In the late ’50s, the battle of the modern dive watch was well underway, with both Rolex and Blancpain in fine fighting form. Off in the Vallée de Joux, Jaeger-LeCoultre was also dabbling with a contribution to the category—one that unfortunately proved to be short-lived. In 1959, Jaeger-LeCoultre launched the Deep Sea Alarm, the brand’s first diving alarm watch.
Powered by the brand’s first self-winding alarm movement, known as the caliber 815, the Deep Sea Alarm was produced in very limited numbers. All told, it is estimated that less than 1,000 of these gems were produced between 1959 and 1962, and, given their utilitarian functionality, very few are ever seen on the secondary market. The majority were destined for the U.S., with dials sporting the name LeCoultre only—though a select few pieces were created for the European market with Jaeger-LeCoultre on their dials. The Deep Sea Alarm seen below is headed for sale at the Phillips WINNING ICONS – Legendary Watches of the 20th Century auction taking place in New York on October 26th. By far one of the finest examples we’ve seen, it is expected to top the charts as the highest grossing example to ever cross the auction block.
The Deep Sea Alarm took a different approach to the modern dive watch when compared to the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and Rolex Submariner of the era. Rather than featuring a rotating bezel that allowed a diver to track time underwater, the loud buzz or vibration from the Deep Sea Alarm notified the diver when it was time to surface. It was the first of its kind, though sadly the trend of a diver’s alarm watch never caught on, and JLC alarm watches from then on remained more suited to on-land wear.
Though reissued roughly 6 years ago—with a limited-edition alarm piece that came and went rather quickly—Jaeger-LeCoultre maintains a trio of Deep Sea chronographs in its Master Extreme collection (from $9,950). The Deep Sea Vintage Chronograph in stainless steel ($10,300) is the closest tribute to the original, using a yellowed luminescent material on its indices and hands to replicate aged patina as well as a fixed 12h bezel modeled after the 1959 model; its other two siblings forgo the attempt at a vintage vibe, instead offering crisp white indices and hands against its textured matte black dial (cased in either stainless steel or ceramic composite).
When launched, Jaeger-LeCoultre was very much at the forefront of the vintage reissues trend that we continue to see propagating the watch industry to this day. It is one of the few brands that has truly mastered the balancing act involved in launching a reissue of a classic piece (as we saw with the limited-edition models added to the Master Control line). As long as the trend remains present in the industry, we’re eager to see what angle of approach the brand will take next.