(Editor note: Benrus has discontinued selling this watch. “Unfortunately there was a question around the movement and its authenticity,” according to a Benrus publicist. “Out of an abundance of caution Benrus has removed this product and is conducting further research.”)
Mechanical alarm watches combine a truly useful timekeeping function with the collector’s love of automatic or manual-wind movements. This week the recently revived watchmaker Benrus, founded in New York in 1921, debuts a superb retro-inspired alarm watch that offers these enticements, but also adds another compelling component: a vintage movement.
Inside the Benrus Wrist Alarm you’ll find a fully rebuilt A. Schild manual-wind movement from the 1970s.Thus, inside the new Benrus Wrist Alarm you’ll find a fully rebuilt A. Schild 1931 manual-wind movement from the 1970s. Benrus is utilizing movements that were never used and have been carefully disassembled and fully serviced in Switzerland to assure they are operating as if they were new. More than 330,000 original AS 1931 movements were sold between 1970 and 1974, according to Benrus, which offers more details about the history of the original movement on its website.
The new 38mm steel Benrus Wrist Alarm allows the wearer to set the alarm hand as desired using the crown at the 2 o’clock position. After winding the alarm with the same crown, the user can expect a fairly loud buzz for about ten seconds at the chosen time.
The watch itself echoes the look of a Benrus alarm watch circa 1956. Within its steel case you’ll see an off-white linen patterned dial, applied polished stainless steel numerals and markers and domed sapphire crystal.
Benrus sets the Wrist Alarm with a dark blue genuine leather strap with deployant buckle. The watch is water resistant to 50 meters and has an enhanced 50-hour power reserve. Benrus will make 500 Wrist Alarms. Price: $1,295.
(Please see note at the top of this story regarding the availability of this watch.)
A clear sapphire caseback is not the only new feature that makes the latest Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox distinctive from its predecessors. Jaeger-LeCoultre has also completely redesigned the striking mechanism, in part by attaching the alarm gong directly to the case side rather than the solid caseback.
This overriding change anchors the Master Control Memovox Timer and the Master Control Memovox, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s two newest updated and upgraded Memovox offerings.
Differentiating the two debuts, announced earlier this month, is a new alarm-setting mechanism within the Master Control Memovox Timer, and a subtly updated dial design with a date display that characterizes the Master Control Memovox.
Five years after Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced its first Memovox, which debuted in 1951, the Swiss watchmaker made history by developing an automatic version, the first automatically wound alarm wristwatch. Its chime is the audible result of the movement’s hammers hitting circular gongs, which have historically relied on the caseback for amplification of the chime.
The newest Memovox models feature gongs attached to the case itself rather than the (now-sapphire) caseback. While I haven’t had the opportunity to listen to these chimes directly, I suspect Jaeger-LeCoultre has taken great pains to retain the Memovox’s distinctive ‘school-bell’ tone with this update to Caliber 956.
The newly transparent sapphire back, which allows the wearer to watch the chime hammer in action, also exposes a new, open-worked pink gold rotor, decorated with Côtes de Genève to match the fine finishing on the movement plates.
On the new Memovox Timer, Jaeger-LeCoultre developed a timer that enables the owner to set the alarm, using the top crown, based on the number of hours that should elapse before the alarm rings.
Alternatively, the owner can set the alarm to sound at a particular time. The small hand with the Jaeger-LeCoultre logo indicates the elapsed hours-until-alarm. On the outer edge of the distinctive Memovox inner ring (here quite modern, engraved in bas-relief), a triangular marker points to the time at which the alarm will ring.
Jaeger-LeCoultre will produce the Master Control Memovox Timer as a limited edition of 250 pieces. Price: $15,700.
For the Master Control Memovox, Jaeger-LeCoultre offers a subtly modernized version of its manual-winding 1950 Memovox.
Note its classical alarm and date display with a silvery sunray-brushed dial, applied triangular indexes, Dauphine hands with an updated blue seconds hand. As a nod to the past, Jaeger-LeCoultre has paired the Master Control Memovox with a new Novonappa calfskin strap that recalls the color of the first Memovox straps. Price: $11,600.
Jaeger-LeCoultre presents both these new Memovox models in the new 40mm Master Control case with an angled bezel, curved lugs and a contemporary combination of polished and satin-brushed surfaces.
Specifications: Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Memovox
Case: 40mm x 12.39mm stainless steel with satin and polished finishes, clear sapphire caseback, 50 meters water resistance.