Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor Memovox

A Glimpse into the Product Development Process

29th. August 2002, Singapore Launch, a JLC-Hour Glass Event

by Jaw
© September 2002



Entrance to the converted "Waterfall Terrace"In preparation for the Singapore-launch of the new Jaeger Le-Coultre Master Compressor Memovox, the “Waterfall Terrace” at The Shangri-La Singapore was fully converted to a first class dining room/JLC showroom. 


Guests arrived into the venue as early as 7pm and they conversed while enjoying Champagne. A musical trio treated them to a light performance. (Left: Converted "JLC" Entrance)


The event started just after eight, with a welcome address by Dr. Kenny Chan, Group COO of The Hour Glass Limited and Mr. Maxime Labey, the Managing Director of Jaeger-LeCoultre (South East Asia & Australia). 


Mr. Labey took over this region on March 2002 at a particularly difficult time when heavily-discounted JLC timepieces were flooding the market.  Excepting some popular steel models, many authorized dealers faced strong competition from one another and they typically had to sell JLC watches at below the cost prices supplied by the official channels. 

(Mr. Maxime Labey, JLC Managing Director, South East Asia & Australia

 Maxime, an INSEAD MBA, brings to the region over 8 years of management and financial experience. Before joining Jaeger-LeCoultre, Maxime was an Associate and later Manager with A.T. Keaney Management Consulting, based in Paris and specializing in retail and luxury for 3-1/2 years. He started his career with Parfums Christian Dior as a Financial Controller in Hong Kong and China. He was then promoted to Area Manager for Parfums Christian Dior in Russia. As managing director of JLC SE Asia/Australia, in 6 short months, he managed to calm the nervous dealers, consolidated JLC as a fine watch brand and bring back price stability to the market. 

 (Left: Memovox movement from 1956, Right: JLC Memovox Calibre 918, Year 2002)

After an interesting JLC video on the Nautilus Expedition, dinner was served. I was very fortunate to be seated next to Ms. Magali Metrailler, the Designer of The Master Compressor Memovox. This charming, talented and unpretentious young lady was a Swiss French who speaks French and Italian fluently and had no trouble communicating with me in English. She is a fully qualified Industrial and Interior Designer who has experience in Glass and Light Design and has worked for various Companies since 1991 including the Office of Interior Architecture Bernard Heutte, the Office of Architecture Comina & Co and the Instituto Europeo di design of Milano. Prior to joining JLC in Le Sentier, she has freelanced and has designed many industrial products. 

Her first important JLC assignment was given by Mr. Henry John Belmont, the then-General Directeur of Jaeger-LeCoultre, who asked her to design an Automatic Master GMT watch with small seconds and a day/night indicator, a somewhat evolutionary product complementing the current JLC range. Ms. Magali does not want a common looking GMT indicator and thus decided on a banana shaped indicator. 

(Left: Ms. Magali Metrailler, Watch Designer, JLC Le Sentier)


It was at this time that Mr. Labey joined us and informed me of a most interesting fact. At the same time when the supposed JLC GMT was taking shape, JLC was separately testing something exciting. A diving watch with their patent pending compressor crown locking mechanism. They created a working prototype with a thin and curved 1.7mm glass built to absorb extreme pressure. The prototype successfully tested to a depth of 1,050 meters.


For both projects, many ideas were tossed around and some changes were made throughout the product development process. A JLC Master GMT idea slowly evolved into a Memovox Alarm Wristwatch. Magali wanted to have a modern looking Memovox, but still based on the JLC historical piece. She decided to model the basic design around a cult favorite, the 60’s Memovox Automatic, commonly referred to as the Polaris.

(Left: Cross Section of Compressor Crown locking Mechanism, Right: 1960's JLC Automatic Memovox)


Magali kept the Banana-shaped window, now indicating alarm time instead of a second time zone. Meanwhile, JLC was not certain if the market was ready for a true JLC diver watch. The company decided to slow down the immediate development of  the 1000M Compressor diver watch. (Below: 3D diagram of Compressor Crown locking Mechanism)

In a stroke of brilliance, JLC decided to incorporate the Compressor crown locking mechanism into the Memovox, and thus the idea of a Master Compressor Memovox that is water resistant up to 100M was born. 

Throughout the 2 years of the product development process, there were many other changes. One minor but interesting change involved dropping the original magnifier on the date for aesthetic reasons. A sapphire crystal that was a magnifying lens across its entire surface was experimented with but proved to be too difficult to produce consistently with satisfactory results. In the end, only the plain but slightly curved Sapphire glass was used. 

(Left: One of the many Open Displays of JLC watches)

The watch was launched at SIHH 2002 and was positively received by retailers worldwide. JLC then found out that the triangular alarm pointer at 12 O’clock was too near the alarm dial edge at around 12.40 hrs, it was sometimes easy to inadvertently wind pass the desired alarm time when setting an alarm. 

In pursuit of perfection, the team decided to make last minute changes to the dial. So, we now have a strange situation where the production model has a triangular alarm marker at 10 O’clock, but ALL the initial marketing material shows the earlier SIHH version. Fortunately, Metalem, is a nimble dial supplier and is able to accommodate the last minute changes, shortening any possible delays of worldwide delivery of the watch. 

(The SIHH version of Master Compressor Memovox, note the triangular alarm marker at 12 O'clock)

Seated on my right was Mr. Jimmy Tay, The General Manager of The Hour Glass. Our conversation touched on many interesting things, including his very extensive collection of quality vintage watches. During the dinner, I also tried to catch up with some old friends.

My friend Ms. Patricia Yeo, SEA Regional Sales Manager of JLC was in her usual jovial and helpful mood. The self-confessed chocoholic Ms. Sharon Mei, JLC’s Marketing manager, just joined JLC this April. She nevertheless exhibits knowledge and capabilities beyond her tender age of 29. 

(Above Left: Ms. Patricia Yeoh, JLC's Regional Sales Manager & Mr. Jimmy Tay, General Manager of The Hour Glass,
Above Right: Ms. Sharon Mei, Regional Marketing Manager of JLC Singapore)

I am also glad I met Mr. Alan Teo, the Millennia Walk Branch Manager of The Hour Glass. We chatted a little about the surprisingly stable watch market in a weak economy and I credit his innate ability to make his customers comfortable with him as his secret of success. 

(Left: The final production model, note the triangular alarm indicator is now at 10 O'clock, Right: Mr. Labey explained as Steve gradually stripped a brand new Master Compressor Memovox naked)

The highlight of the night was Mr. Steve Lee, the resident JLC watchmaker, disassembling the Compressor in front of video camera projected on the screen, each step explained by Mr. Maxime Labey. Steve skillfully disassembled the movement piece by piece. The audience was particularly impressed with the alarm striking mechanism. 


(Right: Dr. Kenny Chan on the left and Mr. Alan Teo on the right, together with invited guests)

For guests who needed further information, guests could go up to the watchmaker’s desk as both Steve and Maxime answered questions of anyone who asked. I chatted with friends some more, and bid an unwilling farewell almost near midnight. 

(Above Left: Invited Guest with Ms. Kathy Hui, Marketing Representative, JLC Le-Sentier
Above Right: The JLC pocket watch created by Mr. Miklos Merczel, JLC's Master Enameller, Retailing at S$843,849.00)

(Above: Left to Right, Mr. Maxime Labey, JLC Managing Director (SEA & Australia)
Ms. Magali Metrailler, JLC Watch Designer, Le-Sentier
Dr. Henry Tay, Group Executive Chairman of The Hour Glass)

A wonderful experience!


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