To enhance the art of enamelling and engraving, so proudly mastered in the Vallée de Joux workshops, the Grande Maison had the idea of giving its Reverso pieces two faces revealing a work of art, the result of the artisans’ innovative work. On the front, a finely hand-guillochéd dial, covered in translucent Grand Feu enamel which is in harmony with the back of the watch. On the reverse, an enamelled miniature of a painting.
In 2018, following the pieces dedicated to Van Gogh or Magritte, Jaeger Lecoultre Diving Watches Replica chose three techniques representative of an iconic style: pointillism, ink wash painting, and Japanese woodblock printing. In order to represent these three techniques, never before applied to enamel in miniature at Jaeger-LeCoultre, three of their greatest masters were selected through one of their works: Georges Seurat, Xu Beihong and Katsushika Hokusai.
For these pieces of art, the Reverso Tribute Enamel, with its iconic Art Deco styling, was chosen. A case in white gold was created especially to host the enamel miniature.
Each of these models is issued in an eight-piece limited edition and available exclusively in Jaeger-LeCoultre Boutiques.
Reverso Tribute Enamel – Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
The artisan guillocheur delicately decorated the reverse of the piece using a century-old machine which requires considerable expertise. The dial is guillochéd with small lozenges, which are embossed under a deep green translucent enamel. Hours of research were required in order for this colour to perfectly match the painting on the reverse.
Reverso Tribute Enamel – Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte © Jaeger-LeCoultre
Painted between 1884 and 1886, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte is one of the most beautiful examples of the pointillist technique created by Georges Seurat (1859-1891). The technique of pointillism consists of juxtaposing minuscule dots of colour, rather than using larger brushstrokes, with the spectator’s eye naturally “mixing” the colours. It took Georges Seurat two years to complete this nearly 2 by 3 metre canvas. The painting is set on the banks of the Seine, near Paris, in a place where the locals would come to enjoy the water and a pleasant, unspoilt setting.
The artisan enameller had to take on a great number of challenges. The first was reproducing a more than 3-metre-wide painting onto a 3 cm2 surface. He also had to create his own pointillism technique and his own tools, including, for example, an extremely fine yet hard brush which frequently needed to be replaced. Pointillism on enamel is extremely complex. Several protective enamel layers must be superimposed upon one another after the completion of the painting, altering the intensity of the colour of the piece. A darker shade than the original was used in order to plan for this. In total, more than 70 hours were required to finish this creation, not counting the initial hours of research for the perfect colour.
Reverso Tribute Enamel– Inspired by a painting by Xu Beihong
The dial was delicately guillochéd in lengthwise geometric patterns and covered in opalescent ivory-coloured enamel, rendered as subtle as mother-of-pearl.
Xu Beihong (1895-1953) was one of the most renowned painters of the 20th century in China. He was known for his oil paintings, his drawings, his pastels and his calligraphy. His representations of horses made him very popular. The original, over 5-metre-wide painting shows ten horses galloping through a natural Chinese landscape. The enameller was inspired by the representation of two horses from the painting.
Reverso Tribute Enamel– Inspired by a painting by Xu Beihong © Jaeger-LeCoultre
Again, there were several challenges in creating this miniature. The sense of movement, the fluidity and the lightness conveyed by the ink wash technique had to be reproduced despite the protective layers of the enamel, which reduce the image’s spontaneity. As such, the artisan spent many hours finding the right movement to best represent the horses’ energy. Additionally, it was a real challenge to portray the smallest details, such as the horses’ manes. Lastly, it should be noted that working practically in monochrome is another challenge for an artist such as an enameller, who is used to playing with colours.
Reverso Tribute Enamel – Katsushika Hokusai, The Great Wave off Kanagawa
On the front, the dial is delicately guillochéd with small waves, like an echo of the drawing found on the reverse. It is then covered with a translucent enamel, coloured with a blue as deep as the ocean represented by The Great Wave off Kanagawa.
Reverso Tribute Enamel – Katsushika Hokusai, The Great Wave off Kanagawa © Jaeger-LeCoultre
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Calendar is built around the familiar vertical portrait-shaped situation form. Considering that the overall complexity of the hand-wound Caliber 853 triple calendar movement inside and the obvious contemporary desire for larger instances, the dimensions grows even in the Big Duoface’s 47mm by 28mm measurements to 49.4mm tall by 30mm wide. In terms of thickness, the watch sits a fair 10.9mm high. Really, the joy of a Reverso like this comes in the dual faces and world class finishes. It truly sits in a class of its own with no real peers, also that I have a feeling lots of people will drool over this particular watch. Even those people who, somewhat correctly, feel that JLC is dependent upon the Reverso to the purpose of interchangeability will agree that this watch is a fantastic reason why.The 853 manifests itself in 2 dial executions on the Tribute Calendar — leading with the silver ‘front’ dial of this watch that shows a split day/month aperture and a moonphase indicator with a pointer date encircle at 6:00. It has more information than most could be used to seeing in this a little amount of real estate but it stays extremely well-balanced, as a result of textbook uses of symmetry and comparison between the beveled dauphine hands, employed rose gold markers, along with the beautiful silvered texture of the dial itself. And speaking of that silver dial, it acts as an antidote, counterbalancing the rose golden’s warm tones with a cold, elegant masculinity that is only a pleasure to behold — something which couple rose gold watches may put claim to.Before we reverse the watch above, allow me to discuss the motion itself for a moment — the hand-cranking 853 hums along at a relatively low 3 Hertz, or 21,600 vibrations per hour, even granting a power reserve of about 45 hours. On paper, higher oscillations are always more of a pleasure to behold, but because there’s no running moments hand on this Reverso, there is no visual indicator that the watch is operating at a lower rate. Granted, we get a moonphase indicator rather, so it’s hardly a terrible trade-off.
Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) was a Japanese artist known for his woodblock print series, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. It has remained iconic as it was the first time that the concept of perspective was integrated into the themes of the Japanese tradition of art. This series included The Great Wave off Kanagawa, which brought the artist fame not just in Japan, but in the rest of the world.
Once more, it was necessary to plan in order to achieve the desired colour as well as the tiniest elements which create the movement of the waves and the splashes of foam, without which the piece would lose all of its character and strength. It was also very difficult to reproduce such a calm and smooth sky, without a single brushstroke appearing. As such, this work presented the difficulties of the two preceding creations, demanding both an almost pointillist level of detail and the delicacy of Xu Beihong’s expansive painting.