An Interview with Stéphane Belmont, Patrimony Director of the Maison Jaeger-LeCoultre, Patrimony Director of the Maison Jaeger-LeCoultre
By Sarah Jayne Potter | 7 minute read
Founded by Antoine LeCoultre in 1833, it has a history rich with notable inventions. Creating over 1200 calibres and registering approximately 400 patents, the Maison has earned a significant place in watchmaking history. Combining mechanical performance with aesthetic harmony, Jaeger-LeCoultre is renowned for its iconic collections, such as the Reverso, that have secured a unique place within horology.
As we celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Reverso watch, we spoke with Stéphane Belmont, Patrimony Director at Jaeger-LeCoultre who joined the company originally in 1999. From the Reverso to their launch at Watches & Wonders, we find out about classic reinventions, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s inspirations and what is coming up for this luxury brand.
Delighted to be speaking with you today and thank you so much for agreeing to take part in this interview. Please can you tell our readers a bit more about yourself and the role you play at the brand?
Thank you for having me. I am Stéphane Belmont, I have been with the Maison Jaeger-LeCoultre since 1999 in different positions in Marketing, Creation, Product Design and Communication before becoming Patrimony Director of the Maison.
I was born in Besançon (France) in a family deeply rooted in watchmaking and moved to Lausanne (Switzerland) in 1984. I started to work in watchmaking in 1992, and have developed a great affinity with the watchmaking culture. With over 20 years at Jaeger-LeCoultre, I gained a strong brand knowledge which allows me to challenge and inspire designers, watchmakers and artisans for building altogether the future of Jaeger-LeCoultre.
How would you introduce Jaeger-LeCoultre as a brand, and describe the collections to a new watch collector?
Jaeger-LeCoultre is the Watchmaker’s Watchmaker. Since 1833, the brand has continuously renewed its creativity and inventiveness. In the Vallée de Joux, in the Swiss Jura Mountains, one hundred and eighty different skills are working together under one roof: to design, assemble, decorate. All our crafts are within the Manufacture where more than 1200 calibres, renowned worldwide, were created.
We have five iconic collections, the Reverso which was born of the Art Déco movement in 1931, the Master line, with classic and refined masculine lines, the Rendez-Vous, the ultimate expression of sophisticated femininity, the Polaris, inspired by the legendary diving watch with alarm from 1968 and the Atmos, the pendulum watch with almost perpetual movement.
In your opinion, what sets Jaeger-LeCoultre apart from other timepiece brands?
The rich legacy built by the Grande Maison over centuries serves as a constant source of inspiration in its ongoing pursuit of excellence. That’s how Jaeger-LeCoultre managed to create and ensure the success of a large range of models: Iconic designs, legendary movements, round and rectangular cases, classic, sophisticated, hand-wound, automatic, masculine, feminine, high-watchmaking, high-jewellery, sportive. And in addition to its well-known reputation of Watchmaker of watchmaker, Jaeger-LeCoultre masters all the Rare Crafts to make watches more beautiful with outstanding finished: Gemsetting, engraving, enameling, guilloché.
Building complicated movements has always been the main commitment of the watchmakers of la Vallée de Joux. In the past decade our watchmakers have been able to create exclusive movements and exceptional timepieces combining extreme precision, and a flawless aesthetic. From the first instrument to measure the micron (the “millionomètre”), to the smallest mechanical calibre in the world (our Calibre 101), to the timeless Reverso, to the mesmerizing Gyrotourbillon, to the exquisite Hybris Artistica collection.
Jaeger-LeCoultre has an enviable history of inventions and patents, including global firsts in watchmaking history. In your opinion which is the most significant, and why?
Inventions made decades or even centuries ago that are still used today really fascinate me. It shows how fundamentals they were, and how they revolutionized watchmaking. Imagine the silent governor, that cancelled the noise of the mechanics to regulate the pace of minute repeater. Patented in the late 19th century, it is still used today. Or the perpetual winding system of the Atmos clock, invented in 1928, that remains unique until now and fascinates watchmaking enthusiasts. More recently, the Gyrotourbillon is to me the most mesmerizing tourbillon on the market. Or the Crystal gongs, using the crystal of the watch as a loudspeaker to extract the sound of the minute repeater out of the water-resistant case. Above all, I envy the team that invented the Duoface movement for the Reverso: the first movement to display functions on both sides of the Reverso. This invention led to the creation of the Reverso Duetto, Reverso Triptyque (featuring 3 sides), and to the brand new Reverso models that will be revealed this year for the 90th anniversary.
