Venice is one of the most impressive cities to fly into to as you literally step right off the plane onto a speedboat to be whisked across the water to your hotel. Hair flowing in the sea breeze, you feel like James Bond even before you have checked in!
We are here in the City of Water with Jaeger-LeCoultre to join the Swiss watch brand in its role as main sponsor of the Venice International Film Festival.
The festival is one of the world’s most prominent artistic film events, promoting international cinema in all its forms. It is part of La Biennale di Venezia, a prestigious cultural organization that dates back to 1895. The Venice International Film Festival, or La Mostra, as the locals call it, came to life in 1932 and was the world’s very film festival.
Jaeger-LeCoultre has been associated with the festival since 2004, dressing the stars in some of its most eye-catching timepieces, as well as presenting its iconic Reverso watch to the winner of the Leone D’Oro award for Best Film and the winners of the Coppa Volpi award for Best Actress and Best Actor. Each watch has a unique engraving, making it more than just a timepiece, but a beautiful object to remind its owner of this momentous moment in their career.
Jaeger-LeCoultre also has its very own award — The Glory to the Flimmaker Award — a prize that pays tribute to those who have made a significant contribution to contemporary cinema.
Watchmaking and filmmaking may seem like they are worlds apart, but there are many similarities between the two in terms of creativity, tradition, the quest for excellence and the preservation of heritage. It is these values that drew Jaeger-LeCoultre to the competition over a decade ago and makes the partnership work so well.
One of the advantages of having Jaeger-LeCoultre as main sponsor is that the brand is available to dress the wrists of all its movie-star friends. And before the celebrities arrive to try on and choose their watches, we got the opportunity to have a private viewing of some particularly special timepieces.
The first of which were two new editions in the brand’s 101 collection. This historic collection dates back to 1929 and houses the world’s smallest ever mechanical movement. This masterpiece of miniaturization takes its inspiration from the Duoplan movement that is constructed on two horizontal planes. After almost a century, the movement remains the world’s smallest at 14mm x 4.8mm, with only 98 components and a weight that comes in under a gram.
For the Venice International Film Festival, Jaeger-LeCoultre created two unique 101 models – the 101 Reine and the 101 Feuille – adorned with 110 pavé diamonds (11 carats) and 167 pavé diamonds (10.3 carats), respectively.
Where the 101 Reine highlights the miniature timepiece element with the tiniest dial, the 101 Feuille hides the time under a delicate diamond-set leaf that slides to the side to reveal the time. American actress Dakota Fanning chose the 101 Feuille to wear at Jaeger-LeCoultre’s gala evening, matching beautifully with her Georges Hobeika evening dress.
For the gents, we were able to get our hands on a new series of Reverso timepieces featuring reproductions from the work of Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918). This year marks the 100th anniversary of the artist’s death, making it the perfect occasion to celebrate his world-famous landscapes of Switzerland’s lakes and mountains. Each dial is crafted by Jaeger-LeCoutre’s artisan guillocheur who creates small lozenge shapes, giving the illusion of a woven fabric. The dial is then covered in a translucent enamel that matches the color of the miniature enamel painting of one of Hodler’s masterpieces on the caseback. There are three versions – Lake Geneva with the Mont Blanc in Morning Light (1918), Lake Thun with Symmetric Reflections Before Sunrise (1904), and Lake Thun, Symmetric Reflection (1909).
Another Reverso that caught our eye was the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Tourbillon Duoface that was created to celebrate the brand’s 185th anniversary. Don’t be fooled by the word “tribute”, this is a totally new edition with an elegant blue sunray brushed dial on one side and a more technical dial on the other with more of the movement on show, along with a second time zone, day-and-night indicator and an elegant silver grained dial. Both sides offer a stunning view on the brand’s tourbillon.
The male celebrities in Venice were also particularly attracted to the new Polaris collection with actors Ming Dao, Daniel Brühl, Joe Alwyn and Benedict Cumberbatch all choosing Polaris timepieces to show off on the red carpet.
After a fascinating try-on session in the presence of the brand’s Director of Heritage and Rare Pieces, Stéphane Belmont, we leave the product experts to get ready for our own turn on the red carpet.
The experience is far more nerve-racking than I had expected. The eyes of the crowds are all on you as they eagerly await a glimpse of a celebrity or two. Many of the non-famous guests do a little swirl for the cameras, but I am quite overwhelmed by the experience and scurry past the photographers as fast as my high heels will take me. Once inside, I also turn around and await the arrival of the stars.
We have tickets for the film Dragged Across Concrete starring Vince Vaughn, Mel Gibson and Jennifer Carpenter. Vaughn is in Venice for the premiere of the film, which gets the crowds really excited. Sitting right behind me, I wonder what it must be like to see yourself on the big screen.
The film follows two police detectives who find themselves suspended from the force after a video of their strong-arm tactics is leaked to the press. Bitter about their treatment, they decide to cash in on their police skills and end up getting caught up in an underworld of crime. Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn make an entertaining cop duo even if things turn quite violent and gruesome. It isn’t for the fainthearted, but for those who don’t mind a little gore, it is a thoroughly enjoyable film.
It is quite something to watch a film with the actors sitting right behind you.
The following evening, we are all dressed up again for a gala evening in a Venetian arsenal where Jaeger-LeCoultre pays tribute to filmmaker David Cronenberg. Catherine Rénier, CEO Jaeger-LeCoultre, and actress Sarah Gadon present Cronenberg with a personalised Reverso Leone d’Oro alla Carriera (lifetime achievement award watch), engraved by Jaeger-LeCoultre artisans with a lion, the symbol of Venice. The only problem was that he was already wearing a Polaris Date, but that didn’t seem to bother him in the slightest as he was delighted with the recognition and a Reverso.
Zipping back across the water to the airport, the last three days feel like I have been living the life of a movie star. That’s what trying on Jaeger-LeCoultre’s exceptional pieces in Venice will do to you!