Watches with a story to tell are often the most fascinating of all. This historic timepiece was on special display at the Jaeger-LeCoultre Heritage Gallery manufacturer’s museum in Le Sentier, Switzerland from 2009 till 2011 and was also featured on pages 24-25 of the giant JLC Manufacturer Yearbook “Three”, published in 2010.
Jaeger-LeCoultre appraised the value of the watch at $200,000 in 2009. The watch, now up for auction on Ebay, will be sold with in a deluxe JLC wood and leather presentation case along with copies of the JLC museum loan documents and related documentation.
Lyndon Baines Johnson was well known for his love of alarm wristwatches. As a senator, he purchased a stainless steel Vulcain “Cricket” alarm watch for himself while on a trip to Switzerland. There are many written accounts of the watch alarm going off during meetings:
(Excerpted from “Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents: What Your Teachers Never Told You About” by Cormac O’Brien pg. 218):
“Johnson was fascinated by gadgets and gizmos that could make his life easier (or more fun). He owned a wristwatch with an alarm, which he was fond of setting off in the middle of meetings or speeches that irritated him.”
The Vulcain Cricket was popular among U.S. Presidents and every President since Harry S. Truman was given a Cricket alarm watch by the Vulcain factory. For this reason, the Cricket became known as the “Presidential Watch” in Vulcain ads. Unfortunately, these watches were not self-winding and had to be manually wound every 40 hours or so.
Perhaps for this reason, Jaeger-LeCoultre, who also made an alarm watch known as the “Memovox” saw an opportunity to unseat Vulcain as the “President’s Watch” when they introduced a self-winding version of their Memovox alarm watch (calibre 815) in 1956 and then added a version with date (calibre 825) in 1959. The Jaeger-LeCoultre automatic calibre 825 was a huge improvement over the Vulcain alarm models for busy Presidents and captains of industry who didn’t always remember to manually wind their watches daily.
LeCoultre, the U.S. distribution arm of JLC, began sending these new self-winding Memovox models to US Presidents. Two of these watches are known to have been produced. Both were executed in solid 14 karat yellow gold with matching heavy 14 karat yellow gold link bracelets.
The cases of these watches were factory engraved with the U.S. Presidential Seal on the back of the watch. In addition, the watches were given deluxe worldtime dials… a very rare option at the time. The watch being sold here is the first example produced by LeCoultre.
Taking into account the year the watch was produced, it is conceivable that the watch was originally intended for John F. Kennedy and may have come into LBJ’s possession upon the assassination of JFK. Perhaps this is why LBJ chose to use this watch as an important ceremonial gift. He publicly took the watch from his wrist and gifted it to a Mexican immigrant that he was personally sponsoring for citizenship in his hometown of Johnson City Texas during his campaign for Civil Rights. The watch was kept unworn by the family as a treasured heirloom until the immigrant’s death, whereupon it was sold by the family at an estate auction in Johnson City Texas.
During the special exhibit of this watch at the Jaeger-LeCoultre Heritage Gallery Museum in Switzerland in 2009 – 2011, the JLC factory estimated the value of the watch at $200,000. In fact, the factory paid over $8,000 just in shipping fees (by armored car) and duties to transport the watch to/from the factory for the special exhibit. It’s available on Ebay now, and the asking price is £99,081.84.
The solid 14 karat yellow gold water-resistant one-piece case is in mint condition and shows virtually no wear. The watch has never been polished or restored and all surface finishes are factory original. The case bears a factory engraving on the back of the U.S. Presidential Seal.
The heavy solid 14 karat yellow gold link bracelet is in near mint condition and shows only a few scuffs to the back of the deployment clasp. The bracelet is 22 links long and will fit up to approximately an 8-1/2 inch wrist. The bracelet is marked on the inside “JB 14K U.S.A.” and has the numbers “29” stamped on the bracelet endpieces. The bracelet has never been polished or restored and all surface finishes are factory original. The bracelet clasp has a Longines emblem (Longines-Wittnauer was the U.S. distributor for LeCoultre at the time).
Looking through the clear scratch-free original factory crystal, you’ll find a mint condition factory original LeCoultre Memovox dial with fancy faceted solid yellow gold applied hour markers and yellow gold luminous hands. There is a date window at the 3 o’clock position. The watch has an original factory world time alarm disc in the center with a yellow gold triangular alarm marker. The dial and hands are in mint factory original condition.
The watch is powered by it’s original 17-jewel LeCoultre caliber 825 automatic alarm movement with date. The watch has never been opened or serviced and remains in its pristine factory original condition. The watch winds, sets and runs beautifully and the alarm functions perfectly.
MEASUREMENTS & DETAILS
The watch measures approximately 38.3mm wide w/o including the logo crowns and 42.6mm from lug-to-lug. The watch weighs 116.9 grams (over 4 ounces of solid 14K gold) and will fit up to approximately a 8-1/2 inch wrist.