SOLD – 1960s Dunhill Memovox 18k Solid Gold Ref. 855
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This extremely rare watch features an 18k solid gold case, a beautiful original blue dial in excellent condition. The striking white Brequet numerals and matching hands are unique to these Dunhill Memovox watches and did not feature on Jaeger-LeCoultre branded watches. The watch houses a Jaeger-LeCoultre, automatic bumper alarm movement, cal. K825, signed Dunhill and numbered. The case is in excellent condition with some light scratches due to occasional use. The diameter measures 37mm and is referred to by some collectors as the Jumbo Memovox. The case back is hallmarked and numbered 1,1xx,xxx. The watch is complimented by a new blue alligator leather strap and unsigned gold plated pin buckle. Very few examples of these Dunhill Memovox watches exist and have become extremely sought after by collectors.
The Dunhill Aquarium lighters and backgammon set as seen in the images also available.
Alfred Dunhill, Jaeger-LeCoultre
Founded in 1833, following Antoine LeCoultre’s invention that cut gear pinions from steel, Jaeger LeCoultre began life as a small watchmaking workshop in the equally small village community of Le Sentier, which he helped found. An inventor at heart, Antoine created several inventions like the Millionomètre that enabled him to leverage his watchmaking skills and create some of the world’s finest timepieces.
Until recently, as had been the case for centuries, most watches were typically the result of multiple artisans from different workshops making their various parts of watches that a watchmaker would then assemble. In 1866 Antoine and his son, Elie LeCoultre, took the pioneering step to establish LeCoultre & Cie. – Vallée de Joux’s first full-fledged watch manufacture, where the skills of multiple artisans were brought together under one roof.
While this might seem trivial in today’s horological landscape with conglomerate groups and vertically integrated brands like Rolex and Grand Seiko, it was revolutionary at the time as it enabled a far tighter control over quality assurance and the design and manufacturing processes. Ultimately this resulted in shorter lead times, better profit margins and, most importantly, finer timepieces. On the back of this structure, the brand developed over 350 calibres and began to provide movement blanks for esteemed watchmakers like Patek Philippe, earning LeCoultre & Cie. the title “Grande Maison of the Vallée de Joux.”
In 1903, Edmond Jaeger challenged watchmakers all over Switzerland to develop and produce the ultra-thin movements that he had designed and invented. Jacques-David LeCoultre, Antoine’s grandson who was in charge of production at LeCoultre & Cie. at the time, accepted the challenge and partnered with Edmond, leading to the production of a collection of ultra-thin timepieces powered by the LeCoultre cal. 145. At the same time, Edmond had signed an agreement with Cartier to supply them with his movements for 15 years. These movements were then produced by LeCoultre. This then led to further collaborations between Edmond Jaeger and LeCoultre, which, in 1937, gave rise to the brand Jaeger LeCoultre in 1937, as we know it today after the Maison was renamed.
History of the Memovox
Hinting at its use case with its name meaning ‘The voice of memory’ in Latin, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox rang into the watchmaking scene in 1951 as Jaeger LeCoultre flexed their horological muscles and released one of the most practical complications around in the pre-digital age, an alarm wristwatch. Originally intentioned to “remind, notify and wake up,” the Memovox was marketed towards businessmen needing a reminder of their next meeting or wake them up for work in the morning.
While not the first alarm wristwatch, which was the Vulcain Cricket from 1949, the Memovox displayed JLC’s innovative capabilities as it featured a dual-crown system that would be used to power an underlying movement with twin power reserve barrels. These barrels would then power separate parts of the watch, with one dedicated to the traditional timekeeping parts of the watch and the other dedicated to powering the alarm. This meant the watch would not stop running if the alarm was left to run until it ran out of power – a common problem that had affected other alarm wristwatches at the time.
This twin-crown construction gave the Memovox a very distinct look, especially since alarm watches had only come onto the market two years prior, so a second crown had never been used in this fashion before. Enjoying early success, JLC released subsequent Memovox variants like the Memovox Parking, Worldtime, and most notably, the Memovox Deep Sea in 1959. This was both; their first divers watch and the world’s first divers watch with a built-in alarm. This alarm was then used to let the diver know when they should begin their ascent back to the surface of the water, a potentially life-saving function.
Dunhill and their Collaboration with JLC
While home to a relatively impressive and long-standing watchmaking heritage going as far back as 1903, Dunhill are not often associated with the horology industry. However, they indeed have some historical timepieces under their belt that exemplify the whacky design period of the roaring twenties with timepieces built into lighters, belt buckles and writing instruments.
In 1936 Dunhill released the Facet watch, a timepiece inspired by the interior lamp that Alfred Dunhill designed for Rolls Royce in 1907 – bringing a new meaning to the collaboration between the horological and automotive industry. On the note of collaboration, Dunhill and some other retailers such as Cartier, Gubelin and Van Cleef & Arpels are known to have sold their own versions of the Memovox in the 1960s with their own names engraved on the dials and bridges, instead of Jaeger LeCoultre’s branding.
While they are extremely rare, these Dunhill-signed Jaeger LeCoultre Memovox ref. E855 are famed for their aesthetic consistency and are thought to have been pivotal in Richemont’s decision to purchase the Dunhill brand as it has enabled Dunhill to continue selling timepieces with Jaeger LeCoultre movements in a bid to retain the historical link between the two iconic brands.
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