece was the world's first divers watch equipped with an alarm. The main objective – to develop a device in order to ensure the safety of the diver.
3. The Memovox Polaris, 1965
Incepted in 1962, the timepiece came equipped with the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 825. Born at a time where watches were exploring the ends of the universe, the 50-piece pre-series was launched in 1963 with a 42mm case designed to enhance the readability of time. However, the main evolution involved the striking mechanism, which was designed in order to hear the alarm more loudly underwater, with a triple caseback so that the sound wouldn't get muffled by the divers neoprene suit, and to stop any water from seeping in.
4. The Memovox Polaris II, 1971
Introducing an evolved version of the 1965 Memovox Polaris, the Polaris II was unveiled in 1971 with a Calibre 916, which came from the family of high-frequency automatic movements which were being developed by Jaeger-LeCoultre 1970 onwards. Fact: The innovations surrounding the winding system – with an oscillating weight capable of turning freely in either direction to wind the barrel - served as the perfect inspiration for the current Calibre 956 which powers the Master Compressor Memovox.
5. Memovox Tribute to Polaris, 2008
Maintaining their loyalties to the aesthetic of their ancestors, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced two Memovox Tribute to Polaris Limited Series in 2008: the “1965” and the “1968” models. The difference? The timepieces were developed to meet the modern standards of precision, sturdiness, and reliability, and came equipped with the Calibre 956 – full with a striking mechanism composed of a gong suspended from the caseback.
6. Master Control Memovox and Master Grande Memovox, 1998 and 2000
The Master Control Memovox came with Calibre 914 – a performance which was certified after 1000 hours of testing.
The Master Grande Memovox was driven by Calibre 909-440/2 with a perpetual calendar and moon phase, while also replacing the classic Memovox resonance caseback with a suspended gong.
7. Master Memovox Tribute to Deep Sea, 2011
Paying tribute to the original model with a limited series re-edition, the Tribute to Deep Sea came in two models, like the original, one for the Europeans and one for the US counterparts, which were distinguished by the black dial, and the black/grey dial with the “LeCoultre” signature respectively.
8. Master Memovox Boutique Edition, 2016
Limited to 500 pieces, the Memovox Boutique Edition pays a contemporary tribute to the 1970's model, the Memovox Snowdrop. The caseback of the timepiece, has the “1000 Hours Control” symbol in the centre, certifying the 1000 hours of rigorous functioning and reliability tests undergone by the horological instrument.