Inspired by Asia’s centuries-long artistic tradition of depicting the natural world, Jaeger-LeCoultre enriches the Rendez-Vous Sonatina ‘Peaceful Nature’ series with three new timepieces. An exquisitely feminine expression of time that celebrates both precision and artistry, the new trilogy unites Eastern and Western artistic traditions and links the richness of rare decorative crafts with the technical sophistication of high watchmaking.
As a joyful ode to nature and its special place in the Asian artistic tradition, the new Rendez-Vous Sonatina trilogy calls upon three of the decorative crafts that Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous Sonatina Peaceful Nature has so thoroughly mastered in its Métiers Rares (Rare Handcrafts) atelier: miniature-painting, lacquer work and gem setting.
The use of lacquer, with its incomparable translucence and rich lustre, draws on deep links between Asian craft and European style. An ancient craft, of which the first known examples date back to the end of the Neolithic period, urushi lacquer was first brought from Asia to the West in the 16th century. Highly prized for its precious appearance and exotic origins, it has had a profound impact on European art and taste ever since.
Plants and animals have always been highly symbolic in Asian cultures, imbued with special powers and attributes, and scenes from nature play an important role in Asian art history. Closely studying the correct forms and anatomy of plants and animals, artists have for centuries reproduced them in delicate and highly accurate detail. Nature-painting reached its apogee with “flower-and-bird pictures” (known as kachōga in Japan and Hwajohwa in Korea), although subjects were not limited only to flowers or birds, and those elements did not necessarily appear together. It is this tradition that Jaeger-LeCoultre’s designers and Métiers Rares artists have interpreted on the dials of the new timepieces, uniting the crafts of lacquer work, miniature-painting and gem-setting with consummate skill.
Against a background of deep blue-green lacquer, a crane (tsuru in Japan) hovers above a pine tree, the arc of its wings following the curving lines of the dial layout. Revered throughout Asia as an auspicious sign, the crane embodies happiness and a soaring spirit. Symbolising longevity because it was thought to live for 1,000 years, and being monogamous, it often appears in wedding décor, representing a long and peaceful life for the couple. The pine tree, as an evergreen, is also considered a symbol of longevity and virtue.
A golden-brown dial is adorned with the delicately painted branches of a red quince tree – also a symbol of longevity, renewed and rejuvenated by the reappearance of its blossom every spring. Amid its red blooms perches a kingfisher (hisui in Japan; cuiniao in China). A harbinger of summer, the kingfisher is a positive symbol in almost every cultural tradition, representing beauty and virtue, fidelity and devotion, faithfulness and happy marriage.
On the black dial, a vivid orange-coloured koi swims beneath the gently rippling surface of a pond, framed by the spreading branches of a willow tree – a symbol of spring and, thus, of romance and feminine charm. The delicate qualities of the willow are balanced by the strength of the koi – believed to confer strength of purpose, courage and perseverance in the face of adversity, bringing the rewards of success, abundance and good fortune.
Executed entirely by hand in the Jaeger-LeCoultre Métiers Rares atelier, each of these Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous Sonatina Peaceful Nature dial exquisite compositions has been brought to life by the artisan in a remarkable ballet of skill and precision over the course of many weeks. To begin, the artisan prepares an absolutely pristine dial surface, then starts the work of building up the gradient colour of the lacquer, layer by layer, to create a richly gleaming background. Only after the layers of lacquer have been fully hardened, can the painting begin.
First, guided only by eye and hand, the artistan applies miniscule dots of gold lacquer paint to imitate the effect of maki-e lacquer (a technique, perfected during the Japanese Edo period, of sprinkling gold powder or fragments of gold leaf onto wet lacquer to create a gradient effect). Next, in a manner similar to oil painting on canvas but on a microscopic scale, the detailed image is formed, one tiny brushstroke at a time – a process taking some 35–40 hours of painstaking and highly focused work. As a final touch, elements of each image are highlighted with tiny gold paillons (flakes), painstakingly applied. Lifelike in detail, with a remarkable sense of movement and visual depth, each of these miniature works of art is imbued with the artisan’s personality and passion, making all of them very subtly different. Finally, multiple layers of translucent lacquer are applied, to seal the completed painting in a lustrous and everlasting coat.
In its composition, the Rendez-Vous Sonatina dial is asymmetrical yet perfectly balanced, anchored by the collection’s signature Floral hands and numerals. The applied numerals, graduated in size, form a crescent that wraps around the delicate painting. A fine oval-shaped ring of diamonds runs beneath the applied numerals, drawing the eye to the painted image and complementing a glittering circle of grain set diamonds on the bezel. In the midst of each image, visible through an oval-shaped aperture, the Night & Day indicator completes one rotation every 24 hours in an endless dance of sun, moon and stars.
Set on the edge of the dial, a delicate golden star marks the time of a special rendezvous or meeting, which can be moved into position by a second crown set in the side of the case. When the time comes, a single strike on a gong concealed within the watch mechanism releases a melodious chime to remind the owner of her appointment.
This poetic and whimsical expression of femininity is brought to life by the technical sophistication of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Manufacture Calibre 735, a self-winding movement with a chiming complication and night-day indicator developed specially for the Sonatina. The elegant complexity and fine details of this mechanism is fully revealed by the transparent sapphire case-back.
To complete these watchmaking treasures, an alligator leather strap, complementing the dial colour and given a glowing, pearlised finish, is fastened to the wrist by a pink gold folding buckle.
As a joyful and refined expression of femininity, with exquisite dials complemented by highly sophisticated mechanisms, the Rendez-Vous Sonatina ‘Peaceful Nature’ series is testament to the remarkable skills of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Métiers Rares craftsmen in both technical execution and aesthetic expression. Perpetuating the cultural exchange between East and West that has been so important to the world of the arts for centuries, and limited to 10 examples of each watch, the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous Sonatina Peaceful Nature Rendez-Vous Sonatina timepieces are available exclusively from Jaeger-LeCoultre boutiques