Lionel Favre Talks About Jaeger-Lecoultre’s Height of Artisanship

Lionel Favre, Product Design Director at Jaeger-Lecoultre, talks about how the manufacture came up with some of the most complicated and most beautiful watches of the year.

Lionel Favre

Creating a follow up to last year’s Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication is no small feat, but Jaeger-LeCoultre has done it again with its masterpiece for 2021: the Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque. And then there’s the incredibly popular Reverso Tribute Small Seconds in Green, the Reverso One models featuring rare handcrafts and many more. If anything, this year’s lineup truly highlights Jaeger-LeCoultre’s supremacy in both haute horlogerie and belle horlogerie—high watchmaking and beautiful watchmaking.

A major factor behind this quality is the fact that Jaeger-LeCoultre is a manufacture where designers, watchmakers and craftsmen work together under one roof instead of having one supplier here, another one there and so on. As such, it’s much easier for the brand to combine opinions, ideas and savoir-faire to create a watch. And to learn more about how this formula contributes to the creation of some of the most exciting timepieces of 2021, we chatted with Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Product Design Director, Lionel Favre.

The Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque

DAMAN: A definite crowd-favorite from among Jaeger-LeCoultre’s novelties this year is, of course, the Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque. How long did the development and production of this watch take? And what were some of the most decisive milestones in the creation of this watch?
Lionel Favre: The development started on the basis of the Reverso Grande Complication à Triptyque. Jaeger- LeCoultre launched the Triptyque in 2006 and the first reflection from our watchmakers then was they wanted to have a minute repeater on the Triptyque. This is the starting point of the Quadriptyque. However, this is a very collaborative and team-driven development, because there are so many craftsmen, watchmakers, designers and other persons involved. They wanted to reduce the size, they also wanted to express our core expertise: sound, precision and celestial complications.

So, after some discussion, we decided to add some new celestial complications. The Triptyque already had complications like equation of time, perpetual calendar, tourbillon and zodiac calendar. We wanted to express the lunar cycles, because, we need to have—in the cradle—a slow cycle. So, we decided to design a sort of dashboard of moon cycles. We opted for crafts such as enameling to depict a realistic representation of the cycles instead of hands and counters. It was really important to connect with people who wear the watch so that they can have a strong connection with the cosmos when they open it.

And we also focused on another milestone: We wanted to respect the initial proportions of the Reverso. You know, the golden ratio? It was very important to respect this fundamental design code. And we wanted to contain the thickness of the watch. From the beginning, we wanted to make a watch that wouldn’t be destined for the museum, but a really wearable watch.

The Reverso Tribute Nonantième
Close up of the Reverso Tribute Nonantième’s movement

DAMAN: Another novelty that seems to be quite popular is the green Reverso Tribute Small Seconds. And on that note, as many have noticed, green seems to be a very fashionable color this year, following blue in 2020. A somewhat popular theory links this trend to our desire to be able to be out of doors and enjoy nature again. What do you think about this trend?
Lionel Favre: Yes, it’s clear there is a trend. But, you know, when you develop a new color, it’s a very long process. It takes two years to develop a color, because you need to perform various tests. It takes a long time to test a color under UV light, under different temperatures and so on— it’s a very lengthy process.

When we decide to use green, it was two years ago— maybe three, maybe more. So, there was no relation with the fact that people actually like to see nature. Also, we use green because—such as in the case of the Reverso Tribute—we like to use deep colors. And why deep colors? Because deep colors allow you to play better with light. You have black reflections and clear reflections. It’s better than colors that are too luminous and it’s more elegant. For us, it’s a better fit with the Reverso Tribute. And in terms of choices, for deep colors you have blue, red, brown, purple and green. So, we launched the blue one three years ago; two years ago it was burgundy; and we decided to use the green now, this year, because it’s one of the most beautiful colors that we haven’t used yet.

Jaeger-LeCoultre’s manufacture

DAMAN: Then there’s the four new Reverso Precious Flowers models. Can you tell us a bit about the rare handcrafts highlighted this year?
Lionel Favre: The Precious Flowers is an interesting concept. You know, initially, the Reverso was designed to protect itself by swiveling. But we take advantage of this design to create a watch that is also a jewel—more than a watch. We wanted to express the beauty of jewelry and the feminine part of the Reverso through rare craftsmanship.
So, we used enamel for the large part to depict arum flowers. For this type of piece, however, we decided to mix different rare crafts. So, we mixed enameling, gem-setting, engraving and we also used stone marquetry. It’s interesting, but difficult. For sure it’s a challenge because each craftsman needs to respect the work done by the others. It’s always difficult not to scratch the work done by the other craftsmen. So, yes, it was a bit challenging.

The Reverso Tribute Small Seconds with a green dial and matching strap

DAMAN: There is a real concern that rare handcrafts used in watchmaking are becoming, well, rarer. What is Jaeger-LeCoultre’s perspective on this situation and how are you addressing the potential shortage of artisans in the future?
Lionel Favre: I agree with this. It’s our responsibility for a brand to transmit this know-how and that’s what we do at Jaeger- LeCoultre. We have a number of apprentices, because it takes a very long time to acquire old know-how. It takes maybe more than 10 years to be a good enameller, for instance. And that’s why we try to protect this type of craft. That’s also why we try to make new pieces with, say, enameling, to propose to our customers in order to promote these types of rare crafts. And if we promote them, the rare crafts will be protected.

DAMAN: In your opinion, what has been the most important changes or trends in watchmaking from, say, the past two years?
Lionel Favre: I think there are some trends like the fact that young people are very attracted by iconic watches. They are very attracted by metal straps. They are very attracted by more casual pieces. And colors, too. That’s the main trends, I think. We are lucky because we have all of those. We have strong icons with the Reverso, we have metal straps on the Reverso for ladies.

Perhaps another trend is the fact that people like smaller watches than five years ago. And it’s interesting for us because we’ve always had a reasonable size and that’s part of our timeless aspect.

Jaeger-LeCoultre’s restoration workshop

DAMAN: This might sound like a cliched question, but in this increasingly digital age, the appeal of classical, mechanical timepieces—even extremely complicated ones—remain strong. What do you think causes our continued admiration for traditional watchmaking?
Lionel Favre: I agree with you. We don’t really need these kinds of indications, but we need emotion. I’m convinced when our watchmakers showcase so many skills, so much know- how and so much passion, they are vectors of emotion.

DAMAN: Just one last question … in general, how would you introduce Jaeger-LeCoultre to someone who’s totally new to the brand?
Lionel Favre: I will start with the history. We are one of the oldest manufacturers of watches and it’s very important because we are sort of the first lab of the watch industry. About 180 years ago when Edmond Jaeger decided to put all of these know-how under one roof, he made the first watchmaking lab. The spirit of this lab, the spirit
of collaboration, is very important at Jaeger-LeCoultre. This is why we are able to create the most complicated watches and timepieces with so many crafts—because we have a lot of know-how, we have a lot of craftsmen. And it’s very important for me to transmit this.

In terms of design, I will say to this person that with Jaeger-LeCoultre, you always have a timeless product. It’s really important that when you pay for a product, an expensive one, that you get to wear it for a many years

One of the Reverso One Precious Flowers models