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A sound strategy

Audrey Simon
Audrey Simon • 11 min read
A sound strategy
With this year’s Watches & Wonders postponed to next year, it was fortunate that Options had the chance to meet Catherine Rénier, CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre, to speak about the new collections that celebrate the theme of Sound Maker.
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SINGAPORE (June 26): In January this year, Jaeger-LeCoultre CEO Catherine Rénier arrived in Singapore for a quick stopover to chat with the media about this year’s installation of Watches & Wonders in April, an annual watch fair, in Geneva. As we know, the event was later cancelled when Covid-19 swooped in and kept everyone indoors.

Nevertheless, Jaeger-LeCoultre, the fine watchmaking maison since 1833, celebrates the theme of Sound Maker with the launch of the Master Control Collection and the Master Grande Tradition 945. There will be more watches launched as the year progresses and this is only an introduction to “chapter one of the novelties at Watches & Wonders, with the unveiling of the Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication (cal. 945) highlighting the expertise of JaegerLeCoultre with its minute repeater, flying orbital tourbillon as well as a sky chart”, says the company.

Rénier adds that the new Master Control is an aesthetic and technical redesign of the classic featuring the iconic “1,000-hour control” and an enhanced calibre reaching 70 hours power reserve. There is also a new complication, the Master Control Chronograph Calendar encasing a chronograph and a calendar function.

Master Control will see its collection enriched with two new Memovox that pay tribute to the Sound Maker heritage of Jaeger-LeCoultre. Rénier explains: “One of them, the Master Control Memovox Timer, is a star piece, a Memovox featuring a new complication offering the possibility on top of the classic alarm to set a countdown alarm. It will also have, for the first time in the history of automatic Memovox, an open caseback showcasing the hammer and gong of the calibre.”

The Sound Maker theme continues the celebration of sound in fine watchmaking. “Sound-making is important know-how of our Maison, from the music boxes LeCoultre created in the 19th century to the 200+ minute repeater calibres the Manufacture has developed,” Rénier says. The “sound” she refers to will take many forms, such as the sound with the minute-repeaters but also with the Memovox.

Jaeger-LeCoultre fans will be delighted to know that several new Memovox will be unveiled this year. The Manufacture will also be offering different experiences to visitors to discover more about sound-making.

When Options met Rénier over breakfast at the Shangri-La hotel, she was already two years into her role as CEO. But it is not her first role in luxury goods. Her impressive background reveals illustrious careers with Cartier, then in Van Cleef & Arpels from 2008 to 2018, where she held various roles within the maison.

Many journalists have asked the French-born and Boston-educated Rénier about her move from watch and jewellery maisons to one that is purely about timepieces. She replies: “Yes, we are a watchmaking maison, but our clientele is almost half men and half women. There may be no jewellery but I do talk to men and women like I would in my previous job.”

She adds that she still works with people who are passionate about what they do. An example is the métiers d’art workshop where artisans work on enamelling, engraving and stone-setting – everything is done in-house. “That sense of creativity when it comes to working with precious stones and design is very similar to that of jewellery making. I can easily bridge the two worlds.”

Rénier talks about her role as CEO, the new launches and e-commerce, which she has predicted is the way to go moving forward.

In an online interview you once said that e-commerce is an important part of the business. Do you think it is even more so these days?

Jaeger-LeCoultre came very early to e-commerce and has continuously developed the quality of the online experience with new technologies and online services such as the “on your wrist” app and also the strap finder and service price calculator online. This year, we also released a new feature for our new Master Control: the augmented reality to discover the watch virtually, in 3D.

We foresee our future to be divided on all three fronts: retail, e-commerce and partners. All these networks act in synergy with one another in a dynamic unity between retail and wholesale.

How important is this year’s collection to the maison?

The Master Control, first launched in 1992, established itself as a watch with useful complications and a contemporary design. We are really proud this year to introduce the new Master Control, with new complications such as the Chronograph Calendar, all featuring a new case, reflecting the aesthetic refinement of our maison as well as technical improvement in their calibres. This also reminds us of the reliability of our calibres all covered by the up-to-eight years of warranty of the Care programme.

The maison has created more than 1,200 calibres with iconic collections that include the Reverso, Master, Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris, RendezVous and Atmos. Are we likely to see more added to the collection?

We have a full research and development team and we always start [assembling] a watch from scratch when we work on high complications. We worked on the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel for a few years because of its unique calibre and unique creation, the Westminster ring. When we started working on the Gyrotourbillon we started from a base plate and added modules to bring a new complication. Every time we look at such unique watches, we start from scratch and bring the calibre to its best balance.

Yes, we will continue to introduce new calibres, but we always work on the improvement of our existing calibres. For instance, the Master Control will have a 70-hour power reserve. For this we are working on existing calibres, to bring better reliability and better performance and meet the needs of today’s clients together with the ability we have in our Manufacture to always look for improvements.

So, there are two ways we work on our calibres: improve what we have and continue to push the performance and create high complications, from a blank page.

The other facet of your communications involves brand ambassadors and friends of the brand. Tell us more about that.

I think more can be done with our existing partners. We want to express more of who we are, the values and the identity of the maison. We want the beauty of the product, the work that goes on behind the products, the inspiration and the sophistication of the maison to be communicated.

