Craft Movements

Jaeger-LeCoultre enriches its latest complicated watches with original decorative techniques executed entirely in-house.

Jaeger-LeCoultre’s latest concept in high-level watchmaking, the Hybris Artistica collection, is a synthesis of the company’s most complicated watches and experimental aesthetic treatments, most of which were developed by traditional artisans working within the manufacture. “The idea came from the many artistic ideas that are making ladies’ watches so exciting these days,” says Stéphane Belmont, the brand’s international creative and marketing director. While Jaeger-LeCoultre—which prides itself on the technical sophistication of its models—turns out a number of specialty pieces each year, this new collection marks the first time that the company has given decorative technique equal billing with its complications, suggesting a shift in the interests of the house’s faithful collectors.

Many of the brand’s competitors are also embracing decorative-arts timepieces, though these firms rely for the most part on outside artisans to apply these esoteric techniques, most of which originate outside the world of watchmaking. Jaeger-LeCoultre, however, remains committed to retaining its own artistic personnel. “We always try to do as much as possible in-house,” says Belmont. “By having all the métiers d’art—the enamelers and engravers—under one roof, the complication can be enhanced as the designers interact with both the watchmakers and the artisans.”

The Hybris Artistica collection introduces to the company’s diverse line of complicated movements established forms and innovative applications of these traditional crafts. For example, the in-house engravers have not only fashioned a clean, contemporary skeleton version of the Reverso tourbillon but also pioneered a method of using their tools to create small nicks that lend a subtle shining effect to the dial of the new multi-axis Sphérotourbillon. Other versions of the Sphérotourbillon represent the brand’s first use of a number of techniques, including an enamel dial salted with tiny metal shavings and a pocket-watch case inspired by historical examples that features enamel areas formed on and polished into its metal structure. Yet, in terms of sheer intricacy, the pinnacle of the collection may be a Gyrotourbillon equipped with a delicate lattice of brittle, painstakingly carved aventurine placed over the watch’s dial.

Most of the models in the collection are available in limited series of only three, but some are one of a kind. Such small production numbers represent another departure for a line of complicated watches from Jaeger-LeCoultre—one that may boost the future desirability of the timepieces. Collectors, however, will have to wait at least a year for delivery while the watches tour the world. “It’s a little like a fashion show,” says Belmont. “We are not trying to create what is necessarily most sellable but to show the creativity of the house.”

Jaeger-LeCoultre, 877.552.1833, www.jaegerlecoultre.com

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