Since its establishment in 1833, concern for detail has been a driving force behind the manufacture. It numbers 180 skills under its roof, including a dedicated art studio housing a small team of enamellers deftly applying their artistic bent to mechanical timepieces.
Enamelling is an art of its own, with dozens of procedures and techniques that without great skill can result in ruin. Far from wanting to be labelled the Asian equivalent of Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), Watches&Wonders has differentiated itself from its older, distinguished cousin, and watchmakers use the occasion to roll out the best in visitor experience.
For Jaeger-LeCoultre, this means giving connoisseurs and new enthusiasts an understanding of its horological and artisanal expertise by bringing master classes in watchmaking techniques to its audience, which this year will put the spotlight on enamelling. “This Métier Rare is a pride and joy of Jaeger-LeCoultre. It is one of the most exclusive master class we can offer, so we decided to open it to all guests this year,” says CEO Daniel Reido.
Enamelling features across Jaeger-LeCoultre collections, including this year’s Master Ultra Thin Squelette series, which debuted in the summer, and will be one of the highlights at Watches&Wonders. The four-piece set follows last years’ Grand Complication Hybris Artistica collection in showcasing some of the manufacturer’s most treasured horological and artistic prowess.
While the Hybris Artistica collection applied the significant undertaking of combining supercomplications with experimental aesthetics, including stain-glass effect latticework and a rock crystal dial, the Master Ultra Thin Squelette puts rare artisan handcrafts centre stage – in this case, skeleton working, engraving, gem-setting and enamelling.
The Master Ultra Thin Squelette is powered by the Jaeger-LeCoultre 849ASQ, a tried and tested movement now chamfered into a skeletonised form that provides an elaborate stage to show off the other crafts. The dial is divided into 12 zones delineated by hour markers, with a minute circle crowning the movement. Two versions combine the unusual pairing of mother-of-pearl and diamonds for a man’s watch, while the others showcase Jaeger-LeCoultre’s enamelling techniques. One piece is rendered a deep pigmented blue against a white gold case; the second, a rich chestnut brown to match its pink gold frame.
Watches&Wonders will also be the stage for the global launch of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s new Geophysic collection, honouring scientific history and the brand’s heritage. The International Geophysical Year of 1958 marked the collaboration between 67 countries and a pioneering spirit from scientists, explorers and engineers, leading to historical events including the drafting of the Antarctic Treaty and the launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite that made the first orbit around the earth. It also marked the first successful submarine voyage from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean via the North Pole – the US response to the perceived threat from Sputnik 1. The mission coincided with Jaeger-LeCoultre’s first antimagnetic chronometer launched to mark its 125th anniversary, containing a movement capable of withstanding magnetic fields and resisting sub-zero temperatures without losing precision.
This pioneering spirit is revisited in the new two-piece collection with modern-day technology and a contemporary face. The Geophysic True Second is a dual-time watch powered by a new 770 calibre that provides reliability and precision according to the brand’s rigorous 1,000 Hours Control test. Featuring jumping hours and date function, the timepiece is rendered in steel or pink gold with a finely grained dial and hints of classicism that exude subtle refinement. The Geophysic Universal Time is fitted with the new 772 calibre, which is the result of years of research, fine-tuning the precision mechanisms of a movement developed eight years ago to equip the Master Compressor Extreme Lab 1. Local time is automatically adjusted by moving the hour hand via the crown while universal time needs only be set once and can be read on the dial by means of a mobile disc. Jaeger-LeCoultre maintains its dedication to watchmaking crafts by depicting the world map across the diameter of the dial. Lacquered shades of blue mark the oceans against continents engraved in a sunburst finish. "A key focus this year is an astronomical theme that began at SIHH with the debut of pieces such as the Rendez-Vous Celestial and the Rendez-Vous Moon, both of which will be on show," says Reido.
Inspired by the bright skies that grace the Vallee de Joux in Switzerland, the Rendez-Vous Celestial poses a dramatic star-studded dial with a zodiac calendar and an entirely guilloche, crescent-shaped curve to mimic the waning moon. Diamonds surround the bezel of a red or white gold case. The Rendez-Vous Moon takes on a similar design with the addition of a wide moon-phase indication in mother-of-pearl. “This year we wanted to share our fascination for the movements of the heavenly bodies through novelties which draw their inspiration from the sky,” Reido says.