The recently concluded Watches & Wonders 2022 event in Geneva, Switzerland, was undoubtedly a wonder for all those present. After all, it gave watch aficionados and connoisseurs the opportunity to interact in-person, a luxury that had been missing for two years. Catherine Renier, the CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre, felt the positivity that accompanied Watches &Wonders. She tells us, “It feels like the energy we were all expecting when coming back to Watches and Wonders is definitely there. And the size [and] scale of it matches what we wanted. We wanted to come back strong. We wanted to show the confidence we have in our industry and the future. And I feel this is achieved.”
For Jaeger-LeCoultre, it was an opportunity to showcase a full collection of creative and technically innovative watchmaking. The Maison ensured that their display boasted “extremely immersive storytelling and discovery of who we are”. Here, Renier allows us a deeper dive into the collection and the inspirations behind it.
Spotlight on the 2021 Reverso Quadriptyque
Among the most complicated timepieces Jaeger-LeCoultre has ever built, the Quadriptyque was on full display at Watches & Wonders. Renier divulges, “Usually, we don’t come back year after year with the same product; but this one, honestly, it needed its moment to shine again. It really deserves it.” Rest assured, shine it did. Launched last year, the Quadriptyque was met with a positive reception in the horology community. She adds that though people couldn’t physically see the product, they could understand its complexity via Zoom (where it launched). She adds, “You could appreciate the complexity of the complications and really dive into the product even if you didn’t have it in hand. Of course, you were missing the feel and touch. But bringing it back here was really giving it justice on top of it.” At Watches & Wonders, people could view the thinness of the timepiece and appreciate its wearability. Plus, given that it was already inspired by moon phases and celestial complications, it fit seamlessly into the theme of the event: cosmic.
The moon, the stars, the Stellar Odyssey
Debuting at the Watches & Wonders 2022, the Stellar Odyssey collection celebrates the Maison’s legacy of celestial timepieces. Jaeger-LeCoultre has a long history with celestial watches. For instance, she notes, “Reverso is just one celestial complication; sound making and chiming watches is also an expertise, and precision, gyro tourbillons are as well.” For Jaeger-LeCoultre, she says that this is nothing new. “Last year, we had the moonphase first perpetual calendar of the 19th century.” This year, their goal was to express the theme using a wide variety of watches, complications and rare handcrafts. She shares, “Just on the handcraft itself, you have three very strong representations of the sky. You have the aventurine dial of the dazzling star, you have the reverse and micro painting of the other shooting star with the cloud, and you have Greece’s enamel on the high complication calibre 945.”
Creativity and diversity is centrestage, emphasising not one but numerous ways to bring the cosmic theme to the fore. “It’s really a full dive into how we can represent the night sky. And I love this variety of representations that showcase things that have been done and that are always fitting perfectly to the theme of the piece,” Renier affirms.
The Maison also transformed some of their most complex calibres, such as the Hybris Artistica 945, with decoration and sculpture. “The Worldtime has been a tremendous success. And I think it shows that, as much as we like to dream and look at the sky chart, a true celestial-inspired complication that brings you back to your daily life and time zone is also very efficient,” she explains.
Make a wish with the Rendez-Vous Dazzling Star
It started as an idea in the innovation lab of Jaeger-LeCoultre. “It was very important for our design teams, in particular, to have a representation of celestial phenomena that is unusual for watchmakers. The challenge was to bring something that we cannot calculate, to not be in the quest of precision,” she details. The team undertook a journey that felt unnatural at first; but after dedicated research, it showed positive results. What’s more? This piece almost didn’t happen. Renier divulges, “It could have gone silent because really our manufacturer felt the randomness was too complex.”
The Dazzling Star features a “shooting star” that appears magically on the dial. “Here, we wanted to really bring another level of creativity in the complications. We know how to do precise sky charts. We know how to do moon phases that are the perfect cycle representing the sky. Now, to do something random that you never know when it will go through your dial, that was a big challenge,” she admits.
Evidently, it was worth it, given its passionate reception by the watch world. Renier herself has been lucky enough to catch the shooting star twice on her wrist during the five-day fiesta. And she’s happy to testify that the magic moment of making a wish made her feel rather lucky.
Reimagining the Atmos clock
Lastly, she points to the two new iterations of the Atmos clock launched at W&W: the Infinite and the Tellurium. She exclaims, “This is an important moment for the mission.” Born in 1928, the Atmos clock has influenced generation and has now witnessed a new design and modernity. Renier adds, “Its perpetual motion with the high complication calibre 590 is tailor-made for complications, starting from scratch and then totally on purpose for exactly what we intended to do with this complication.” She admits that having a strong, long-drawn heritage doesn’t allow one to bring multiple new iterations into a collection, especially one like Atmos.
That’s what makes the two new additions very important. Powered by nothing but air, the Tellurium Atmos clock is the most complicated Atmos yet. On why that’s so, Renier shares, “When you bring a complication to Atmos, you really have to take into consideration the low energy that Atmos has. You cannot suddenly imagine having a spur of energy to animate a highly complex movement that at most has this perpetual motion. The energy is stable, but not extremely high.” This clock features the movement of the Earth, Moon and a display of the seasons and constellations. Plus, its glass display pays an apt tribute to the Atmos’ back. Undoubtedly, it’s an awe-inspiring timepiece to have at home.
“Our designers really felt that if you are interested in [an Atmos], you have to build your living room around it. You need to be able to walk around the Atmos to see the front and the back, because they’re equally beautiful,” she says. For her, the Atmos Tellurium is a really touching piece.
The Polaris Adventure
“The Polaris collection is still a young collection,” exclaims Rainer. It’s a modern expression of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s understated and creative outlook on watchmaking. It stays in step with contemporary trends, including wearing a rubber strap or metal bracelet. With the new addition of the perpetual calendar, the Manufacture has infused a dose of beauty to the sporty Polaris line. She adds, “Even though there is a lot to see on that dial, It’s really not overcrowded. We are extremely pleased and we always strongly believed in Polaris. It has found a strong public but I think it’s only the beginning.”
Of her favourite timepiece this year, she declares: “Atmos”. She expounds, “It has been really important for me since I joined to bring Atmos to the forefront. I really wanted to give it that new step forward and I’m happy that it’s happening this year.”
And will the Stellar Odyssey find its way to India? One day, she reveals. “The Stellar Odyssey, the Reverso Cafe and the soundmaker exhibitions are travelling around the world, and they won’t stop for a while because these are not themes that we made up yesterday. So yes, they will come to India one day. I cannot tell you which. I cannot tell you when, but it’s stuff that’s important for the Maison. We need to find the proper place. You have to do things at the right time and speed,” Renier concludes. Rest assured, it will be worth the wait.