E853 Jaeger-Lecoultre Memovox
The E853 is little-discussed corner of the vintage Memovox world that offers much of what modern collectors seek: history in the form of being the world’s first automatic alarm movement, minimalist dial signatures, 37mm steel proportions, and, perhaps most crucially, no date. See, the considerably more famous and more widely-produced ref E855 is the date-bearing contemporary peer of the E853. But the E853 sold worse and, after just a few short years, ceased to exist. Of that short run, surely this steel with black dial is one of the most desirable specifications out there. It even has some features to suggest it’s an earlier transitional production.
First, let’s cover the headline: the calibre 815 built off the previous manual calibre 489 by adding a hammer-auto winding system. This made the 815 the world’s first automatic alarm calibre, a title which JLC display proudly even today. One crown does the usual time-ey stuff. The other sets an alarm to wherever its pointer triangle lands, powered (through its own barrel interestingly enough). The caseback was designed to act like a gong, where a hammer strikes a pin fixed to the back, amplifying the alarm’s resonance. The Memovox is no more and no less than a minimalist dress alarm, executed beautifully and appreciated by those who truly know watches.
This example features the narrow markers, narrow alarm indicator, and ‘T’ stamped dial of the earlier manual pieces, but with the calibre 815. This combination is not common and likely hails from early in the production. The black dial, though, is the standout as most were silver. The steel case measures 37mm, which many would call perfect. In fact, the whole package is fairly perfect. I can’t think of a single alarm watch more attractive, full stop.
As far as condition is concerned, this one is hard to argue with. Its case sports relatively full lugs with moderate surface wear all over. The dial has no spots or damage. All tritium applications are still present, quite well preserved even in the dauphine handset. It comes on a JLM Gay Freres which suits perfectly, recently serviced in 2020, from a well-regarded Australian retailer.
Find this E853 here from Watch Vault for 7500 USD.