Alarmingly Perfect: The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition
by Ian Skellern
Designing a harmonious watch dial with many complex elements is extremely difficult. But complexity brings with it one advantage: there is space to hide, disguise, or distract from bits that do not quite work.
With a relatively simple dial design, though, there is nowhere to hide. The few aesthetical elements that are on display either work perfectly together or not at all. There is no middle ground.
Something else that is extremely difficult is to pull off is a modern rendition of an old classic. Try and stick too closely to the original and you have just have an old-looking dial on a new watch (ugh). Get it right and you have the horological equivalent of the new Mini or Fiat 500. Get it wrong by just a whisker and you have the new Volkswagen Beetle (or, more likely, you don’t have the new Beetle).
In the world of modern-interpretation-of-an-old-classic, the difference between hit and miss isn’t a knife-edge, it’s a razor blade. And the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition manages to walk this fine line just right. In fact, so right that try as I might I couldn’t find a flaw. I think it is absolutely perfect.
Beautiful clean design, superb movement, and the more I thought about it, the alarm function is likely to be quite a useful complication as it is much quicker to set than my iPhone.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the automatic Memovox, and Jaeger-LeCoultre took a 1970s model as the inspiration for its modern classic and quietly made it better in every aspect.
There have been less than a handful of watches this year that have really made me sit up and say WOW! The Memovox Boutique Edition is one of them.
Just like the original Memovox launched in 1966, the 2016 boutique model features two crowns: one at 4 o’clock to wind and set the time, the other at 2 o’clock to rotate a disk with a small triangle that indicates the alarm time. Rotating the 2 o’clock crown counterclockwise sets the alarm, while rotating clockwise sets the date.
The original Memovox had automatic winding, in fact it was the very first automatic winding alarm watch, and the 2016 Memovox also has automatic winding. Mechanically and architecturally, the new model is faithful to the original.
But it’s the design that wows. Beauty may well be only skin deep, but it’s what’s on the surface that makes that all-important first impression, and here the Master Memovox Boutique Edition really shines. Literally. The highly polished faceted baton hands and indices catch the light, ensuring both excellent legibility and scintillating reflections that attract and hold the eye.
The dial design is inspired by a Memovox from the 1970s called Snowdrop, which had a blue-grey dial that the Jaeger-LeCoultre design team thought would work well in a modern setting. The team was right.
In fact the modern dial, while refreshed, remains very faithful to the inspirational Snowdrop: Super-LumiNova-filled baton hands, luminescent white “railtrack” chapter ring, small Super-LumiNova triangle indicating the alarm time, opaline blue color, triple-faceted hour indexes (also with Super-LumiNova), and grey-blue chapter ring.
And in a nice touch highlighting the attention to detail that has gone into this watch, there is even the Jaeger-LeCoultre logo replacing the hour-marker at 12 just like the original.
The material selected for the strap is a deep blue braided cotton known as “Trieste” with a contemporary light blue stitching. Supple calfskin lining ensures a comfortable and flexible fit.
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox Boutique Edition has not one superfluous decorative or design element, so it’s absolutely essential that every one of them works together just so. And as far as I’m concerned it does . . . just perfectly.
For more information, please visit www.jaeger-lecoultre.com/us/en/chronicles/news-events/master-memovox-boutique-edition.
Quick Facts Master Memovox Boutique Edition
Case: 40 x 14 mm, polished stainless steel, water resistance 50 meters
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, alarm
Movement: automatic Caliber 956, hand-finished, 3 Hz, 45-hour power reserve
Dial: inner with blue sunburst, outer opaline blue
Limitation: 500 pieces, exclusive to Jaeger-LeCoultre boutiques
Price: £8700 / $11,700 / €9,600
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I found a flaw: “Rotating that second crown counterclockwise sets the alarm, while clockwise sets the date.”
That is stupid: It can easily lead to a mistakenly changed date and it makes it possible to set the alarm in only one direction. And unnecessary: Why not just have a two-position crown for the date?
Thanks for pointing that crown rotation out, Jim, I’ve corrected the text.
I’d give JLC the benefit of the doubt and assume that there is a good reason that they didn’t put the date set on a two-position winding/setting crown, but I don’t know what that reason is. I promise that I will find out, though.
I have a JLC Navy Seals alarm watch. It too has the same crown function design. In very small print their is a notation of what function you will affect by rotating the crown in one direction or the other. I still will turn the wrong way occasionally. Oh well!