Jaeger- Lecoultre Tribute To Deep Sea Alarm Full hands on Review. SIHH 2011..
Yes... You read it well, the Deep Sea Alarm is back, and I had the immense privilege to see it in the flesh, to be authorized to take some pictures, in exclusivity for Watchprosite, and to share them with you before the Embargo is over on the press file!
We'll first have a journey into Time and see what was the Deep Sea Alarm, its history, its competitors, and then we'll see what is this re edition.
I- An historical reminder.
1959 saw the birth of the first Diving watch from " La Grande Maison ".
As you all know, Panerai was the first to release a Diving watch, in 1935 with the Prototype 2533: A Rolex case, movement and dial, encased by the House from Firenze, which gave birth to the Radiomir 3646, California and no California dial.
3646 California Dial: ( Picture to be credited to Mike T, if I remember well )
There was no communication on these Panerai watches, as they were protected by the military secret.
We had to wait till 1953 to see the first diving watches which still inspire our modern time keepers, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, under Mr Bob Maloubier impulsion, and the Rolex / Tudor Submariners.
A bit later ( 1955 / 56 ) came the Omega Seamaster, and, in 1959, the Lecoultre ( as it was first made for the US Market, where the trend of Diving watches was quite important ) Deep Sea Alarm.
The 4 competitors, in the Fifties:
How can we rate or describe the Deep Sea Alarm, compared to its competitors of the era?
I would use 2 criterias: The Water Resistance and the Functionnality.
- As for the Water Resistance:
All the Diving watches were water resistant from 91 meters ( Blancpain Fifty Fathoms ) to 200 meters ( Rolex / Tudors Submariners, Omega Seamaster 300 Ref CK 2913 ) at the end of the Fifties, with the exception, nonetheless, of the Fifty Fathoms Aqualung 1 000 Feet, which was water resistant to 300 meters, as suggested by its name.
The Deep Sea Alarm is water resistant to 500 Feet, according to the US notice were it is featured :
Like on the Fifty Fathoms and Omega Seamaster CK 2913, the crowns are not screw in type, at the conrary of the Rolex / Tudor Submariners.
Logically, we could think that a screw in crown solution is better, but at the end of the Fifties, the US Navy compared and tested some diving watches and chose the FF Milpsec over the Rolex Submariner 6538... The limits of the logic...
- The Functionality:
This is, in my opinion, certainly the point which distinguish the most the Deep Sea Alarm from its competitors of this era.
It has to be said that it was the FIRST Diving Alarm watch, as the other famous example which comes to mind is the Vulcain Cricket Nautical, which was released 2 years after, in 1961, if I'm not wrong.
The curious thing, on the Deep Sea Alarm, is that the external bezel is NOT TURNING, which, at first thought, may not be very useful for a diver in activity.
BUT, if you refer to the US catalog posted above, you have the explanation.
The DSA " has both a visual and audible warning of the time for beginning a safe ascent from a dive ". ( Note: The US Catalog says that the outer bezel rotates, which is not true... ), but you can always use the alarm triangle to be warned, by the vibration and the sound, when it is time for you to reach the surface, without having to always check your watch.
The Alarm is graduated each minute, so it can really be used as a bezel, even if it is not very intuitive.
Indeed, with a bezel, you know at what time you started your dive, while, with the Alarm, you know how much time you still have before starting the ascent to the surface.
While we're mentioning the bezel, I have to add that its anodized aluminium structure is very fragile and don't resist to Time.
To be complete about the bezel, I'll say that the triangle indexes are luminous, not painted, from what I saw on several of them ( and specially a NOS one ).
An European Deep Sea Alarm with its original bezel:
The fixed Tribute to Deep Sea Alarm bezel:
Some insert tests, to see the final outcome:
A weak point on the US version is that it has luminous hands, but no luminous indexes, while the Eurpoean version has both, which is better in terms of legibility in poor light conditions.
All these details, which are unusual, strong or weak, contribute to the originality of the Deep Sea Alarm,of course.
