Saturday, September 13, 2014

Jaeger Lecoutlre alarm cal 489

Jaeger LeCoultre first launched their alarm watch in 1950. The earliest first version featured calibre 489 as per photo below.


Symbolizing the organization of time and efficiency of the post-war boom period, the Memovox, literally meaning “voice of memory” quickly became the watch for man and It’s striking mechanism gave a pleasant accent to the schedule of daily life: waking up, reminder for appointments, train timetables or parking meters etc.

The first Memovox models were hand wound, Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 489. 

The second generation caliber  814 was made from 1953-64. The Calibre 814 was similar to the 489 that it replaced and many of the component parts are common to both units. The key difference between the two calibres is the presence of a distinctive very large plate on the 814, this almost covering the top of the movement when viewed from the back. In 1956, Jaeger-LeCoultre produces extension to the 2nd generations: the first automatic bumper style Memovox, caliber 815 (no date) and caliber 825 (with date).  These watches were very popular and produced in a variety of dials and case materials.  

The caliber 489 has the same total area of plate coverage, but divided almost centrally into two separate plates. The cal 489 was built around three separate bridges, whereas the cal 814 for ease of manufacture, had a single upper plate. The design of the 916 went full circle back to the same three bridge construction that had appeared on the 489 fourteen years earlier.

For the cal 489 model, the upper crown winds and sets the alarm function, entirely independently of the standard timekeeping aspect of the watch, which is controlled by the lower crown. Though expensive to create, this separation had the great benefit of increased accuracy

The most famous use of these two movements was in the highly collectible and expensive divers watches. The 200m rated Deep Sea used the cal 815 and was produced between 1959 and 1961, with only 950 watches produced. The 42mm Polaris used both the alarm complication and JLC's super compressor technology, which was a precursor to today's Master Compressor watches. The Polaris used the cal 825 movement and was tested to 600m. It was produced from 1965 to 1969. 

The 3rd generation was produced in 1962 with the introduction of the  Caliber 910 (no date) and Caliber 911 (with date) is introduced replacing caliber 814.  The new 910, still a manual wind movement, appeared to have incorporated Kif shock protection as standard equipment, removing other shock protection methods and the special shock protection designation as in previous calibers.  By this time, shock protections was standard on all Memovox watches.   The 3rd generation were produced from 1964-79.

1969 - A huge milestone for Jaeger-LeCoultre is the development of the fully automatic bi-directional winding Memovox, resulting in the release of caliber 916.  The 916 was a date version movement, which required a redesign of the alarm mechanism to allow the rotor to swing freely through 360 degrees. The 916 was the first alarm movement in history to incorporate a fully automatic winding system to wind both the timing and alarm mechanism.  It ran at 28,800 beats per hour, compared to the 18,000 beats of all the previous calibers and is often called the "speedbeat", for obvious reasons. This movement developed into caliber 919, then caliber 918 - which was still used up to 2005 in the Master Compressor series. 

There is also the matter of "LeCoultre" vs. "Jaeger-LeCoultre" signatures on both the dials and the movements of watches of this era. For much of the mid-twentieth century, Jaeger-LeCoultre watches sold in the US market were sold under the LeCoultre brand name. 

In summary, the models are:
Cal 489 manual hand wind
Cal 814 manual hand wind
Cal 815 (bumper auto no date)
Cal 816 (bumper auto date) 
Cal 910 (manual hand wind with Kif shock protection)
Cal 911 (with date)
Cal 916 bi-directional winding memovox

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