For the world-famous Reverso watch, it’s time to take Manhattan. Its creator, the Swiss watchmaker maison Jaeger-LeCoultre, has chosen the Big Apple as the next stop on its global celebration tour of the 92-year-old watch, which began in Paris in 2021 and stopped in Seoul before hitting America’s most bustling East Coast metropolis.
The city’s most famous skyscrapers provide the perfect backdrop in tying with the timepiece’s Art Deco era origins. FashionNetwork.com spoke with Jaeger-LeCoultre’s CEO Catherine Rénier about The Reverso Stories’ latest stop to highlight its most prominent creation and the art of watchmaking.
A post-tour interview with Rénier in the 1931 café underscored a key part of the experience. The latest stop in New York, with its unique relationship to time, was a must on the exhibit tour, according to the CEO. In contrast to the post-pandemic empty retail space in Paris, this installation takes place at IRON23, a vast cast-iron building steps away from the infamous Triangle building, one of New York’s first skyscrapers and the 1909 gold street post clock and in the current Silicon Alley district further connecting the exhibit to the city’s innovative nature. The show also raises brand awareness on the eve of its new flagship boutique to open on Madison Avenue.
The watch’s innovative nature is what the executive attributes to its longevity.
“Its strong Art Deco design and Golden Ratio-inspired features have stood the test of time. Key milestones during the eighties and nineties, such as the dual face complication, renewed interest. Reverso has kept inspiring the maison. It gives us challenges and ideas to progress watchmaking complications. It’s a boulevard to keep going,” Rénier said.
She also noted that the watch has evolved to art piece status through design and innovation. Case in point, the exhibit features four limited-edition styles that bear recreations of 19th-century Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai’s paintings. The line-for-line copies demonstrate the acumen of Jaeger-LeCoultre master enamellers in the manufacture’s Métiers Rares atelier.
With each successive stop, the exhibit evolves according to its location. For instance, digital artist and researcher Dr. Yiyun Kang’s multimedia installation, Origin, an exploration of the Golden Ratio in nature, mathematics, and art, was commissioned by Jaeger-LeCoultre under its Made of Makers program.
While visiting the space is a no-brainer for old and new guard watch enthusiasts, Rénier says the aim is to attract a new audience. For a collector, coming here is a must.
“They will learn about one of the oldest watches with content offered at a technical level with a very detailed audiobook. We show the most complicated four-face watch with 13 patents,” she said, adding, “Beyond that, we want it to open to a broader audience to be very inclusive. People curious but don’t know about watchmaking can enjoy the discovery and appreciate the artistic dimension of the watches. We have movies to educate an audience that might not be as savvy about watchmaking. It’s a responsibility for us. You can appreciate wine, but that doesn’t mean you collect wine. For instance, you might take a wine class or visit a vineyard.”
Indeed, fanatic guests can sign up for a 90-minute educational watchmaking workshop focused on the Reverso for $120.
The appreciation of a watch as a cultural item beyond the craftsmanship is not lost on Rénier or the brand.
“Buying it for telling time is very last century; you don’t need it to tell time. Buying a watch is more like an art piece with an emotional relationship. It’s a purchase to mark a special time in your life; it’s timeless and reminds you it’s an investment like buying a painting,” she continued.
Press in attendance were given a guided tour through the historical and experiential exhibit by Jaeger-LeCoultre brand trainer Tiffany Wu. The watch specialist provided a detailed study of the presentation, which is divided into four segments: ‘Story of an Icon’, ‘Style and Design’, ‘Innovation’, and ‘Craftsmanship’. From the company’s beginnings in Switzerland’s Vallée de Joux to the watch’s origins in polo, to its tie-up to the Art Deco movement in its 1931 debut and to the many innovations’ iterations (and patents such as its swiveling case) throughout its 90-plus years to include the many other creatives that have become partners with the Swiss luxury brand.
Guests enjoying the exhibit can chat with Argentinian leather makers creating straps, glimpse historical photos and documents, view patented watch complications dissected individually, and witness some of the most outstanding pieces the brand has created. New styles for the New York stop include 2023 Reverso models launched at Watches and Wonders, a rare fine jewelry watch necklace, and two exceptional Reverso Tribute Enamel models launched in conjunction with the Reverso Stories exhibits.
“Even if they saw the exhibit in Paris, there is a lot to discover here,” confirmed Rénier.
Indeed, the four custom pastries inspired by the Golden Ratio and ingredients found in Vallée de Joux created by award-winning French pastry chef Nina Metayer offered at the onsite café are alone worth the time.
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