We’re back from the 2013 SIHH, and one of the show’s big highlights this year was the presentation from Jaeger LeCoultre. The company’s celebrating its 180th anniversary this year, and, as usual, there’s an enormous range of pieces from the vintage inspired to the cutting edge, showing off just what it’s learned –as was said during the presentation to journalists from the USA and UK, the answer to “how long does it take to develop this watch?” is “180 years.”
The suspected hyperbole-reality gap disappears when you look at the watches. The runaway hit of JLC’s show, and maybe of the entire SIHH, was the Rendezvous Celestial, with its enamel and lapis lazuli dial, with a rotating star chart that turns once per sidereal day. It’s a true sidereal time complication and one of the most lushly beautiful watches in the world. More than one fellow journalist commented that it was the best piece of the entire SIHH, male or female.
While that’s a matter of personal taste (we’re not sure about absolute best, but we do think the Celestial is damned close) there’s no doubt that any list of JLC highlights is going to be a long one. Here are some of our favorites.
The Jaeger LeCoultre Deep Sea Chronograph “Cermet” comes in a Cermet case –that’s a portmanteau word (from “ceramic” and “metal.”) Basically it’s sintered ceramic and aluminum –a neat trick is that the outside of the case is treated with a high voltage current after it’s been shaped, which leaves a thin layer of pure ceramic on the outside to resist abrasion.
Another great watch with a fantastic retro vibe is the new version of the Master Calendar. The (to us) great news here is that it’s slimmed down a bit –it’s now a nice, classic, very dressy 39mm and only 10.6mm thick. We’re a little prejudiced in favor of classic dimensions for classic watches, but to us, JLC took a very good watch and made it a great watch.
Another big hit was the Grande Reverso Ultra Thin Duo Face. It’s a two time zone version of the well received Grande Reverso Ultra Thin. The Reverso Duo is a long-standing favorite of business-class fans of the Reverso, but we think they’ll love this one too, if not more –the proportions are much improved and we think JLC now offers, in this timepiece, an essentially perfect elegant traveler’s dual time zone wristwatch.
Here she is: the Rendezvous Celestial. The numerals are surrounded by blue enamel over guilloché, with a rotating star map that turns once per sidereal day. Seldom has a sidereal time indication been done so beautifully and worn its complexity so lightly. The blue of the star map is in lapis lazuli –this blue gemstone is the original “true blue” and was for thousands of years the only real blue pigment available to artists (and as a consequence, eye-wateringly expensive; it was used, for instance, for the blue of the Madonna’s robe in stained glass windows and in paintings) where it was known as ultramarine (“beyond the sea.”) A process for synthetic ultramarine manufacture was finally discovered in 1828, but the romance of the color and its exotic history are a great background to the appeal of the Celestial.
And of course there’s the latest addition to the Duomètre line, the Unique Travel Time. The UTT shows home time on the right and local time on the left –the latter with a jumping hours disk. The hour can be set ahead or behind in one hour increments with the case pusher, and the second time zone’s minute hand can be set to the minute via the crown, making it easy to use in all time zones, even those with 15, 30, or 45 minute offsets from UTC. The rotating map of the Northern Hemisphere serves as a world time/day-night indicator, and there’s a power reserve for each of the Dual Wing movement’s gear trains.
It says a lot about Jaeger LeCoultre that this is just a fraction of what debuted this year, so stay tuned as we bring you more news from the Grande Maison in upcoming weeks. In the meantime, chapeau, Jaeger LeCoultre!