Clocking In: Jaeger-LeCoultre Presents the Atmos Infinite and Atmos Tellurium at Watches & Wonders
One of the things we’ve missed most about attending watch fairs in person is the opportunity to revel in horological objets d’art. You know, treasures such as automatons and table clocks. And, as if to make up for two years without a physical Watches & Wonders fair in Geneva, Jaeger-LeCoultre is treating us to two new versions of its legendary Atmos clock.
Initially designed in 1928 by Swiss engineer Jean-Léon Reutter – a man obsessed with the concept of perpetual motion – the Atmos’ functions are powered by an ethylene chloride gas-filled capsule. The gas expands with even the slightest temperature change, causing a small chain to move back and forth, which winds the mainspring. Although it’s not technically perpetual, it’s still pretty brilliant.
Jacques-David LeCoultre purchased one of Reutter’s inventions, and later, the patent for the device, and made some tweaks to the mechanics and design. By the 1930s, the Atmos as we know it was born. And almost 100 years later, Jaeger-LeCoultre continues to deliver beautiful clocks that appear to run on nothing but air. The design of this year’s models – the Infinite and the Hybris Mechanica Calibre 590 a.k.a. the Atmos Tellurium – pays particular attention to the transparency and minimalism of the unique mechanics of the Atmos.
The Atmos Infinite
According to the brand, the Atmos is “more than just a remarkable timepiece; it is a genuine work of art, with a strong aesthetic identity defined by the distinctive form of its mechanism.” So this year, Jaeger-LeCoultre honors the creative spirit of the table clock with an entirely new design: the Atmos Infinite.
This new design is inspired in part by the past. The cylindrical glass cabinet of the Atmos Infinite recalls the glass cloche domes of those earliest iterations. Moreover, the black lacquered dial evokes the Jazz Age energy of the 1930s. On the dial’s metal outer ring, the minutes are indicated by tiny indents. Their form echoes the dots found on the annular balance, which spins back and forth in a mesmerizing rhythm beneath the body of the movement.
At the same time, the transparent glass cabinet also reminds us of the very modern Baccarat crystal encased Atmos 568 designed by Australian designer Marc Newson.
In both cases, the face and centerpiece movement feel like they are floating under glass. The minimalistic approach extends to the clock’s functions – Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Calibre 570 is a simple time-only movement. Its construction, too, is pared down to the essentials. However, unlike the 568, the Infinite also showcases the ethereal artistry of the maison, with fine finishes, such as brushed surfaces, polished edges, and Côtes de Genève stripes.
The Atmos Hybris Mechanica Calibre 950 a.k.a. the Atmos Tellurium
Historically, most Atmos clocks have been time-only, with the occasional model using a disc to indicate the months or moon phase.
Now, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s engineers and watchmakers have combined the Atmos’ dependability with a new complication that aims to track the true cycles of the Earth, Sun, and Moon with ultimate precision. Behold! The Atmos Tellurium: the most complex Atmos clock ever created.
In 1543, Copernicus published his model of the solar system. And it, famously, placed the Sun, rather than Earth, at the center of the universe. This led to the invention of the tellurion (also written as tellurium), a mechanical mobile that reproduces the rotation of Earth on its axis, the orbit of the Moon around Earth, and Earth around the Sun.
Under everyday conditions, the Atmos’ mechanism produces only a small amount of energy – in comparison, a typical 4-hertz watch movement offers 40 times more energy. Adding complications without substantially increasing energy consumption has been a challenge to the Jaeger-LeCoultre team. Over the decades, they have discovered that the functions best suited to the Atmos rely on longer cycles, such as months and phases of the moon.
Hence the development of the Atmos Tellurium. It is powered by a new, in-house calibre 590, which was entirely conceived, designed, and constructed in-house. In addition to incorporating a tellurion, it also indicates the corresponding months and seasons with a zodiacal calendar.
A lot is going on, but the display stays true to the Atmos’ minimalist ethos by using a two-layered peripheral ring. The fixed upper layer provides an hour-and-minute track and the names of the seasons. Underneath, a second mobile ring indicates the months, which appear through an aperture at 6 o’clock. Set within these rings is a translucent blue sapphire disc, laser-engraved with the zodiac signs. And centered within the dial, the sun is represented by a burst of polished golden metal rays.
Closer to the peripheral rings, balanced by a wedge-shaped counterweight, a circle made of meteorite frames a clear disc set with an Earth and Moon. The Earth rotates on its axis in 24 hours, while the Moon orbits Earth every month, turning on its axis to show its phases. The mechanism of the Atmos is so precise that it creates only one day of error in 5,770 years.
Every aspect of this remarkable clock is visible from any angle, as the mechanism appears to float freely inside its cylindrical glass cabinet.
Pricing & Availability
Both available now, the Atmos Infinite is priced at $15,100. Meanwhile, with its price given upon request, the Atmos Tellurium is limited to just 10 pieces. For more information, please visit Jaeger-LeCoultre’s website.
(Images © Jaeger-LeCoultre)