Watches & Wonders: Jaeger-LeCoultre Gives America The First Glance Of Their 2019 Novelties
Hands-on with Jaeger-LeCoultre's impressive 2019 collection and an interview with Stéphane Belmont, the brand's Director of Heritage and Rare Pieces.
This year's Watches & Wonders saw an unprecedented number of timepieces making their US (and sometimes global) debut. Jaeger-LeCoultre was no exception, they brought their entire SIHH 2019 collection to Miami for a weekend in the sun. Last year, the brand made a big splash with the Polaris collection, and for 2019, the brand brought a touch of elegance to Miami with new Master Ultra Thin Collection enamel dials and colorful Reverso models that made our SIHH Top Six.
Jaeger-LeCoultre's Miami Design District boutique gave assembled collectors and enthusiasts a chance to get their hands (and wrists!) on these buzzworthy timepieces. Watchonista had the opportunity to spend quality time with the entire collection. Seeing the Master collection's midnight blue enamel dials glisten under the Miami sun was quite a treat. The Master Ultra Thin Moon Phase, Master Ultra Thin Tourbillon, Master Ultra Thin Perpetual, and a very special trio of Reverso watches were also on display. It's rare to see all of these models assembled in one place and our hands-on photos give you a closer look at what's in store for Jaeger-LeCoultre in 2019.
Out of all the pieces on display, my favorite pick of the lot would have to be the Reverso Tribute Small Seconds in burgundy. The watch's beautifully deep red dial is paired perfectly with a matching strap designed by Casa Fagliano. The Tribute Small Seconds is also available in navy blue, which further complimented the Miami atmosphere. As if that weren't enough, the brand also introduced for 2019, a Reverso Tribute Duoface in rose gold. With the flick of a finger, the wearer can alternate between a beautiful black and a white dial.
Interview with Stéphane Belmont
Watchonista also had the opportunity to sit down with Stéphane Belmont, Jaeger-LeCoultre's Director of Heritage and Rare Pieces. The 20+ year Jaeger-LeCoultre veteran had plenty to say about the brand's unique positioning. Here's our exclusive interview with the man behind so many of the brand's successes.
Alexander Friedman (AF): Stéphane! Welcome to Miami! How important is it to be at Watches & Wonders?
SB: It is important for us to have people come and see our products. Geneva [SIHH] is one thing, but not everyone can come to Geneva. Customers can see the novelties 3-4 weeks after Geneva, which is a short time in reality. Plus the visibility in the market is something quite unique. Watches & Wonders helps keep our products in the minds of collectors.
Josh Shanks (JS): A few weeks removed from a very big SIHH. How are you finding the reaction to your new collections?
Stéphane Belmont (SB): People seem to be enjoying our entire collection! We're seeing people asking to see the complicated Gyrotourbillon, but they also love the new Reverso with the burgundy dial. This shows that we can create exceptional timepieces that can call the attention of both extremities. From very classical to very complicated and ladies watches. We can see that the brand has the ability to work in all segments and not just be good in one. That's a good thing because we have a very large diversity of customers.
JS: So you've worked at the brand for 21 years! I would image most of the pieces released over the last decades have your hallmarks, almost like your babies?
SB: Yes of course, but it is always about teamwork. I think everyone has a bit to add to the pieces. But yes, they are my babies, I love them all. It’s hard to find a favorite in our novelties, but the Reverso remains on top of my list. All these new Reverso Tribute watches. Perhaps the Duomètre collection is underappreciated, but the Duomètre Chronograph is for me, one of the most impressive chronographs there is. I am very fond of the Memovox, because of its very discreet complication. I believe in the future we will have to work with more simple complications. I want something that is complicated but discreet at the same time.
JS: The burgundy Reverso, can you tell us more about the inspiration?
SB: It started with the strap, we tried to recreate the burgundy color of this Fagliano strap on the dial. I don’t know if you recall the Reverso Tribute in Rose Gold, at that time, we've sold that watch more because of the strap and feel of the strap. As watchmakers, we tend not to focus too much on the feeling of the straps, it's always about the power of a metal bracelet and quality of the straps, so we worked a lot on that that give a full experience by itself.
JS: Can you tell us a bit more about your design process?
SB: At Jaeger-LeCoultre, we've focused a lot on design, so we need to show that we are not only a brand that relies on classic design but also high watchmaking. I recall when I joined the company 20 years ago, Jaeger-LeCoultre was the Reverso, but we wanted to highlight the fact that we are watchmakers first. So, we developed all the Hybris Mechanica, and by reinventing the grand complications in ways that they would perform with the expectations of today. It was important for the brand to highlight the mechanical mastery. Also, in developing new feminine collections, like the Rendez-Vous, which is seven years old and today, it's the second best-selling collection of Jaeger-LeCoultre.
We want to carry on, by developing the technical parts, the sports watches with Jaeger-LeCoultre's Polaris, and developing both the masculine and feminine side of the Manufacture, but most importantly, we want to highlight the crafts of the people behind the watches, and how they can highlight the art and creativity in the world of watchmaking. We want to give all our craftspeople more attention since they work to make our watches more beautiful.
JS: Yesterday, we were on a women’s panel: Can women save the watch industry? And specifically, how the brands communicate with women. I think Jaeger-LeCoultre is doing an extraordinary job at this, what is the secret to women’s watches?
SB: There is no secret, I think you need to think different than when you create women’s watches. You cannot think the same way than for men. For men, you use your way to design watches based on the historical pieces. As you know, Reverso has always been around and it is not a re-edition, the Master Control relies on all the watches from the ’50s. So, for men, it is quite simple.
For women, The Rendez-Vous doesn’t have any historical model, it's a new watch. The dial and case shape are atypical for Jaeger-LeCoultre. It was designed to be tri-dimensional because women like to have something that is not flat. We are finding they care also what’s on the inside and not just the outside. We also modify complications to become more feminine like The Night and Day. We use the complication not as a function but as a personality of the watch. And that is actually how to create aesthetics with mechanical parts and not just promote function.
JS: It's also important to note that you're producing mechanical watches for women!
SB: Yes, but not only mechanical watches but highly performing mechanical watches! We took the best of mechanical movements like the Ultra Thin Automatic and use the best techniques and applied them to women's watches. Ultimately, we need to have the best performance but expressed (for women) differently than men.
JS: In terms of markets, what are your most important markets? Where would you place the US?
SB: The US is still very small compared to the brand’s other channels. Today we are very strong in Europe with the Reverso, our historical model, and Rendez-vous is still very big in Asian markets. In Europe, when you want to buy a ladies watch it is still the Reverso. Rendez-vous is actually doing quite well in the US too. But I think for the US, Jaeger-Lecoultre's product is more powerful than our brand. The Reverso, the Atmos, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris, they all have that strong identity. The brands that are very successful in the US have a strong product connected to the brand, and vice-versa. That is my feeling, that isn’t scientific research.
AF: What is your feeling about E-commerce?
SB: You know, we are feeling convinced that we need to live ahead of our time. When it comes to creating our watches, we are doing traditional mechanical watches but always using the best of the day. In terms of design, we also try to make the watches smarter via innovative materials. We fully believe that we need to integrate all the new technologies in the way we create watches and promote the sale of watches. E-commerce is something that is around, so a brand like Jaeger-LeCoultre needs a lot of channels to learn more about us.
AF: What is the best message that shows Jaeger-LeCoultre is different from other brands?
SB: I think we are the brand that has the best alliances between technique and design. There are very few brands where you can get the best of both. It’s the balance that makes Jaeger-LeCoultre quite unique in the market.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)