Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Atmos clock collection has served as the ultimate showcase for its métiers d’art talents for decades. This one-of-a-kind piece was created for Homo Faber (Latin for “Man the Maker”), an exhibition celebrating hand craftsmanship open now until May 1 on San Giorgio Maggiore Island in Venice, Italy. This year’s focus is on Japan, which inspired Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Regulateur Sakura (Cherry Blossom), one of 15 pieces in the exhibition.
The clock is bordered by a duo of enameled panels that took 200 hours to create and constitutes the largest enamel work Jaeger-LeCoultre has ever undertaken. The size presented a number of challenges, including the need to source a kiln large enough to accommodate the 7.7-inch x 4.14-inch panels, and the process itself was painstaking. Each panel was hand-painted over a black grand feu enamel background, for which the enamelers had to perfect the ‘dry enameling’ technique of sifting powdered pigment onto the copper plates (like dusting the top of a cake with icing sugar), repeating the process again and again, to achieve the desired depth and uniformity of black. After every layer, the panels had to be fired, then cooled and perfectly flattened. Every stage carried the risk of bubbling, cracking or dust specks, any of which would ruin the work. Only when the black background was perfected could the miniature painters begin their work.
The cherry blossom theme was chosen because it’s an important Japanese motif, and has become a universal metaphor for spring, a symbol of renewal and a reminder of the fleeting nature of life and of time itself.
The Atmos, invented in 1928, is kept wound by minuscule changes in air temperature. Inside the clock is a capsule filled with ethylene chloride gas. As temperature rises and falls, the gas expands or contracts, making the capsule expand or contract in turn. The energy created by these thermal variations is connected to a mechanism that uses it to wind the mainspring. A variation of just one degree Celsius is enough to create energy for two days of running time. Jaeger-LeCoultre acquired the patents for the Atmos in 1936 and has made several technical improvements since. The Regulateur Cherry Blossom is powered by the Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 582, with a regulator-style display—only minutes appear on the center dial, and hours appear in a subdial—and a moon phase indication that will take 3,821 years to diverge from astronomical reality by one day. In other words, it will not need to be adjusted in your lifetime, or in the lifetimes of a long line of your descendants.
The Atmos Regulateur Cherry Blossom is a one-of-a-kind piece, priced at $272,000. This one is sold, but additional, modified designs can be made to order.