Previously, we listed the best alarm dive watches for under €3,000 and today we are going to focus on alarm watches. But not only that, we’re going to delve into those that are also waterproof. The alarm complication has long fascinated me. But we’re not talking about “battery” alarms, we’re talking about mechanical ones.
I find that little buzzing sound enchanting and we will take a tour of the alarm watches I have owned and enjoy, stopping at the 3 most classic alarm dive watches that I have been fortunate enough to enjoy.
My first alarm clock
Since I discovered years ago that it was possible to have a mechanical watch that could emit that alarm clock sound, I couldn’t resist and I have had a few of them. It all started with a humble brand like Titan. I saw it in one of those shops full of gadgets and I loved its cricket. I had already acquired my first alarm watch. That’s right, a wind-up watch. I would later discover automatic watches, but for the moment, I was enjoying myself.
This little Titan was followed by a Potens on what I believe was my final journey into “simple” alarm watches. This little journey allowed me to appreciate this complication while enjoying these 2 little crickets of metallic noise and short duration.
Another thing was my next acquisition. I ended up with a brand of which I have only owned one watch and which had never particularly caught my attention: Maurice Lacroix.
Maurice Lacroix Reveil
I have never been attracted to the brand or the models, but this one, so far, was my best alarm watch by far. With a pretty good presence on the wrist, a higher quality sound and an alarm mechanism that worked much better than my previous pieces, this watch fulfilled my expectations….. For a while.
My next step was a big step, a whole IWC with Jaeger-Le Coultre caliber, the GST Alarm. An IWC collection in the 90’s that I loved. In case you didn’t know, it was the first collection in the world to be made in 3 materials Gold-Steel-Titanium (GST).
With a 40mm case and an integrated superlative quality army that can be completely disassembled with 2 punches, a minimalist design, white hands, tritium… and above all, a JLC automatic caliber with alarm. The same one that mounts a whole JLC Memovox. I had a total crush on it, and it took me a few years to find the right piece after I first heard about it. In my case, it was the titanium version.
As a curiosity of the model, this one has a caliber with a slow date change, that is to say, you have to be patient to set the date. It is like an old Rolex. It was my first watch with Jaeger caliber alarm and it was noticeable in its sound and operation, a marvel.
Sometime later I had the opportunity to exchange this IWC for a purebred JLC and I didn’t hesitate. The JLC Master Compressor Memovox arrived. A watch with a more elegant aesthetic than the IWC, but also with sporty touches with those big crowns.
The differences between the two are that the JLC Master Compressor had a quick date change and a much more elegant and refined alarm sound than the IWC, the latter having a more “industrial” sound.
By far the sweetest sounding alarm watch of all. Quite a symphony.
Alarm dive watches
And then came the alarm dive watch craze and I had the trilogy. Yes, there are 3 alarm dive watches that for me are the kings. I’ll go in order of arrival, as I’ve had all 3.
It all started with Vulcain. I had read a lot about this brand. Its link with the American presidents. And of course, its alarm function, or Cricket. I found some models attractive and then came the Nautical.
The first time I saw it, I was very impressed. I had always liked watches with a compressor case, but that Nautical was just amazing:
- 42mm case, no small cases.
- Super cambered crystal that achieved a spectacular light and degradation of the wait.
- 3 crowns, I came from 2 in the IWC and 3 seemed brutal on the wrist.
- Ultra complex dial that had a lot of personality.
- Water resistant.
- Perforated back.
- It sounded like a pleasure to hear.
- And then there was its history…
A priori, Vulcain is not a brand that people will be clamoring for at the door of the dealerships. Nor is it one of those that give capital gains. But neither is it the typical brand of which you see a lot of devalued watches. It’s kind of in a no man’s land as a brand, even though the Nautical is clearly the most valued model.
Vulcain Nautical Cricket Heritage
The Vulcain Nautical Cricket was launched in 1961 as a real diving tool and was sponsored by none other than the record holder of the time, Hannes Keller, who had recorded 222 meters on his dive.
Part of its charm is that it has the same type of case, made by the same company (Piquerez) as its most direct Jaeger competitors. However, there were some small differences with the 2 versions that Jaeger marketed:
- The Vulcain is the only winding one of the group.
- It is also the only one to offer a slide rule for decompression.
- It was the first to incorporate a perforated case back, although it was JLC who registered it years later.
- The mechanism is Vulcain’s own and works somewhat differently.