Even if the European and the American Deep Sea Alarms have a lot in common, the dials make a huge difference, as you can see below:
According to the Heritage Gallery, 1061 pieces were produced, American and European included, from 1959 to 1962:
500 in 1959,
220 in 1960,
340 in 1961,
1 last piece in 1962.
Only God knows how many European versions were made, but from what the community of JLC Collectors observed, it is way much rarer than its US sister, maybe because the idea to make such a watch came from the USA?
The Deep Sea Alarm, whatever is its " nationality ", housed a well known movement, the Cal 815, which was used since 1956 or 1957 in another Memovox, the E 853.
It has to be said that the Cal 815 is the first automatic ( bumper ) alarm movement in the world, which beats at 18 000 alternances per hour, and offers a power reserve of more or less 45 hours.
II- From the Past to the Present: The Tribute to Deep Sea Alarm.
49 years after the production of the last piece, this watch makes its come back, specially for your eyes, just before the Geneva SIHH watch fair.
Many questions are receiving an answer ( some remain unanswered, as I type these lines, though ) :
1/ A Tribute, yes, but based on what version: The European, or the American?
The answer is certain: Both!
2/ Will JLC make a strict Re Edition, as they did for the Polaris, or a watch inspired by the Deep Sea Alarm, ala Amvox I or Master Compressor?
The answer is YES, at 95 %. And here, not precious metal at the contrary of the Polaris ( which was produced in platinum for 165 pieces ), just stainless steel, like on the original.
THE DIFFERENCES WILL BE VERY LIMITED:
- The case is one millimeter bigger ( 40, 5 mm ), compared to the original Deep Sea Alarm, but this detail is almost unnoticeable.
- The font of the numbers on the bezel, but here, things can still change on the definitive watches.
About these numbers, those on the original bezel are longer, they reach the base of the bezel, the " 0 " of " 10 " has a squared shape, the numbers in general are less " flat " than on the Tribute.
The triangles are slightly smaller on the original, and reach the dial side of the bezel, which is not the case on the Tribute.
A close up of the 2 bezels, side by side, to better get the differences:
On the left, the Tribute, and on the right, an expertly redone bezel, very faithful to the original, except this gray color, while the original was matte black.
- The minute indexes, on the US version, which are too fat, but this may change on the definitive watch, though.
- The lugs, which look a bit larger, but this is the prototype case, and the bevels should be reworked.
- And, of course, the movement, which is not the old Cal 815 with its lovely bumper, but the modern Cal 956, without date, the same which is used for the Navy SEALs Alarm and the Tribute to Polaris, without Date ( Will it keep this reference ? ).
Will anyone complain about this technical improvement?
I don't think so, even if we loose the very plesant feeling of the " bumper " when you move the wrist.
All in all, these subtle differences are nothing compared to the great work done on this pair of Tributes, which are very close to the original and fully respect the spirit of this model, as we'll see right now.
THE KEY POINTS ARE:
- To preserve the superb lines, profile and curves of the original case.
The sides of the case are brushed, while the top is polished, and, like on the original, the case back and the bezel come over the case, which is very typical to the Deep Sea Alarm, as you can better see here:
- The typical crowns, found on the 1959 Deep Sea Alarm, make their come back on the Tributes.
Flat at 4 o'clock, it is slightly " onion " shaped at 2 o' clock.
- The very nice engraved case backs, featuring a diver swimming among some air bubbles, and the wording all around this " sculpture ", as shown below.
Here, the Tribute...
... Next to the original Deep Sea Alarm:
- A plexy, slightly domed, and well integrated to the bezel:
Honestly, it would have been very sad to get a clean flat sapphire instead of this gorgeous plexy.
It contributes a lot to the charm of this watch, with its warm feeling, it is part of the Deep Sea Alarm!
- To keep the specificity of the 2 dials.
The US Version, first:
As you know, the particularities of the american dial are the name ( Lecoultre ), and the writing " Deep Sea Alarm " on the Alarm disc.
