From fine jewellery to high watchmaking, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Lionel Favre is afont of expertise, experience and information. Earlier this year, we asked the creative force behind Jaeger-LeCoultre’s new Polaris collection about his design inspirations and vision for the future of the celebrated brand.
Hailing from a line of jewellery craftsmen, Lionel Favre spent the start of his career designing jewellery in Paris before taking over as Head of Design for Chopard in Switzerland. He moved to Roger Dubuis in 2009 after 12 years with Chopard and finally came to Jaeger-LeCoultre as Product Design Director in 2017.
You made the move from jewelry design to designing watches. How different are the two?
Jewelry and watchmaking are two fields that seem to be completely different, but are similar in many aspects. In watchmaking as in jewelry, we work on very small products, with precious materials. Like watches, jewels are made of extremely well achieved details. I truly think that having worked on jewels in the past trained my attention to detail, and this aspect is very important to designing Jaeger-LeCoultre watches.
The Industry today…
High-watchmaking has suffered a lot in the past, especially because of the financial crisis and the quartz revolution. But today, I am very confident about the future. More and more people are becoming aware about the excellence of the Swiss know-how, the decades of innovation, and the incredible research to reach the ultimate precision. Swiss manufactured watches such as Jaeger-LeCoultre have become iconic and timeless, for sure they have their best days ahead.
What is a watch, to you?
A watch is a concentration of know-how and emotion, especially Jaeger-LeCoultre watches. It is an accessory that can reveal the personality of the person who wears it. But as a designer, a watch is also a sculpture, an artwork, which is the result of a strong collaboration between watchmakers, engineers and designers, looking for the ideal style and the perfect reliability.
What is your design philosophy?
More than a philosophy, I have a guideline, an objective. I always want to have good harmony and a perfect balance on the watches I design. Each detail comes into resonance with other details. We must not think about components on their own, but we have to think about the watch as a whole, a combination of details.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
Everything can be a source of inspiration. According to the collection or the product we are working on, we will find inspiration in different places. Nature or architecture can be great sources of inspiration to find creative ideas. But sometimes, the feedback of an artisan explaining a technical challenge will guide the designers in the creation of a new timepiece.
Are you more of a 40mm or a 42mm person?
I personally prefer 40mm dials because I have a small wrist, and this size fits me better. Nevertheless, the size of the dial is not the main criteria when choosing a watch, it is more a question of taste and sought-after style. The position of the hours and minutes’ hands, as well as the position of the counters are very important to choose the right watch, with a harmonious dial. But in my opinion, the key criteria is the good ergonomy of the watch.
You took a classic watch from 1968 and designed an entire collection around it (Polaris)
There are many things that have guided us in the creation of this new collection. We wanted the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris collection to be made for active men, at once genteel and easy to read. The objective was to create a range of products wearable while skiing, diving, as well as working in an office. And from this ambition was born the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris, a unique combination of elegant design, technical movements, and sporty spirit.
Can you tell us a little more about the watches in the Polaris collection?
With the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox, we wanted to be very close to the original timepiece from 1968. We identified the key elements that made this watch an icon, to recreate an all new Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris. On the new 2018 watch, the design of the case has been totally reworked, the lugs are much more straight and sharp, the bezel has been redrawn, and the ergonomy and the finishing aspects have been improved. All these details, together, allowed us to keep the original spirit of the Polaris watch, despite launching a whole new collection – contemporary and sporty.
How difficult was it to design modern watches that maintained the vintage aesthetic of the original 1968 Memovox?
The most difficult part to create a modern watch from the 1968 Polaris Memovox drawings was to identify the strongest elements of the original watch, and to respect the initial design. These elements were key to not losing the original spirit of the iconic timepiece. We wanted to keep the clear readability of the oversized index, the large dial, the color contrasts with white numerals on a dark dial and the 42mm size, which made this watch iconic in 1968.
How do you maintain the balance between technical complexity and aesthetics in the watches?
Building complicated movements has always been the main commitment of the watchmakers of la Vallée de Joux. In the past decades our watchmakers have been able to create very exclusive movements combining an extreme precision, and a flawless aesthetic. As designers, we have to accompany the technical prowess and highlight the beauty of the complications. As Jaeger-LeCoultre is oriented on the watchmaking culture and the product itself, the design of the watches is focused on the elegance, the harmony and the readability of the piece.
The Gyrotourbillon is one of your most complicated watches. Can we expect to see more from the brand in terms of similar innovation?
Since the creation of the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre in 1833, the brand has always been devoted to the conception of complicated movements. Technical prowess and unexpected innovations are the key motivations of the watchmakers in the Vallée de Joux. As it is the DNA of Jaeger-LeCoultre, the brand will keep creating watches like the Gyrotourbillon, and continue its quest for absolute precision.
What are your views on complications in watches?
In my opinion, complications such as the Gyrotourbillon are really works of art. It takes a lot of creativity and ingenuity to build such complicated movements. It is a real strength for us to have this expertise, acquired and transmitted from generation to generation in the Swiss Jura.
Can you tell us a little about the evolution of the Reverso.
The Reverso is an icon of watchmaking. Created in 1931, the Reverso has been able go through time without ever becoming obsolete. We did a lot of sumptuous projects with this icon and some unique collaborations such as with Fagliano for the leather bracelets. We still have a lot of projects coming with Reverso Classic and Reverso Tribute, before celebrating its 90th birthday in 2021.
What do you think is the current trend for dial sizes?
As men’s watches, women’s watches are getting bigger and bigger, according to the demand. In my opinion, a nice feminine watch must not be too large. I believe that women interested in large dial watches will prefer buying men’s watches.
If you had to put together a wardrobe of Jaeger-LeCoultre watches for men and women, what would you recommend?
For men I would recommend a Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 Jubilee, a fine tribute to the inventiveness of Antoine LeCoultre, for the technical prowess, a Reverso Tribute Duoface Large for the iconic side, and a Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris, sporty and elegant, for daily wear. For women I would recommend a Rendez-Vous Celestial with a starry sky displayed on a precious dial, sumptuous feminine complication, a Reverso One Duetto Jewelry that exalts its Art Deco lines and precious refinement, and a 101 High Jewelry, a symbol of the combination of Jaeger-LeCoultre watchmaking expertise, and passion for glamour.
Diverse and exquisite, the range of watches from Jaeger leCoultre cover an entire spectrum of aesthetics and style. The brand with something truly for everyone, never ceases to delight and surprise. After this year’s Polaris collection, frankly, we can’t wait to see what is up JLC’s sleeve in 2019.