Having owned Jaeger with an alarm, I find the Vulcain mechanism even more curious and easier to use. First of all at 2 o’clock it does not have a crown, it has a pusher. At 3 and 4 o’clock it has both crowns, one for the inner bezel and the other for setting the hour, minute and alarm.
If we press the button at 2 o’clock it has 2 levels of pressure. The first level is to stop the alarm once it has started. And the second level, when pressed, raises the crown to the position where the alarm is set.
This makes stopping the alarm in operation much easier on the Vulcain than on a JLC. It also has another distinguishing feature and that is that JLCs usually have a crown to wind the watch (even if it is automatic) and another to wind the alarm barrel. In Vulcain this does not happen, it is the same crown that charges both barrels depending on the direction of the charge.
There was also later a series of Nautical Cricket watches with a more seventies style case in the shape of a tortoise. It came out in limited edition and in 3 colour versions: red/orange, blue and green. Here is one version:
Vulcain Nautical Cricket 1979Limited Edition
After the Vulcain came a big surprise. To tell you the truth I never thought I could buy a Polaris. Not even a Tribute Polaris. But the opportunity presented itself and I didn’t waste it.
A good friend of mine who had one took it off and fell into my clutches. If I tell you that for me there are very few watches with such an iconic image and dial, I’m not lying. For me, this watch has it all, or almost. Good size, large crystal, dial with an enviable design, automatic, internal rotating bezel… An icon in itself.
Jaeger-Le Coultre Tribute to Polaris
The chances of getting access to one of the original pieces produced in 1965 were extremely difficult if not impossible and to be able to get access to one of the 768 units produced in around 2008 was fantastic.
As with the Vulcain, we once again see a Piquerez case, this time with 3 crowns and also an extra-fat plexy crystal. Inside beats its caliber 956, automatic and with a date.
As a curiosity, the crown at 2 o’clock is the one that loads the alarm mechanism and when you pull back the crown, if you turn it downwards you move the alarm time, but if you turn it upwards you change the date. In other words, the date change is separate from the crown which controls the time change.
In this case, it is an automatic watch, although the alarm is clearly still manual. Its water resistance is 200m.
As for the sound of the alarm, it is quite different between the Vulcain and the Polaris. The Vulcain has a louder and more clattering sound, although the Polaris also has a very loud sound. In both cases with a duration of 25-30 seconds. I have no doubt that both watches must be very audible underwater.
And then came the final
With the Polaris in the box, another unique opportunity arrived. And this time it was a real one-off, not a self-deluded one. One fine day, through a friend, I found out that there was a Jaeger Deep Sea for sale. But it’s not just any Deep Sea, this one is different?
So I took my things and there I went to see the JLC Deep Sea that I had been told was different. When I arrived I saw it, it wasn’t the American version but the European one. But it wasn’t the limited series collector’s version. It was the brand’s prototype.
Due to a series of very strange circumstances that I will tell you about some other day, the watch ended up in my hands.
Jaeger-Le Coultre Deep Sea
This is the alarm clock that has outlived all others. The only one left standing. All the others are gone in one way or another. But this one was very special to me because of the watch itself and because it was a prototype from a brand like JLC, otherwise the Polaris would never have come out.
It is clear that this last detail weighs a lot, but this watch also has other unique advantages:
- It still has a plexy crystal, which I love.
- It still has the compressor case style, and although it doesn’t have 3 crowns, it looks pretty good with 2.
- It’s automatic, I’m not against winding watches at all, but it’s always a plus for comfort.
- It does not have a rotating bezel but the bezel has the peculiarity of being luminescent and at night it looks spectacular.
- It does not have a date, so it loses practicality but gains in simplicity and clarity of the dial.
- And lastly, it measures 40mm and has a very slim case. Basically it wears like a Longines Legend Diver even though it has an alarm, which makes it very comfortable.
As for the sound, it is different. It doesn’t have a perforated case back, which gives it a powerful sound, but not as powerful as the others with perforations. This model was the precursor of the category in 1959 and did not have this advance, which, as I said, was the work of Vulcain.
Why a diver’s watch with an alarm?
Personally, diving sports watches have always interested me. The fight against water and humidity is not just any fight and has given rise to continuous design and innovation.
On the other hand, the technical evolution of the mechanisms and thus of the performance they offer has allowed us to discover important mechanical advances such as wearing an alarm clock on your wrist.
Now that we are used to hearing electronic beeps every day to wake us up or to warn us of an important appointment, listening to a mechanical buzzer with its particular vibration on our wrist or its resonance on our bedside table is priceless.