Timepiece Chronicle

In-depth, passionate and entertaining articles that explore the stories behind great watches

Split Second: LBJ's unique Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox

Split Second: LBJ's unique Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox

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Split Second articles will cover previously discussed topics in a fraction of the time. Sometimes watches are cut from an article to improve pacing or lower the word counts so this is where those stories will live. Vintage, modern, updates, questions; it will all go to Split Second.

Lyndon Baines Johnson was the President who loved his Vulcain Cricket alarm watch the most. He was the only President to have bought the watch and he even bought over 200 Crickets to give away as gifts during his Presidency, some of which now reside in the LBJ Presidential Library along with his personal watch. This however did not stop other manufactures to try and win his affections with their own alarm watches.

 
 

Jaeger-LeCoultre commissioned two special Memovoxs that would bear the seal of the office of the President on the caseback which were sent to the White House. Compared to the manually wound, gold-plated Vulcain Cricket that LBJ wore, the 14kt solid gold self-winding memovox with special world timer dial was a superior watch.  Clearly Jaeger-LeCoultre wanted to win the affection of the President, usurp the most famous wrist in the country from Vulcain and become the new watch of Presidents. 

One of these watches now sits in the LBJ Presidential Library and has done since 1992, the other now potentially resides in a private collection. In 2013 an almost identical Memovox was put up for sale on Ebay which the seller claimed was the other Memovox gifted to President Johnson. The differences between the two watches are slight, with the biggest discrepancy between the two being the positioning of the cities on the inner wheel, one aligned vertically and the other horizontally. 

The seller claimed that the watch ended up in private hands when Johnson gifted the watch to a Mexican family he was sponsoring for citizenship in his hometown in Johnson City, Texas. The watch apparently stayed with the family till the recipient's death whereupon it was sold at auction. During my enquiries about LBJ's Vulcain with his Presidential library I asked about this story and they said that without knowing the name of the family, there is no way to verify the story. That is not to say it didn't happen, just that we can't be sure. 

The watch eventually changed hands back and was briefly owned by Jaeger-LeCOultre before returning to private hands again. I found this forum post from 2004 which has a user claiming that the 2nd Memovox was in his personal collection, the photographs match those used in the 2013 auction. It is unknown whether it is that user who sold the watch or where the watch is now. Perhaps it doesn't matter though as it was not the superior Memovox that became forever entwined with the Presidency but the inferior Vulcain Cricket.

 

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