There’s one question watch aficionados are certain to ask Daniel Riedo, CEO of Swiss watch manufacturer, Jaeger-LeCoultre.
Some wait until they’re briefed on recent inventions and novelties, while others cut right to the chase, spurred by curiosity.
“Which watch are you wearing today?” they ask.
Concealed under Riedo’s suit cuff, on this occasion — the launch of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s flagship boutique on Alberni Street in Vancouver — a timepiece of ingenious creativity and mastery in watchmaking is revealed. The Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 Jubilee from the Hybris Mechanica collection.
“Not only is this the peak of our collection, but it encapsulates our most complicated pieces,” says Riedo, a former engineer who spent 12 years at Rolex before moving his clock forward to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s manufacture in the Joux Valley of Switzerland.
He unbuckles the alligator strap and puts forward his tour de force, more costly than an Italian sports car, and rests it in the palm of my hand. Its face provides a three-dimensional window into the very DNA of the brand — the interplay of science, micro technology, and the artistry of gem-setting and hand-engraved mechanisms.
Intricacies such as a perpetual calendar and tourbillon — spinning like a gyroscope on two axes, pay tribute to the manufacturer’s founder, Antoine LeCoultre. He was the son of a blacksmith, but more significantly, an inventor who built a brand on balancing intellect and imagination with the challenge of measuring time.
Evolving from his invention of the millionometre in 1844, LeCoultre partnered with Paris-based watchmaker Edmond Jaeger in 1903 to make ultra-thin pocket watch movements. The pair acquired patents to the Atmos clock— an iconic gift for presidents and popes, which derives its energy from small temperature changes. Then they invented the smallest mechanical complication ever, the delicate Calibre 101, worn on the wrist of Queen Elizabeth on her Coronation Day.
It was the invention of the Reverso — a watch birthed of a sporting challenge to design a model sufficiently sturdy to stand up to being bashed with a polo mallet and yet refined enough for pleasurable wear— that rose the brand to highest fame. The patented swivel mechanism allows the case to turn around completely.
In the past, the blank surface was engraved with a personal motif, but today the Reverso swivels between two dials, displaying different time zones or converting from a work face to a glamorous evening accessory. To celebrate that collection’s 85th anniversary, a refreshed line of the Art Deco rectangular wristwatches was released at the opening — the Reverso Classic, the Reverso One and the Reverso Tribute.
While collaborations aren’t new for the Swiss manufacturer (it teamed up with Aston Martin in 2014 with a mechanical watch that could interact with a car), this year they called on celebrity shoe designer Christian Louboutin. As part of the Atelier Reverso collection, ladies can customize their timepieces by choosing dial motifs, wristbands and gem settings in colours and textures inspired by Louboutin’s shimmering shoe designs.
As Jaeger-LeCoultre’s CEO takes back his horological luxury, he pauses to admire what’s only possible when a family of second generation watchmakers, technicians and artists collaborate their knowledge and skill.
“Watches have always been my fascination,” says Riedo, a world traveller whose literary collection is infused with art history. “To express not only mechanical issues but the artistry of working together with new inventions is really fun.”
Text by Janine Mackie Translated by Zhao Wen Photos Courtesy of Jaeger-LeCoultre