Unless you’ve walked through a watch workshop where rare handcrafts are executed by master artisans, and witnessed their microscopic work in person, it is difficult to really understand how much goes into the making of a Metiers d’ Arts watch. The new Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous Sonatina Peaceful Nature watches are not only technically advanced and masterfully executed, but also they are works of art worthy of any museum wall.
It was exactly 10 years ago in 2012 that Swiss watch brand Jaeger-LeCoultre unveiled its now much-loved Rendez-Vous series of watches. Today, that collection has become a pillar for the brand – not only for technical reasons, but also for craftsmanship. This collection has witnessed a host of evolutions over the past decade with pieces boasting high complications from astronomical functions to tourbillons and more and with many showcasing the brand’s exceptional skills when it comes to the artistic crafts. Now, the new Rendez-Vous Sonatina “Peaceful Nature” series of three watches takes the line to new heights.
The three new watches are designed to pay tribute to nature and to showcase traditional Oriental aesthetics via lacquer work, miniature painting and gem setting. They are representative of an “East meets West” tribute, with sophisticated movements and superb Métiers de Arts that Jaeger-LeCoultre’s master craftsman executed in the brand’s Le Sentier Rare Handcrafts workshops.
The three watches each boast a different dial depiction that can be found in nature: the Crane, the Kingfisher and the Koi. Just 10 pieces of each dial will be made, and each will be a unique piece since each is hand painted and lacquered by the artist over the course of hundreds of hours of work.
All three of the artistic dials represent longevity, happiness and devotion. The Crane features the beautiful bird hovering over a pine tree and poised against a deep blue-green lacquer dial. Its wings are open as it seems to soar in flight. The Kingfisher – a colorful blue bird — is shown against a brown/gold dial with a bloom of red from the Quince tree beneath him. The Koi is bright orange and takes center stage on a black dial – shown in a beautiful blue pond with a rippling surface and beneath a willow tree.
The Rendez-Vous Sonatina is the perfect watch to create these masterpieces on because there is a center round dial that is an open canvas. The numerals of the watch are depicted outside of that circle on the outer edge of the dial and are graduated from small at 9:00 to largest at 12:00 and then small at 3:00 again. There are no numerals on the lower portion of the dial – giving full view of the artwork. Within that center work of art is a smaller aperture that depicts the Night and Day indicator with the sun, the moon and the stars in all their golden glory.
Creating these dials is no easy feat, as each is a deft combination of lacquering, using the ancient Urushi lacquer first developed in Asia, and the painting technique known as Maki-e, where gold is sprinkled onto the lacquer. Once the lacquer is hardened, the hand-painting can begin – using tiny brushes and microscopes. Gem setting also comes into play, as each inner dial is ringed by diamond brilliants. Diamonds also grace the bezel.
One of the romantic aspects of this watch is its Rendez-Vous hand. Reaching out to the edge of the dial, a delicate hand with a golden star at the tip can be set to a specific time of an upcoming meeting, or Rendez-Vous. When the time comes, a single strike on a gong melodiously chimes as a reminder.
Each 38.2mm watch is crafted in 18-karat rose gold and powered by the self-winding Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 735 mechanical movement. This movement is highly technical, with the chiming complication, and the day/night indicator that was developed just for the Rendez-Vous Sonatina. A sapphire case back allows for viewing of the finely finished movement. Available for sale only at Jaeger-LeCoultre, the watches retail for $94,000.
(This article by Roberta Naas first appeared on Forbes.)