Despite the availability of computer-aided design (CAD) softwares, some watch designers still turn to the humble pencil graphite and paper to sketch timepieces. Though it may sound old-school, product design director of Jaeger-LeCoultre, Lionel Favre, thinks it is fun to design watches the traditional way. Plus, it allows him to tap into his artistic creativity.
“Pencil drawings are instinctive and enable one’s creative juices to flow freely. It allows designers to evoke their emotional senses too. It can take weeks or months to complete a hand-drawn illustration before turning to CAD tools to further enhance each drawing,” says Favre, 54, during an interview at the 2019 Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva recently.
Given the precision involved, it takes years for watchmakers and artisans to create these sought-after timepieces. It requires a combination of innovation and dexterity to ensure every minute complication functions like clockwork.
“Once the design process is completed, there are a series of discussions with engineers, technicians and marketing team. The technical elements, innovation and colour scheme is scrutinised with a fine tooth comb. These intricacies take place at Jaeger-LeCoultre’s manufacture workshop at Vallee De Joux,” says Favre.
Vallee De Joux – situated at the Swiss Jura Mountains – is known for its calm and serenity amidst lush forests. To give SIHH guests a feel of the atmosphere, a decorative backdrop of Vallee De Joux – equipped with spruce trees, scent of pine trees and recording of chirping birds – was set up at the Jaeger-LeCoultre booth.
Within the space, the secrets of the manufacture’s rare handcrafts were also revealed. Enamelling, engraving, gem-setting, guilloché and watchmaking specialists were present to demonstrate expert methods and techniques required to bring the models from the newest collection to life.
Wonders For The Wrist
But the bigger highlight was Jaeger-LeCoultre’s new Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster perpetuel watch. It is the fifth multi-axis tourbillon to emerge from the luxury brand.
What’s really cool is its multi-axis tourbillion comes with a reduced size, making it a more wearable and stylish watch. It also has a Westminister chime (think: Big Ben at London’s Westminister Palace) and perpetual calendar, which automatically displays the correct date without the need for manual adjustment between months of different lengths.
The dial also features handmade guilloche, fine hammering and grand feu (great fire) enamelling, all expressed in a subtle yet contemporary way. The watch is pretty impressive especially with all sorts of technical complications. Hence, it’s no surprise the latest Gyrotourbillon is Favre’s favourite timepiece.
“It took six years to conceptualise this amazing masterpiece. There is everything in this treasured watch, which combines precision timekeeping, haut-de-gamme finishing and artistry.”
For women, check out the new models of its Rendez-Vous collection. Capturing the essence of femininity, these elegant pieces showcase stunning richness of details with distinct character of diamonds and mother-of-pearl, new vision of moon phases, and addition of a prong setting.
Available in white or pink gold with alligator leather straps (in shades of blue or taupe), the Rendez-Vous Night and Day jewellery watch sets the stage for an all-new vision of the iconic night and day function.
Keen Eye For Detail
Favre, who draws his inspiration from different fields including jewellery, fashion and nature, describes watchmaking as a world of complex detailing. “Designers must be precise in assembling hundreds of gears, springs, hand movement. It is a technical challenge to conceptualise a beautiful eyepiece where all elements must be at a good place.”
Favre is no stranger to professions related to creativity. He comes, after all, from a family of jeweller-craftsmen and was trained as a jeweller himself. As a teenager, Favre spent his summer vacations as an apprentice at his grandfather’s jewellery workshop in central France. He has fond memories toying around with gemstones and precious metal at the workstation.
“My grandfather had a keen eye for detail. He taught me how to appreciate the art of composition and creativity. I also learnt to develop artistic sensibility when designing timepieces,” explains Favre, who studied at Geneva School of Decorative Arts.
The luxury watch brand also revealed three models under its Master Ultra Thin Enamel line. It features complications among the most emblematic of watchmaking expertise – moon phases, tourbillon, date, and perpetual calendar. A testament to precision and sophistication, these three new limited editions – in white gold and midnight blue enamel – complement the Master collection.
Many of these timepieces are produced using ancestral tools at Vallee De Joux. Many of these items, artisans use their hands to enamel, polish, refine, enhance and carry out guilloche work on dials, movements and complications, in accordance with age-old processes.
Also featured at the booth were the collection of Atmos pendulum clocks with an almost perpetual movement. Favre says the brand strives to uphold its long history and tradition without forgetting technological advancements, solidifying Jaeger-LeCoultre’s reputation as an essential watchmaking manufacture.
“Our vision is to create relevant timepieces that connects with our rich history and tradition. We have the know how and want to share our rich history,” concludes Favre, as he takes on a pencil and paper to design his next timepiece.