In 1959, Jaeger-LeCoultre launched the Memovox Deep Sea, the first diving watch to be fitted with an alarm that would alert the diver when the oxygen level was low, so that the diver would know when it was necessary to go back to the surface. Approximately 1,000 of these were made between 1959 and 1962.
This historical relationship with the Navy SEALs was affirmed when, in 2008, a partnership was announced between the SEALs and Jaeger-LeCoultre, with the unveiling of the Master Compressor Diving Navy SEALs collection.
The Master Compressor Diving Alarm Navy SEALs was made in a total limited edition of 1,500. As well as the largest ‘quota’ of those in titanium such as this Ref. 183T470 that I was recently fortunate enough to see, there are other variants, namely two Beverly Hills boutique iterations, and 30 made for Spain. The Beverly Hills Incursion Editions consisted of 19 pieces in black titanium (with yellow) and 62 models in gray PVD titanium (with orange) – 1962, the year of the Navy SEALs’ creation.
Encased in grade 5 titanium, this timepiece has a fabulously textured micro-beaded ceramic bezel. The titanium/ ceramic combination really works for me. I find they flow well together, making the watch understated and almost stealthy. I don’t really understand the pink gold option for some of the Master Compressor Navy SEAL models. Why would you want a diving watch in pink gold? Obviously, JLC aren’t the only perpetrators of this bewildering metal/ watch-purpose combination, the pink gold Blancpain Fifty Fathoms models just do my head in.
Case: 44 mm in grade 5 titanium, with diving bezel in ceramic (steel frame). Rotating inner bezel.
Movement: automatic Jaeger-LeCoultre Cal. 956. 7.45mm thick
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds, date, alarm
Dial: black, stamped and luminescent hour-markers and numerals
Date : white numerals transferred against a black background
Hands: hours and minutes are trapeze-shaped, openworked, luminescent
Crown: One black rubber-moulded crown at 2 o’clock equipped with a compression key, for winding the alarm, adjusting it and fast date adjustment. One black rubber-moulded crown at 4 o’clock equipped with a compression key, for starting the watch and adjusting the time
Power Reserve: 45 hours
Straps: Vintage leather, overmoulded rubber or articulated rubber. The watch also comes with an alternative wristband, a black Cordura® diving strap
References : Grade 5 titanium, limited series of 1500
on leather strap – Q183T470
on articulated rubber wristband – Q183T770
on rubber-moulded wristband – Q183T670
on titanium bracelet – Q183T170
In addition to having the alarm mechanism and its gong suspended from the caseback for improved acoustic quality, the Jaeger-LeCoultre cal.956 has ceramic ball bearings requiring no maintenance or lubrication. A patented compression-key system guarantees maximum water-resistance and protection from sand or dust.
The Master Compressors are sports models with a definite presence, not least of all because of the large crowns, but this reference, in the flesh, is simply a lot of fun. It looks as good as it does in photos, and when I saw it, I just wanted to play with it. It does sit fairly largely on the wrist, partly because of its thickness, but the use of titanium makes its presence more discreet than it otherwise would be in a shiny metal. In many ways, it is a classic looking dive watch, with large clear numerals and indices, but the materials it uses, some of the design aspects, and the metal from which it is made, give it a very modern feel. This is a good looking watch that I’d be happy to wear.
Interestingly, Jaeger-LeCoultre says that since 2008 two US Navy SEALs have been using the Master Compressor Diving Navy SEALs alarm watches during their deployments and operations, gathering data about the watch’s performance. I can’t but wonder how these SEALs are chosen – there are watchnerds in the navy, after all.
As mentioned, this timepiece reinterprets the tradition of diving watches created by Jaeger-LeCoultre with its Memovoxes, the first diving watches to be fitted with an alarm. A few months ago, I wrote about one of the modern tributes to the early days of JLC’s diving watches, the Memovox Tribute to Deep Sea, which you can read here at Monochrome.