If you’re anything like me, the prospect of a mechanical alarm wristwatch successfully waking you up each morning is a little far-fetched. But the buzz from the Replica Tudor Heritage Advisor Watch doesn’t have to replace the digital drone that emanates from your bedside clock or smart phone to be interesting. Rather, the Advisor’s diligent ring is akin to a well-trained assistant: there when needed, discreet when necessary. After a week wearing the Heritage Advisor, I was left with a surprising new appreciation for this uncommon complication.
Though acoustics have been used in horology for centuries in the form of time-repeating mechanisms, it wasn’t until 1908 that Swiss watchmaker Eterna filed a patent for the world’s first alarm wristwatch. Earlier on, monks used (relatively) rudimentary alarm devices to alert themselves to when it was time for various services throughout the day. These “alarm boxes” had no dials, yet served their monastic purpose well.
Alarm functions gained modest traction from the early twentieth century onward. They caught the attention of collectors looking for a useful complication, including the Maharadja of Patiala, who in 1909 had Vacheron Constantin alter a minute repeater pocket watch he comisioned to create an alarm mechanism. Because when you are the Maharadja of Patiala, you can ask Vacheron Constantin to do something like that. To hear the distinctive bell toll, jump to 2:08 in this video from The Road to Basel.
Most watch enthusiasts know of two alarm watches: the Vulcain Cricket and the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox. The Cricket, launched in 1947, introduced the modern era of alarm wristwatches. According to historian Zaf Basha, the reconstruction period following WWII helped propel the Cricket to popularity. For civilians returning to active lifestyles, the alarm feature filled an emerging need for useful technology.
Jaeger-LeCoultre wasn’t too far behind, developing manually wound Calibre 489 in 1949 which would go on to power the Memovox. Later in 1956, Jaeger-LeCoultre replaced Calibre 489 with Calibre 815, the first self-winding alarm wristwatch movement. The Memovox is generally the model that comes to mind when most wristwatch enthusiasts think of alarm complications. The combination of clean mid-century modern looks with an unusual function proved popular in the marketplace and vintage Memovoxes are popular with vintage enthusiasts. For a more in-depth look at this piece, see this Week On The Wrist review in which Associate Editor Stephen Pulvirent spent a week with a vintage Memovox.
The late 1940s and 1950s were a high point in the popularity of alarm wristwatches, with market demand decreasing thereafter.
Tudor first introduced the Advisor in 1957. This version, the ref. 7926, featured a 34mm stainless steel Oyster case and used an Adolph Schild manually-wound calibre 1475. The design was par for the course for Tudor at the time, with elements like arrow-shaped applied indices and dauphine hands that were present in a number of Tudor models during the 1950s and 60s. There were only two hints of the alarm mechanism that sat inside: a red arrow hand emanating from the center and an extra crown at 2 o’clock which was used to wind, set, and activate the module. Reference 7926 was produced until 1968, and it was replaced by ref. 10050 the following year. The updated model featured squared lugs and a complete redesign of the dial with notched rectangular indices and the Tudor shield logo at 12 o’clock. Baton style hands replaced the original dauphine hands, complementing the more angular look of the case. Additionally, the movement was changed from AS1475 to calibre 3475. Ref. 10050 remained in production for 16 years until 1977. While the Heritage Advisor is clearly a tribute to these early Advisor alarms, only a few key design details from the original references are carried through. The Replica Tudor Heritage Advisor Watch is a modern alarm all its own.
The lightweight 42mm titanium case features a plain steel bezel and is polished all over. The case shape and proportions most resemble the original ref. 7926, yet with a modern twist: plain lugs slope from the case, forming a voluptuous profile. Like the vintage Advisor references, the Heritage Advisor has two crowns, one at 2 and one at 4 o’clock. The former’s function hasn’t changed as it is still used to wind, set, and activate the alarm mechanism.
The Replica Tudor Heritage Advisor Watch uses an ETA 2892 calibre, with a custom alarm module developed in-house by Tudor. This is Tudor’s only in-house module or movement, a significant draw for the Heritage Advisor. Unlike previous references, the alarm includes an on-off switch at 8 o’clock, which is useful for silencing the function when necessary (and maintaining the mechanism’s power reserve). Nearly every aspect of the dial is different from previous references. Surrounding the dial, there is a dedicated, beveled track with black markings that is segmented into 15-minute increments, with bold markings for every hour and longer markings for each half-hour. The tip of the red arrow-shaped alarm hand meets perfectly with these markings, allowing you to set the alarm time precisely. Moving inward, Tudor opted for a mixture of applied Arabic numerals (12, 3, 9) and baton-style indices. A minutes track surrounds the innermost portion of the dial, which is an ecru color compared to the rest of the bright white dial. The power reserve indicator for the alarm function is graphically represented on this portion of the dial at 3 o’clock, along with an aperture for the function’s on/off indicator. Finally, a date subdial extends from the inner dial, taking up quite a bit of real estate at 6 o’clock.
Considering the dial configuration overall, the most recognizable aspect of the original Advisor models is the set of dauphine hands, with the same linear inset of luminous material as the original ref. 7926. These hands were well proportioned from the start, and luckily the alarm hand has regained its full length after suffering an abbreviation in ref. 1537 and 10050.
And this leads us to my main critique of the dial design: there’s just a lot going on. Earlier dials featured one track which played double duty as a minutes track and a track to set the alarm, allowing for a more minimal layout. With the introduction of not one, but three additional dial components (date, power reserve, and on/off indicator), more could have been done to retain some of the sleek mid-century design present in the original versions.
Of course, function is just as important as form here, and in this instance the alarm function is easy to set and use. The mechanism is controlled by a crown at 2 o’clock. To wind the alarm, the crown must be pulled to its first position and then rotated clockwise. The movement feels sturdy and offers slight resistance when the mechanism is fully wound, preventing overwinding.
For maximum efficiency, it’s best to set the alarm with the function in “off” mode. This may seem like common sense, but in using the function throughout the day, I caught myself resetting without doing so. If I needed to reset the alarm, generally I turned the function off, set the desired alarm time, wound up the crown to power the function, and then turned the function on.
It’s worth nothing that because of the way the system is constructed, when the alarm isn’t sufficiently wound, the striking part is left loose and makes an audible noise, however only if you move your wrist rapidly. The first time I heard this noise, panic set in and I thought I broke the watch. I wouldn’t necessarily consider this to be a downfall – it’s just the nature of the mechanism and something to be aware of.