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Jaeger-LeCoultre knocks us out

By on 13 January 2011 in Watches

Jaeger-LeCoultre knocks us out
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso 1931
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Jaeger-LeCoultre Grande Reverso Ultra Thin Tribute to 1931

If you know anything about boxing, you’ll know that one punch is rarely enough to knock an opponent to the mat. No, what’s needed is two or three in quick succession. But that’s not easy to do. The first blow is normally enough warning for your opponent to raise his defences. Landing more than one killer strike in succession is a hard trick to pull off.

Jaeger-LeCoultre just did it.

While we were still getting over the impact of the gorgeous new Grande Reverso Ultra Thin Tribute to 1931, Le Sentier just punched us straight in the plexus with an amazing tribute to the 1959 Memovox Deep Sea – the first diver’s watch ever made by Jaeger-LeCoultre.

The original model was unsual in that it came in two versions: one for the European market, one for the US. The Tribute is no different.

Jaeger-LeCoultre is rightly proud of its latest creation. The press releases gushes:

The Memovox Tribute to Deep Sea faithfully replicates the original model, except in one respect: the stainless steel case has been slightly enlarged from 39.8 to 40.5 mm in order to match contemporary requirements – and wrists. The case-back carries the motif appearing on the 1959 watch, featuring a frogman surrounded by bubbles. And, as one would expect from a new creation paying homage to its illustrious predecessors, the Memovox Tribute to Deep Sea also comes in two versions, each bearing the appearance of one of the historical variations. While the European model features a matt black dial with luminescent hour-markers, its American counterpart is distinguished by a two-tone black/grey execution surrounded by an external ring comprising a scale with five-minute graduations and simply signed “LeCoultre”. The two versions offer the same range of functions: hours, minutes, central seconds and an alarm. A crown at 2 o’clock serves to wind and set the alarm, while another at 4 o’clock is used to wind the movement and set the time. Both models are driven by Memovox Calibre 956, an automatic movement incorporating the latest technological developments from the Manufacture and which has decisively demonstrated its reliability over the years. This descendant of the first manually-wound Memovox calibre beats at a rate of 28,800 vibrations per hour and is endowed with a 45-hour power reserve.

The European version of Jaeger-LeCoultre's Memovox Tribute to Deep Sea

In the early 1950s, humankind was fervently dedicated to building a new world. Modern individuals were dynamic and intrepid, embodying the values of a future-oriented era and keen to set off on the discovery of new territories focusing on the unexplored heart of continents, the infinity of the cosmos, and the ocean depths. In 1957 the USSR launched the first artificial satellite of the Earth. A few months earlier, Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Louis Malle had unveiled the fascinating mysteries of underwater life in the film entitled The Silent World and which was acclaimed by critics at the Cannes Film Festival and subsequently by the public at large. Commander Cousteau’s passion was soon shared by a growing number of eager scuba diving fans, especially once the simultaneous invention of a revolutionary diving bottle fostered the spread of this promising young discipline. A new kind of sports enthusiast emerged, requiring instruments suited to the exercise of their recently developed passion and able to help them successfully undertake their adventurous missions below the sea.

In order to meet demand from American enthusiasts of this booming sport, Jaeger-LeCoultre launched a daring project in 1959 involving the development of a diver’s watch. This represented largely uncharted territory at the time, with no criteria stipulating the demands that should be met by this unprecedented category of timepieces, and almost 20 years were to elapse before the adoption of the NIHS norms applicable to diver’s watches. The watchmakers and technicians of the Manufacture immediately set to work and that same year presented a watch endowed with a degree of reliability and performances that were truly exceptional in that early period of underwater exploration. The Memovox Deep Sea was the world’s first diver’s watch equipped with an alarm function. Jaeger-LeCoultre engineers devoted the full measure of their inventive skills to transforming the alarm generally featured on Memovox watches into an acoustic signal designed to warn divers that it was time to begin their progressive ascent to the surface. In keeping with an essential principle consistently upheld by the Manufacture, functionality was already dedicated to serving security.

