Introducing The JLC “Atomium”

10 August 2022 / by Sam Kan in Luxury Apparel
Introducing The JLC “Atomium”
Credit: JLC

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Stellar Odyssey exhibition is coming down under! And whilst you will find that most “media” outlet and various socials will simply do an announcement and fluff through the details, this is not the way of the Ten Pieces Of Eight. No siree bob. We will go in-depth. We will go to the extraordinary lengths to bring you details that the others simply don’t understand, nor will they bother to. We will take you to up into the cosmos and down into the atomic level. Because this is precisely what Jaeger-LeCoultre has done in one of the show pieces from the 2022 Watches and Wonders exhibition. What the heck am I on about? Read on.

Before we go any further, and let’s hope this is published in time, as the information here will be out of date in a couple of weeks but hey I need the word count. The travelling showcase will hit  the Melbourne boutique from August 11th to 14th, 2022 then to the Sydney boutique the following week, from the 17th to the 21st of August, 2022. The information hereunder however, is timeless, and will remain for the ages (or for as long as the website is up).

There has always been a kind of a link between the atomic structure and the constellations. In the way we depict the bonds between atoms, it is the same way we see the bonds between the stars within each astrological sign. Meet the Hybris Artistica Calibre 945. There are two pieces in this collection but the one that is nothing short of breathtaking is the “Atomium.”

Credit: JLC

“The ‘Atomium’ structure takes its name from the delicate filigree that forms the outer section of the dome, its shape echoing the lines that link the stars to form constellations. Framed within this, on the domed celestial disc, midnight-blue grisaille enamel and a transferred star map amplify the visual connection to the cosmos.”

I think it is very clever to draw the link between constellations and the atomic structure and using it as an aesthetic element on the dial. No doubt a difficult task and only achieved by the brilliant craftsmen and women in the métiers rares department (rare handcrafts). This structure also elevates the centre part of the dial, giving enough space for the flying tourbillon room to breathe.

And is it just me or does it seem to be inspired by the “Atomium” in Brussels?

Atomium in Brussels

The 945 calibre isn’t new but the tourbillon has been given a new lease of life as a cosmo-tourbillon. So named because it now flies through the cosmos, the night sky and the constellations as seen from the Vallee de Joux, where the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre is situated. It is no mean feat to miniaturise the magical night sky onto your wrist, so that you always carry with you a piece of the night sky as seen in Switzerland.

The tourbillon has another trick up its sleeve though. It rotates around the dial of the watch in sidereal time – that is 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 point something seconds, which is the exact time it takes the Earth rotate once around its axis. Although recent observations have shown that the Earth is actually speeding up, according to timeanddate.com, taking 1.59 millseconds less to complete one full rotation on Wednesday, June 29th, 2022, followed by a day that lasted 1.5 milliseconds less on July 26th, 2022. This would take quite the watchmaker to re-do all the calculations….

Now why use the sidereal time as a base for the tourbillon to rotate around the dial? Well, Wikipedia puts it best – “Sidereal time is a timekeeping system that astronomers use to locate celestial objects. Using sidereal time, it is possible to easily point a telescope to the proper coordinates in the night sky.” Therefore, if you are standing outside of the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre, at night, in the dark, you’d be able to look up and match the constellations by looking at your watch. Perhaps with a light from your phone.

There is also a minute repeater in the watch but I want to focus a bit more on the dial, given it is a part of the Hybris Artistica range, and that name should give you a clue as to what the focal point of the watch is. You’ll see that the dial is enamel, and the technique used is quite different to the usual colourful enamel dials seen on watches. It is a technique called “grisaille” originated in 16th century France. This is where an image is executed from a grey, or a dark base and layers are added onto it creating a 3D effect through half tones and shading. Each layer, of course requires firing. It is the first time this technique has been used by Jaeger-LeCoultre, and no doubt we will continue to see more pieces using this technique in the future.

A limited release of just five pieces and it has already sold out. This is a testament to the appreciation of fine watchmaking by the collectors and it goes to show that time waits for no man, because if you snooze you lose. But at least you’ll get to see it in person in the next week or two (if you’re reading this in time) and their inherent beauty must be experienced in person.

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1 Comment

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