Jaeger-LeCoultre Hybris Artistica – Grand Complication Greatest Hits
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s unveils a new collection that showcases the manufacture’s expertise in complicated watches.
In its latest collection, Jaeger-LeCoultre looks to its historical grand complications and combines them with new artistic interpretations to conjure up 12 one-off timepieces – all in a show of excellence the manufacture prides itself in. Jaeger-LeCoultre’s claim of “180 skills under one roof” is no idle boast – it has created over 1000 calibres and registered over 400 patents, and all its finishing, be it diamond setting or enamelling, is done in house.
First introduced in 2013, the spherical tourbillon here consists of over 100 parts, yet weighs less than one gram. Along with the splendid exercise in micromechanical design, the timepiece also featured the world’s first instant digital display chronograph in a grand complication.
Cased in a deep anthracite grey tantalum case here, the Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 looks even more masculine – one draws a parallel to the difficulty in working the metal to build the case.
The Master Grande Tradition Tourbillon Céleste does not tell civil time. Instead, it tracks sidereal time, which is nearly four minutes shorter than solar time each day. Thus, it measures the rhythm of the heavens at night, not the more common one we are accustomed to.
To capture the sensation of gazing at the night sky, royal blue aventurine was chosen for the dial. Rather than a traditional bezel, the domed crystal is mounted directly on the caseback to promote a feeling of openness, as if one is staring at the dome of the heavens above.
The unique feature of this watch lies in its construction – the outer carriage of the tourbillon rotates on its own axis, while the inner carriage rotates on an axis that is perpendicular to the first carriage. Within this lightweight setup, the balance wheel moves weightlessly. The perpetual calendar and eight day power reserve, the longest for a grand complication, round off the watch’s features.
The Master Gyrotourbillon 1 comes in a completely skeletonised aventurine plate made to look like stained-glass windows and decorated with flecks. Given the brittleness of the stone, the end result bears testament to the patience of the craftsmen involved. In the absence of a bezel, the sapphire crystal has been mounted onto the case directly.
The Duomètre à Grande Sonnerie was introduced in 2009 and is arguably the most complicated watch in the world. With a minute repeater that plays the longest rendition of the Big Ben melody in a striking watch, the timepiece also has a perpetual calendar with retrograde hands and a flying tourbillon.
To show the watch off in all its glory, its dial is made from rock crystal that reveals its movement at the back of this watch in a design that is protected by 10 patents. Although this variety of quartz may be veined, only the purest form of it was chosen to give a unique and intangible colour to the view of the movement.
As hinted by the first half of its name, the Dual Wing has two standalone movements with different energy sources, yet share a common regulating organ, to separate the timekeeping and complications from each other. The Sphérotourbillon part of it lies in the three dimensional rotation of the tourbillon around two axes, in order to defy the effects of gravity in all positions.
In its Hybris Artistica version shown here, the case is composed of two sapphire crystal domes which proved especially difficult to make water resistant. The white gold dial has been chiselled to create its textured surface that is both finely grained and glossy, and ‘steps’ have been cut to frame the Sphérotourbillon, which has been mounted on a transparent sapphire crystal bridge. The dials’ white Grand Feu enamel completes the timepiece’s look.
Like the Duomètre Sphérotourbillon, the Duomètre Sphérotourbillon Enamel has a GMT complication with the Sphérotourbillon featured prominently on the left of the case. Its main difference lies in the blue paillonné enamel that gives the watch a dreamlike quality. To achieve this look, the artisan has to shave tiny chips of silver called paillons from a block, and distribute them harmoniously on the dial – no easy task given their size and penchant for scattering. After the enamel is fired, the challenge lies in polishing its surface to reveal the slivers of silver, while avoiding any scratches from the specks of silver dust created. The finished product looks like a blue robe strewn with stardust, framed by a bezel decorated with blue enamel as well.
The choice to meld the pocket watch, a classic timepiece that straddles clocks and wristwatches, with visible complications, in this case an extremely avant-garde take on them, is a very interesting one, but certainly nothing unusual for Jaeger-LeCoultre. In this case, the Duomètre Sphérotourbillon Pocket Watch openly displays its inspiration – a grand complication watch from 1928 – by reproducing its graphic codes as well as the blend of enamel and white gold used in its finishing on the side of the case and the bezel.
The Sphérotourbillon is clearly displayed at six o’clock, in a style that differs from the watch’s wristwatch siblings, due to the lack of steps that frame the ‘aperture’. What has been maintained, however, is the transparent bridge that makes the Sphérotourbillon appear to float in mid-air, along with the textured dial which has been hand-chiselled to give a rough-hewn, yet elegant look. The enamelled sub-dials complete the package to give this series of Sphérotourbillon watches a style unique to themselves.
The Reverso was conceived to be reversible in order to protect itself on the wrist of polo players. In its Hybris Artistica version, Jaeger-LeCoultre does a complete about turn of the concept, instead making the reversible part of case transparent instead. The reversible portion of the case is thus comprised of just two sapphire crystal tiles – a feat in itself considering that the Reverso is not round. Issues such as water resistance thus become extremely challenging, as a non-round shape cannot be subjected to mechanical compression. To take things even further in a transparent case, the entire movement has been skeletonised to reveal all its inner details, before being mounted inside a metal frame that seems to float within the case itself.
The Reverso Cordonnet Neva here reinterprets a model from the 1930s whose watch strap was a leather cord. Although it might appear that Jaeger-LeCoultre has taken a shortcut to by spamming diamonds in the Hybris Artistica version, the usage of diamonds was actually chosen to elicit an emotional response from the observer. To that end, the snow setting technique invented by the manufacture is used here, with the artisan setting the diamonds in a decorative pattern according to his personal vision and inspiration. The hundreds of diamonds set vary in their diameters, and on the case of gold, looks like the Neva river undulating in winter beneath its surface of frozen ice. As is characteristic of this technique, no one knows what the final product will look like as the setting first begins, and wraps around the case, lugs and even the cord of the watch.
The original Rendez-Vous Célestial was introduced last year, and its Hybris Artistica counterpart here is a tribute to Antoine LeCoultre, the founder of the brand, and his endless fascination with the Milky Way’s constellations. It features an upper dial fully paved with baguette diamonds using the Rock-Setting technique. A highly guarded secret at Jaeger-LeCoultre, the process results in a lack of visible metal between the diamonds, as they are held from below rather than the side. This dial frames the opening which houses a rotating lapid lazuli disc with painted Zodiac signs. To top things off, the case and bracelet have been set with diamonds as well.
To pave the Rendez-Vous Tourbillon with precious stones while maintaining its distinctive features, the Hybris Artistica version of the timepiece was set with alternating layers of round and baguette-cut diamonds via Rock-Setting, which shows no visible metal used to set the stones. This carpet of diamonds extends out from the dial onto the bezel, lugs and the bracelet itself. To maintain the look of transparency and prevent the tourbillon from being overshadowed, the timepiece’s bridge is made of sapphire crystal to allow one to peer right through the case.
Driven solely by variations in the surrounding environment’s temperature, the Atmos Marquetry has been dressed up significantly but continues to maintain a light airiness thanks to the choice and balance of materials used. Within the crystal glass case, hours and minutes are displayed on separate Grand Feu enamel dials. Rosewood features prominently in this timepiece, down to its usage in the moon phase display. The lateral wooden doors are crafted from a mix of rosewood and horse chestnut using marquetry, with two enamel reproductions of Alphonse Mucha’s Spring and Autumn paintings set in them.