The Test Of Time
The Peak Selections: Timepieces|Timepieces 2016

As two renowned manufactures with nearly 450 years of fine-watchmaking experience between them, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Vacheron Constantin are emblematic of haute horlogerie that spans the ages. We enter the worlds of two of the most respected names in the business for a first hand look at how they are building bridges to the future as they stand on the firm foundations of their past.

Lynette Koh

COVERING ALL THE BASES

From continually reimagining the tourbillon to uniting its various artistic crafts in one space, an innovative manufacture finds fresh ways to reinvigorate its most cherished technical and artistic traditions.

In the watch world, some big names guard their manufactures jealously, rarely opening their facilities to visitors. And then there are those that are more than happy to share their inner workings with the outside world. Marking 183 years of watchmaking in 2016, Jaeger-LeCoultre belongs decisively in the latter camp. While we are privileged enough to have been inside several of the world’s leading manufactures, we have never seen one that live-streams close-up footage of the work carried out by its employees – magnified 40 times.

We visit the Jaeger-LeCoultre manufacture in March, when it’s snowing in Le Sentier, a village in Vallee de Joux. The expanse of white beyond the windows adds to a sense of quiet concentration within the home of one of the most respected brands in the business. Along with a handful of other journalists from Taiwan and Singapore, we stare intently at a large projection screen built into a large wooden table, placed at the centre of the recently completed Rare Crafts Atelier.

With the permission of employees, video cameras are fixed to various workstations. We watch as an artisan meticulously adds fine, yellow streaks to a miniature painting on a dial. The tableau is instantly recognisable – it’s a beautiful execution of Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over The Rhone, and this dial will eventually be placed inside one of the manufacture’s latest minute repeaters, the Master Grande Tradition a Repetition Minutes.

Completed just two months ago before our visit, the Rare Crafts Atelier unites 30 artisans, who were previously scattered over diff erent floors, in a shared space that encourages collaboration. Four main crafts are carried out here: enamelling, engraving, gem-setting and guilloche. At a corner of the workshop stand four restored vintage lathes – machines that hold and rotate a piece of metal against a cutting tool.

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