The Tribute to the US DSA is the only one among all the current JLC watches to not have Jaeger-LeCoultre " written on the dial but only " LeCoultre ", as JLC agreed to opt for this option.
... And to keep the " Deep Sea Alarm " writing on the Alarm Disc:
Another nice detail is the rugged aspect of the alarm disc, which is very close to the original, as you can see on the 2 pictures above.
The outer part of the dial, surrounding the alarm disc, is strictly conform to the original, the only point is that it will be better to have thinner minute indexes, as previously said.
The European dial:
The same thin and long triangles, which are luminous, will be seen on the European Deep Sea Alarm, as well as the JLC Signature just under 12 o' clock:
Yes, the luminous triangle indexes look a bit bigger on the Tribute, but we're very close to the original, and the spirit is here, undisputably.
On both the American and the European, JLC opted for the pointed skeleton luminous hands, which is another faithful detail shared with the Vintage models.
After highlighting all these details, which were important to appreciate all the work done on these Tribute, let's now have an overall look at the watches in themselves.
3/ The Tribute To Deep Sea Alarm are now the be entirely revealed!
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE WATCHES SHOWN BELOW ARE PROTOTYPES AND THAT THE FINISH IS NOT DEFINITIVE.
The LeCoultre and the Jaeger-LeCoultre Tribute:
A- The Tribute to LeCoultre Deep Sea Alarm:
The Tribute on the left, the original on the right, to show how faithful this project is:
As previously said, the difference in size is almost unnoticeable, the overall look and the spirit of the original has been well respected.
The American Deep Sea Alarm has a very strong look, with the writings on the dial, the play of white silver and black rings and alarm disc.
Strong, yet elegant and sensual, thank to the sweet curves of the very elegant case, which doesn't have the global and almost bestial volumes of the Polaris, for example.
Indeed, the plexy and the case of the DSA are way thinner, from what I could measure ( somewhere between 13 and 14 mm for the DSA, versus 17, 5 mm for the Polaris ).
You focus on the crowns, and specially the one located at 2 o'clock, before admiring the very unique profile of the case, which is taken " in sandwich " between the bezel and the case back:
B- The Tribute to Jaeger-LeCoultre Deep Sea Alarm:
A lot of common points with its american sister are to be noted.
- The same care, obsession of a faithful re edition:
- The same sensual and original case, of course.
- The same lovely crowns.
- The particular engravings on the case back.
BUT the dedicated dial makes a big difference.
Here, no contrast between silver white and black parts.
All is black, with some yellow touches due to the indexes, the triangle of the alarm and the luminous hands.
Less powerful, much more sober than its US sister, it is not less elegant, at the contrary!
As to conclude, there is one last question: Which one to choose?
I would answer with another question?
Why having to choose?
Between the Beauty ( European Tribute ) and the Beast ( US Tribute ), I want them both, as it was exactly the same issue ( and the same solution ) with the Tribute To Polaris.
My wrist can't decide, either!
To be complete, 2 or 3 last points:
The Tribute to Deep Sea Alarm is water resistant to 100 meters, which will allow some water activities, and for sure some unforgettable wrist shots.
You also have to know that the US Tribute will be available only in the JLC Boutiques, while the European will be available all over the world, at any JLC AD or Boutique.
The important thing, in my point of view, is that the Tribute kept all the imperfections of the original pieces, too: The non turning bezel, the non luminous indexes ( on the US version ), which are the signature, which make the charm of the Deep Sea Alarm.
It is a Limited Edition of 359 pieces for the US version, and of 959 pieces for the European one.
I've also been told that, like the Tribute To Polaris, it will be a " one shot " release.
Both will be priced at 9 500 Euros.
Wasn't it worth the wait?
Looking forward to hearing your comments and thoughts,
Nicolas. This message has been edited by amanico on 2016-01-15 23:07:34 This message has been edited by amanico on 2016-01-15 23:46:29