The iconic Reverso was created back in 1931 at the height of the Art Deco era and has a rich history – why do you think it has retained its popularity?
Form follows function. And this is what makes the design of Reverso unique. You can feel that this is not a rectangular watch like others. I think the Reverso still enjoys its popularity because its rectangular shape, uncluttered lines and emblematic gadroons, directly inspired by the Art Deco movement in vogue at the time of its creation, are timeless. The 3 gadrons indicate that it is more than just a beautiful Art Déco design. The swivelling remains intriguing even 90 years after its creation, since there is a secret face on the back to be discovered. Despite its straight lines, the Reverso is surprisingly a very smooth and rounded design. A Reverso is immediately recognizable on the wrist.
In addition, the solid back is ideal for today’s desire of personalisation. It can be engraved, set with diamonds or enamelled. Moreover, the Reverso is constantly being reinvented with, for instance, the invention of the Duetto/Duo concept enabling the presence of a second dial serving to display a range of additional complications. The Reverso watch becomes your perfect ally no matter what time it is, day or evening wear. This icon is currently interpreted in three distinct collections: One, Classic and Tribute.
The Reverso has seen several reinterpretations throughout its history, which has been your favourite and why?
I am personally keen on the Reverso Tribute collection. It reinterprets the original 1931 design in a more sophisticated and contemporaneous manner, and integrates attractive coloured dials also inspired by colours used in the 1930’s. It highlights how a solo tempo watch can nonetheless be super attractive. Even if I am more of a “blues” man, I would love to wear the new Reverso Tribute with colour dial that comes this year, with its sport elegant Fagliano leather strap matching the colour of the dial.
Which piece or pieces, would you recommend to our audience in order to start building their Jaeger-LeCoultre collection?
It is very much a question of personal taste, but I would definitely recommend the Reverso as it is such an icon of the brand. There is no other model like it on the market, it is anchored in history and you can personalize it. Whether for a man or for a woman, I think it is the perfect model to start building a Jaeger-LeCoultre collection. And if you’re more of a round watch, make no mistake and select a Memovox, either in the Master or in the Polaris collection. You get a legendary movement, in a watch that stands out of the crowd with its mechanical alarm function.
As Watches & Wonders Geneva is here, can you give us an indication into what we can expect from Jaeger-LeCoultre over the week of the fair?
Without giving too much away, you can expect the reveal of very exceptional pieces. As you know it is the 90th anniversary of the Reverso so we are very excited to put this collection in the spotlight: new exciting designs, new functions, innovations and some surprises.
Finally, looking even more toward the future, what are you most excited about for Jaeger-LeCoultre in 2021?
I am really looking for resuming the Manufacture visits in Le Sentier. It is the best way to discover the place where all our watches are coming from, and to connect with all the talented people that contribute to created and crafting our watches from A to Z. We set up new visit paths and inaugurated Atelier d’Antoine a few months ago, a place to experience watchmaking. Two different experiences are now available: Sound Maker and Iconic Reverso. We also just set up in our Heritage Gallery a temporary exhibition celebrating 90 years of Reverso, where a beautiful collection of vintage watches relates the history of our icon. We hope to be able to welcome you soon!
La Grande Maison celebrates an icon, the Reverso, by releasing the most complicated timepiece ever presented in this emblematic collection. The Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 is the result of over six years of development, combining key areas of savoir-faire at Jaeger-LeCoultre with innovative new astronomical indications. It is the world’s first wristwatch with four functioning display faces. By incorporating three displays of lunar information on the interior face of the iconic Reverso cradle (the synodic cycle, the draconic cycle and the anomalistic cycle), the Hybris Mechanica Quadriptyque can predict the next global incidence of astronomical events such as supermoons and eclipses — the world’s first wristwatch to provide such a deep reading of the cosmos.
Face 1: Hour-Minute, Tourbillon (indicating the Second), Instantaneous Perpetual Calendar, Grande Date, Day, Month, Leap Year and Night & Day
Face 2: Jumping Digital Hour, Minute and Minute Repeater
Face 3: Northern Hemisphere, Moon Phase, Draconic Lunar Cycle, Anomalistic Lunar Cycle, Month and Year
Face 4: Southern Hemisphere and Moon Phase
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