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"Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without." - Confucius

Recently I only had a short stay in Paris, but it was definitely worth it. Jaeger-LeCoultre showcased the High Jewellery watch collection at the company’s store in Place Vendôme. The brand’s flagship boutiques are not merely points of sale: they are elegant spaces characterised by refined and clean classical design, in tones of warm browns, greys and white, with such a beautiful elevator, that it’s worth taking even to the first floor. They dedicate a separate room to the heritage pieces and collectors and VIP guests are also welcomed to designated areas in the store.

The purpose of the event was showcasing their expertise in gem-setting, just one of brand’s 180 skills. Thus we could view not only the latest pieces but also some masterpieces set with gemstones from previous collections.

The expert artisans of Jaeger-LeCoultre are not only “gem-setters”. They personally determine the number of stones and their position, before performing two separate drilling operations: an extremely fine one, exclusively intended to define the exact placing of the gem, and a second to enlarge it to the appropriate size for each stone.

The baguette gem-setting is done using angular-cut gemstones – square, rectangular or trapeze-shaped. Snow setting requires extreme skill and meticulous care by closely positioning diamonds with different diameters next to each other. On the end result the metal is virtually completely hidden. Due to the hand-crafted nature of the process no two pieces are identical, and all bear the hand-print of the artisan.

Calibre 101

Jaeger-LeCoultre’s tiny movement famous to this day, the 101 can also be found in Art Deco-inspired pieces. The Calibre 101 is the world’s smallest manual watch mechanism. Originally built from 74, now 98 elements, it is 14 mm long, 4.8 mm wide and 3.4 mm thick. The Joaillerie 101 Etrier is a black satin strap small timepiece consisting of four baguette-cut diamonds, the watch body and four baguette-cut rubies.

Queen Elizabeth II of England on Her Coronation Day in 1953 worn a 101 jewellery watch. Jaeger-LeCoultre celebrated Her Majesty the Queen’s diamond jubilee by a new 101 jewellery timepiece, an homage to the piece she wore at the time of Her Coronation.

The Joaillerie 101 Manchette watch is a creation of polished and diamond-pavé square links of grey gold. One of the little squares is the watch itself. The small squares are not only exceptionally gem-set, but the individual elements are so finely connected to each other that the bracelet stays “flexible”, making it very comfortable to wear.

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Joaillerie 101 Etrier

Reverso

A new addition to the long line of iconic Reverso pieces is the Reverso Duetto Classique Haute Joaillerie. One side of the pink gold watch is entirely cased with diamonds in three different sizes. After turning the dial, it can be worn to more reserved occasions: on the dial is a velvet finish in the centre and the sunburst guilloché pattern around the outside. Two Arabic numerals (12 and 6) mark the time.

On a workbench set up in a corner of the boutique the rather elaborate work of gem-setters was demonstrated on the Grande Reverso Lady Ultra Thin Neva. This satin strap timepiece also inspired by the 20s is set with 1500 diamonds using the snow-setting technique. The Reverso Cordonnet Duetto is a jewellery watch in every inch, set with 1251 diamonds even on the gentle cordlet-style bracelet, totalling 7.5ct. Of course, it has two faces: one side is adorned by a blue lapis lazuli-, the other by a white mother-of-pearl dial.

The Grande Reverso Lady Ultra Thin Duetto Duo is somewhat more of an everyday piece, with a sense of timelessness. I tried on a golden brown satin strap pink gold version with chocolate guilloche dial, which is a remarkable companion to the Grande Reverso Ultra Thin 1931 chocolate brown men version, introduced earlier this year at SIHH.

 

Rendez-vous

Many ladies are not keen on geometrical watches, for them the Grande Maison has many other options to choose from, too. The feminine Rendez-Vous collection includes pieces in diverse sizes, materials, colours and complications.

The mother-of-pearl dial Rendez-Vous Tourbillon features blue Arabic numerals adorned with a row of diamonds on the case and in the centre of the dial. The white gold Rendez-Vous Tourbillon Haute Joaillerie is a stunning piece: the dial is fully covered with brilliant and baguette-cut diamonds, and the white gold numbers are “sitting” on the top of the gemstones. The lilac alligator leather with 18-carat white gold folding clasp and the so-called floral type hands are the perfect accessories to the visual image. On the other hand, both are operated by the Calibre 978 tourbillon movement that is famous for its reliability, and therefore these are unarguably outstanding timepieces even from a technical point.

The new version of the Rendez-Vous Night & Day evokes the dark blue night sky. The 36 mm white gold watch has a navy satin strap and blue hands, the dial and lugs are covered with 699 diamonds that shine like the stars on the case. Above 6 o’clock there is the day/night indication. This appears on a blue background echoing the similar colours of the hands and the strap. The Night & Day has also a beautiful and delicate rose gold version with mother-of-pearl dial and pale peach colored leather strap.

The Rendez-Vous Celestial opens a window to the stars of the sky and shows the current constellations. The star travelling on the edge of the watch-face can be set to the time of the next rendez-vous with the second crown. The illusion of the night sky is further enforced by the series of diamonds sparkling along the bezel and the buckle.

 
Perhaps the most elaborate jewellery watches are the ones where irregular shapes or patterns have to be decorated with gemstones. The Montre Extraordinaire La Rose is embellished with a total of 14 carats of diamonds using the snow-setting technique, in the shape of a blossoming rose. Instead of the numerals 5 pink sapphires indicate the time with white gold hands. The white gold Rendez-Vous Art features approximately 474 sapphires, 463 diamonds and 706 rubies together shaping a rose, a perfect example of the Grande Maison’s gem-setting-expertise.

 
Lastly I must also mention the new Master Grande Tradition Tourbillon Céleste, housing the mechanical manually-wound Calibre 946 movement. The watch set with two rows of diamonds is primarily for men but I would definitely wear it despite the 42mm diameter… The timepiece shows the sky chart of the Northern hemisphere – on a blue hand-guilloché and lacquered dial – and an orbital flying tourbillon. A small Sun symbol, being a 24-hour indicator, makes one revolution a day. In addition it also shows the signs of the zodiac, the days and the months, shown on a circular scale arranged around the edge of the dial.

 

Would you like to continue with Heritage collection pieces? Read the next chapter!

 

Photo credits: Jaeger-LeCoultre, Loupiosity.com.
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