The US version of Jaeger-LeCoultre's Memovox Tribute to Deep Sea

The new timepiece in both versions met with spectacular success on either side of the Atlantic. This iconic diver’s watch soon sold out and became a legend of which only a rare few collectors were able to glimpse the reality.

The Memovox tribute to Deep Sea is issued in two limited series: 959 reproducing the “Jaeger- LeCoultre Classique 1959” intended for the European market; and 359 inspired by the “LeCoultre Spécial Amérique 1959”. The last two digits of each edition echo the birth year of this legendary watch. And finally, driven by a determination to pay homage to one of the treasures of the company heritage, the watchmakers of the Manufacture have chosen to protect the dial of the Memovox Tribute to Deep Sea with a Plexiglas watch glass absolutely identical to that which equipped the historical models – exactly the kind of detail that connoisseurs will appreciate at its true worth.

To our eyes, the European version is the most attractive but the fact is we’d be ecstatic for either one to join the Prodigal watch collection. After we’ve got our hands on a Reverso 1931 of course…


Jaeger-LeCoultre knocks us out

If you know anything about boxing, you’ll know that one punch is rarely enough to knock an opponent to the mat. No, what’s needed is two or three in quick succession. But that’s not easy to do. The first blow is normally enough warning for your opponent to raise his defences. Landing more than one […]

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Our editor-in-chief, the self-proclaimed "greatest wit, raconteur and bon vivant of our age", borders on delusional. Over the years, the fool has squandered more money on fast cars, Swiss watches and electronic gadgetry of all kinds than he – or Mrs Fool – cares to remember. Come nightfall, he can invariably be found stumbling out of Dukes mumbling “just one more Martini; I could have handled just one mmmmm… [thud!]”

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  • Ivan Y

    I like European version as well. Plexiglas decision is kind of puzzling, IMHO, but JLC probably did some sort of a focus group to make that choice.

  • dublo

    That European Deep Sea is just beautiful. Not sure I love the plexi, but there is no denying the simplicity and elegance in the design. Stunning.

  • Straight-Six

    I too also favour the European version over the US offering. The former comes across as more serious, seductive and serene; the latter more playful and “light” – although that’s not what I’m looking for in a €10k timepiece!

    Re: the plexiglass I’ll say this: while arguably more interesting and attractive than flat sapphire crystals, it only really makes sense on vintage pieces given that’s what they came with originally. Without descending into a long conversation about crystals, I’d simply question why JLC didn’t choose to do what Bell & Ross did with their vintage series: domed sapphire crystal?

    • The Prodigal Fool

      It pains me beyond words to write this sentence but: I totally agree with you. Domed sapphire would have been the way to go. The notion of putting plexiglass on a modern – albeit vintage-looking – watch is ridiculous, especially at these prices.

      Having said that, the plexiglass wouldn’t put me off.

      Anyone remember what JLC did with the Tribute to Polaris? Did it have plexi?

      • Straight-Six

        Polaris tribute also sports a plexi, which at least means JLC is being consistent. Consistently wrong in my humble eyes though. If it’s modern, it should be sporting sapphire. We accept plexi only as part of a vintage package.

        Only parallel I can think of is equipping a modern sports car with 1970s tires. Pointless, unnecessary and under-performant. Point is you need to take great care when wearing a plexi crystal watch. I know having two of them. And while you can easily rub out any scratches, I agree with the Fool that at €10k you shouldn’t have to worry about these kind of details.

        • Belligero

          With the way I treat my watches, I highly appreciate having a acrylic crystal if the alternative is domed sapphire. I’ll take a cracks or scratches over a smashed crystal, destroyed handset and damaged dial any day. Plastic is inexpensive to replace (or at least ought to be) and it’s still the professional standard.

          Sapphire shatters, plexi is sexi. But that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.

          • The Prodigal Fool

            “Plexi is sexi” – You need to trademark that before someone, likely me, steals it and makes it their own.

  • Stuart

    Okay, that is a tasty bit of kit. Another watch to join the ‘one day’ queue.

  • nick g

    The deep sea is a stunner.
    Watches like these make this article appear even more ridiculous than it did when I first read it……

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