E855 Jaeger-Lecoultre Memovox Jumbo
The earliest iterations of the JLC Memovox (shorthand contraction of the Swiss for ‘the voice of memory’) hold a spellbinding attraction for many of us. The watchmaker’s watchmaker quickly iterated on the mechanical alarm complication through the 1950s and 60s but truly hit what I would term design perfection right around this ref. E855. There are countless rare dials such as the lapis lazuli, Dunhill, or royal blue all of which I’ve had the good fortune to cover here before. However, for what many will consider the quintessential Memovox, this is your spec: a brushed silver dial, 37mm ‘jumbo’ case, all in steel.
The Memovox first debuted with the cal 489, a manually wound dress piece with similar dual crowns to what we see here. A few years later, the cal 815 was introduced. This new caliber made the Memovox the very first automatically-wound alarm wristwatch. That said, it was a bumper-auto, not rotor-based (and you can feel it). This watch is the next iteration, a cal 825 which was essentially the 815 with a date. 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.
This 37mm was called the jumbo in its era, today it’s what we call just right. The hands are slightly pointed down at their tips to follow the curvature of the outer dial and crystal, one detail which I adore. Additionally, 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 has a very well-preserved dial, with no corrosion on the silver and all tritium pips still attached. I see no visible damage to the handset either, tritium tones matched. The case appears full, with strong lugs and a well-preserved brushed finish on the case sides. It is said to be running well and comes from a small retailer out of South Korea who I came across first from Instagram at @vintage_watch.
Find this E855 here from Vintageye for ~5200 USD.