For over a century, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s fleet of designers, engineers, artisans and master enamellers have been housed under one roof at its manufacture d’horlogeriein the village of Le Sentier in the Vallée de Joux on the Swiss-French border. This year, the watchmaker celebrated its extraordinary legacy, which dates back to 1833, by unveiling its new Heritage Gallery in a converted 19th-century farmhouse adjacent to its workshops.
Rare museum-quality watches are displayed in three-panelled cases and brought to life through digital animation and augmented reality. Touchscreens reveal the patent archive of the “watchmaker to the watchmakers”. The process behind each of this Grand Maison’s pieces is explained – around 100 drafts by a designer, up to five years’ work from a movement-development engineer, then months of profile-turning, drilling, bevelling, buffing and enamelling.
A museum-quality masterpiece of horological theatre
When it comes to delivering exceptional service, family-owned watch dealer Wempe has the reputation and gravitas to make the purchase of a rare timepiece one of life’s most memorable milestones. In 2012, it invited a top client to fly from the other side of the world with his partner for an exclusive tour of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s legendary manufacture. Already a huge admirer of the brand, he was intrigued by the extraordinary levels of craftsmanship and expertise on display in the workshops, but it was the Heritage Gallery that made a lasting impression. Of the many iconic watches he admired, dating from the 19th century to the 2000s, he set his heart on a Reverso à Eclipses crafted in 18-carat pink gold.
One of a limited edition of seven, this exquisite, ultra-thin museum-quality watch consists of 50 parts and was first manufactured in 2006 with a manually wound mechanical Calibre 849 that was developed specifically to fit in the Reverso’s signature rectangular case. A gentle roll of the rowel on the side of the case opens a set of shutters under the watch glass that slides back to reveal a breathtaking enamel miniature of a Canaletto-style vista of Venice, painted using a brush consisting of a single marten hair.
After months of negotiation, Jaeger-LeCoultre agreed to a rare private sale and the delighted client picked up this masterpiece of horological theatre from Wempe’s London showroom early the following year.
Selling watches for over a century
Wempe is also well versed in Jaeger-LeCoultre’s outstanding reputation for precision, reliability and exquisite craftsmanship. Founded back in 1878, it has grown from a modest workshop in northern Germany to an international brand with elegant showrooms in New York, Paris, London, Madrid and Vienna. An encyclopedic knowledge of the world’s finest timepieces and personal relationships forged over generations with the most revered brands mean it can find and procure the perfect watch for its exacting clientele.
For the man who values clean lines, precision and robustness, Wempe would suggest one of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s new Master Control models, with their modern blue dials; a man with more classic taste would prefer a streamlined Reverso Classic or Reverso Tribute Moon, originally designed for British polo players. Glamorous, globe-trotting women would opt for the Rendez-Vous Ladies Bracelet, while the ethereal Atmos clocks designed by Marc Newson – which “live on air” – would suit the mantelpiece or office of any well-heeled design aficionado.
An unforgettable anniversary
Another of Wempe’s loyal London customers still reminisces about the Jaeger-LeCoultre watch he purchased for his wife to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary back in 2013. Invited to an exclusive wine tasting co-hosted by the watch dealer and watchmaker, he noted the look on his wife’s face when they previewed the new Grande Reverso Ultra Thin White Gold Duetto. Named after its two distinct faces displaying the same time – a superb guilloché dial on the front and magnificent mother-of-pearl marquetry on the back – it can easily be switched to suit a lady’s mood or outfit. After a discreet word with Wempe staff, the client secured the very first piece to be shipped to the UK, which he presented to his wife at an emotional, surprise champagne reception in the London showroom.
For watch lovers, Jaeger-LeCoultre pieces offer a chance to own a piece of horological history. For Wempe, they present rare opportunities to create remarkable experiences for their most discerning clientele.