Redesigning the Alphabet with Alex Trochut and Jaeger-LeCoultre
To celebrate its pop-up Reverso 1931 Café experiences in New York and Tokyo this season, Jaeger-LeCoultre announced an incredible partnership with graphic designer Alex Trochut.
Alex Trochut, the famed graphic designer, was tasked with creating an Art Deco-inspired typeface aptly called “1931 Alphabet.” And earlier in November, we sat down with Trochut to talk about his inaugural partnership with Jaeger-LeCoultre.
J.J. Owens: Would you mind explaining your process and how you made a modern yet Art Deco-inspired alphabet?
Alex Trochut: The process involved figuring out how to make a portrait of a brand. Every time you have the opportunity to convey a message, you need to figure out the brand’s personality. Beyond the text, we wanted to make people feel as though the past was the present yet pushing it forward.
The team was incredibly open. We both opened each other’s minds. I think Jaeger-LeCoultre was very brave for initially being even more open than I was to making something more experimental. Art Deco became a fragmentation of geometry. I liked deconstructing the design of the Reverso into letters.
JO: You credit your grandfather, Joan Trochut, for introducing you to the artistry of typography. What did you take away from him?
AT: I wasn’t lucky enough to meet him, but he created an entire system in the 1940s [called Super-Veloz] that you could rearrange in different ways to create letters and illustrations.
He looked at illustrations and letters as the same thing. And that was the most valuable lesson – looking at letters as abstract shapes that could carry meaning. This collaboration is just letters, but they hold meaning.
JO: What parallels do you see between your work and watchmaking?
AT: We were just talking about this! It’s amazing looking at the world of watchmaking; it’s a world of systems and surprises. Of course, you need to be very precise, but there’s a lot of oblique and magical thinking.
We both work with the idea of seduction but also precision. We aim to be the most efficient. However, we don’t want to be boring. It’s not what we say; it’s how we say it. It’s not like art in that we can debate. Art can be a debate, time is not.
JO: What was your earliest memory of a watch? And did you look at them as pieces of art or more as tools?
AT: When I was a kid, my grandmother had a bunch of old watches that weren’t working. It was the first time I saw something and thought, “This is very complex technology.”
I am a kid from the Eighties, so the VHS tapes around the house were not nearly as magical as the ancient watches.
JO: What does having your typography on such a classic watch mean to you?
AT: I have not yet [come to grips with it all]. The Reverso has been a design piece in history, so it’s an incredible honor. For me, letters almost always belong on paper. So, to be able to jump into another dimension, it’s pretty cool.
JO: In terms of personal expression, what does wearing a Reverso mean to you?
AT: To me, a person wearing a Reverso values the past. I am all about progress, but when it takes away the human element, I hate automation. The Reverso holds the idea of the past being part of the future. I like the idea of the watch carrying so many values; it’s not going in reverse.
JO: Who is one artist, in whatever medium, you feel would best represent the Reverso?