Jaeger-LeCoultre is well known for its enamel artistry, and for 2009 the Manufacture launches two new series illustrating two traditional enamel techniques – grand feu and champlevé enameling – on two timepieces in the Jaeger-LeCoultre collection: the Master Minute Repeater and the Master Grand Tourbillon. We will focus on the latter – the Master Grand Tourbillon Continents.
Enameling in its present form originated in the late 15th century, and the art enjoyed its heyday in an era when exploration undertaken by Spanish and Portuguese navigators revealed the existence of previously unknown territories. Jaeger-LeCoultre wished to celebrate the art of enameling and the age of discovery by creating three exclusive Master Grand Tourbillon models presenting the face of our planet. This series is named Continents.
Using the champlevé technique (literally ‘raised field’), the area to be decorated is hollowed out with a burin while leaving aside the partitions marking off the individual ‘honeycomb cells’, representing the motifs to be reproduced on the gold dial plate. The surface of each continent has been engraved and guilloché-worked in the direction of the four points of the compass, echoed on the bezel, while the oceans are distinguished by wavelike decorative effects. The layers of translucent enamel reveal the engraved motifs and confer extraordinary depth and intense colors on this horological planisphere. The bezel is engraved with the geographical coordinates of the central point of the motif, where the hands are fixed.
Each Master Grand Tourbillon in this series presents one of the three large continental ensembles: Asia and Australia, the Americas, and the entity composed of Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The first in the series – Asia and Australia – is shown below.
The intricate nature of the craftsmanship required to create these pieces precludes large-series production. Each of the three versions will be issued in limited series of 20 in platinum, 20 in pink gold and 20 in yellow gold, all fitted with a sapphire crystal case-back to reveal the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 978. The tourbillon regulator appears at 6 o’clock, at the heart of land or sea depending on the model.