The Art of Dazzling Precision: Jaeger-LeCoultre Snowdrop and Bangle
Originally conceived and developed for jewellery watches and introduced in 1929 by La Grande Maison, Calibre 101 revolutionised feminine watchmaking – its minuscule size and baguette shape offering new realms of aesthetic freedom to designers. Developed half a century before the advent of computer-aided design and production technology, Calibre 101 is a remarkable feat of miniaturisation. At 14mm long, less than 5mm wide and weighing barely one gram, the tiny, hand-wound calibre remains the smallest mechanical movement in the world. It is also one of the world’s oldest movements that continues to be in production.
Recently, Jaeger-LeCoultre has released two new high-jewelry watches, featuring the mechanical Calibre 101, Snowdrop and its first Bangle watch. These elegant high-jewelry watches are a testament to the craftsmanship of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s highly-skilled artisans. The first of its two releases, the Snowdrop, draws inspiration from snowdrop flowers, which grow through thin layers of snow in Switzerland. The tiny dial is surrounded by pear-shaped diamonds that form a flower motif, and more pear- and brilliant-cut diamonds radiate from the centre of the flower and cover the entire bracelet.
Requiring 130 hours of work, expert gem setters had to carefully set the diamonds in a griffe setting, which minimizes the appearance of metal, allowing more light to pass through so the diamonds appear even more brilliant. Even the sides of the bracelet have diamonds: There are two bands of gold, each set with diamonds using the grain-setting technique.
In a showcase of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s innovation, its second release, Bangle, will be the first high-jewelry watch featuring a bangle design. It took quite a long time to develop the shape, including a study on opening and closing it, which is achieved with a simple twist. The design is audacious and inspired by the Art Deco movement that reigned when Calibre 101 was created. It is set with 966 diamonds, totalling nearly 20 carats, in various sizes, which draws your sight to gaze in admiration along the lines of the bangle.
This is not something that anyone can do. There is a reason why Jaeger-LeCoultre doesn’t release new high-jewelry watches featuring Calibre 101 every year. It takes 12-18 months from the initial drawing to the final product, and the production of the caliber is extremely challenging. Not to mention that they are only a few artisans in this world who can assemble this tiny movement, which requires exceptional skill and precision.
The CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre, Catherine Rénier believes that although most women would be drawn by the beauty of the jewels, they will also be able to appreciate the beauty of the movement inside, “It’s a beautiful diamond watch, and it has this unique historical tribute to a caliber that remains very differentiated from the rest of the existing mechanical calibers. When you pick this piece, I think you also choose it for the heritage and the story behind the creation of this caliber, and how it mapped out the relationship between women and jewelry watches throughout the century. I believe the ladies interested in this piece are, of course, highly educated in jewelry, and they appreciate history and craftsmanship in watchmaking.”