Then, of course, we have friends of the maison such as [actors] Benedict Cumberbatch or Nicholas Hoult with whom we partner for specific events or associations. For example, with Benedict we have a very meaningful collaboration about literacy in the world. To do that, we’ve done a few dinners where he came and read some letters in a very personal way — called Letters Live, these readings are similar to that of a small theatre performance.

If we can find these very meaningful partnerships for us, then the collaboration can take on a whole other dimension. For me, an ambassador should not just be about wearing a watch. It should really be a maison and an individual sharing similar values and passion.

What does time mean to you?

Time is to be protected as it can run very fast. You have to appreciate it. You have to make time. And it is important to stop sometimes and to remember that otherwise you can get carried away; everything goes so fast and you don’t enjoy that time for yourself.

Main attractions

The Memovox made its debut in the 1940s and Jaeger-LeCoultre has since become the reference in wristwatch alarms that are meant for both urban lifestyles and underwater sports. With a reach to a wider audience, the Master Control Memovox Timer features Jaeger-LeCoultre’s reinterpretation of the chiming complications.

The maison has mastered the chiming mechanisms to develop an alarm watch. While an alarm mechanism draws its inspiration from minute repeaters, its particular challenge is that the hammer must strike the gong multiple times at very high speed.

This year’s collection is inspired by the 1950s watches with a modern spin such as the incorporation of an entirely new alarm-setting mechanism, while the Master Control Memovox brings a clean contemporary style to the classic alarm-plus-date model. This includes a new generation of alarm watches; the Manufacture’s engineers have revised the self-winding calibre 956.

In the past, the Memovox watches had a closed case-back to which the gong was attached. Now, with a transparent sapphire back, you can watch the hammer in action. This is done through a new, open-worked pink gold rotor, decorated with Côtes de Genève to match the fine finishing on the movement plates, to give one an unobstructed view of the strike-works. One important element remains unchanged, however: the signature “school bell” sound of the alarm, retaining the charm of the Memovox.

Jaeger-LeCoultre has added various useful functions to its Memovox models, such as a world time-zone indicator and a parking-metre reminder. In the same spirit, its engineers have now developed an entirely new useful function: the Timer.

The dial features concentric rings, in two shades of blue with a sunray finish, complemented by an inner ring engraved in bas-relief with polished numerals. On this inner ring, the elapsed hours-until-alarm are indicated by a small hand tipped with a red JL logo. Set at the outer edge of that ring, the Memovox’s signature triangular marker points to the time at which the alarm will ring.

Master Control Memovox Timer

TECH SPECS

Dimensions: 40 mm x 12.39mm

Calibre: Automatic mechanical movement, Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 956

Functions: Hours/minutes/seconds, date, alarm (Memovox function), timer indication (hand with the JL logo)

Power reserve: 45 hours Case: Stainless steel with satin and polished finishes

Dial: Two-tone blue sunray dial, engraved numerals on the Memovox disc

Case-back: Open Water resistance: 5 bars

Master Grande Tradition Calibre 945

Jaeger-LeCoultre reinterprets its Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication with a new design that pushes technical boundaries. The new timepiece incorporates two of the most technically challenging complications in horology — a minute repeater and a celestial vault with an orbital flying tourbillon.

Watchmakers consider this to be the most challenging and rewarding to master because a minute repeater is not only a timepiece but also a miniaturised musical instrument. One of the most important elements of a chiming watch is the way in which sound is transmitted from within the watch to be heard by the human ear.

This feat is done through Jaeger-LeCoultre’s patented “crystal gongs” (introduced in 2005) that are soldered directly to the sapphire crystal, which acts as an amplifier. The square-profile gongs provide a flat striking surface for the hammers, ensuring more consistent and powerful strikes, while the additional material provides a greater vibrational mass and thus a fuller sound.

The new Master Grande Tradition Calibre 945 introduces the Orbital Flying Tourbillon, integrating it into the mechanism as a regulating device. As well as turning on its own axis in 60 seconds, the tourbillon makes a complete, anti-clockwise circuit of the dial in one sidereal day. A sidereal day is based on Earth’s rotation measured relative to the “fixed” stars, which takes precisely 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds.

The new Master Grande Tradition case has more than 80 parts. Its convex bezel is complemented by broad bevels on the lugs; the hollowed-out sides of the lugs add dynamic tension, while the repeater slide is tapered to harmonise beautifully with the curving case sides.

TECH SPECS

Dimensions: 40 mm x 12.39mm

Calibre: Automatic mechanical movement, Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 956

Functions: Hours/minutes/seconds, date, alarm (Memovox function), timer indication (hand with the JL logo) Power reserve: 45 hours

Case: Stainless steel with satin and polished finishes

Dial: Two-tone blue sunray dial, engraved numerals on the Memovox disc

Case-back: Open Water resistance: 5 bars Dimensions: 45 mm

Calibre: Manual mechanical movement, Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 945

Functions: Hours/minutes, month, 24-hour indication, orbital flying tourbillon indicating the sidereal time, minute repeater with cathedral “crystal gongs” soldered directly to the sapphire crystal, celestial disc with star chart indicating the constellations in the north hemisphere

Power reserve: 40 hours Case: Satin, micro-blasted and polished finishes, pink gold or white gold with bezel set with baguette-cut diamonds (44 diamonds – 3.76 carats)

Dial: Two-tone blue sunray dial, engraved numerals on the Memovox disc

Case-back: Open Water resistance: 5 bars

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