While the history of Fine Watchmaking is studded with inventions and technical accomplishments, one of them in particular opened up whole new vistas for the entire field: Calibre 101. Created in 1929 in the workshops of the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre, this prodigious feat of micromechanical engineering has been a watchmaking icon for 80 years. 80 years of uninterrupted history, of consistent advancement and creativity. This year, Jaeger-LeCoultre has chosen the Venice Film Festival as the venue in which to celebrate the world’s smallest movement. Six very different and equally stunning watches commemorate this anniversary with a blend of grace and inspiration, treating the infinitely small to an infinitely broad variety of expressive variations.
1920-1930 : this momentously eventful period was distinguished by cultural and artistic effervescence, technical progress and social emancipation – especially for women. It was a time of profound upheavals. The watchmaking world was slowly but surely shifting from pocket-watches to wristwatches, while ladies’ watches were also taking off. Jaeger-Lecoultre’s 1924 introduction of its famous Duoplan movement was doubly significant:
from a technical standpoint, by proving that daintiness and precision are not incompatible; and aesthetically speaking, by freeing timepieces from their classic round shape. The worldwide success of the “baguette” watch is the most striking example of this breakthrough design trend.
Building on this feat, the Manufacture pursued its research into scaled-down mechanisms and succeeded in miniaturising the Duoplan movement without compromising its reliability.
This led to the birth in 1929 of Calibre 101, which was to become firmly acknowledged as the smallest mechanical movement ever made. Entirely in tune with feminine eclecticism, it lent itself to all manner of daring approaches, offering the in-house designers boundless ways of giving free rein to their creative instincts. Its jewellery versions have since then adorned the daintiest and noblest wrists, including that of Queen Elizabeth II of England at
her coronation in 1953.
Four generations later, this micromechanical marvel is still in the forefront of the watch industry, despite the fact that only fifty of them are produced each year. Only a handful of watchmakers fully master the sophisticated assembly process required for this paragon of horological precision. 98 parts housed within a mere 0.2cm3 and measuring only 3.4 mm thick; a balance oscillating at 21,600 vibrations per hour; and a total weight of barely one
gram: its vital statistics are a daunting challenge in themselves! Each calibre is unique, because each tailor-made and individually adjusted part matches only one movement. This brilliant mastery of the infinitely small nonetheless enjoys an incredibly wide range of expression through lending itself to all kinds of personal desires, treating itself to diamonds, playing with shapes and blossoming through a dazzling display of versatility – admirably illustrated in the commemorative models making their exclusive debut at the Venice Film Festival.
Whether contemporary or classic, the Haute Joaillerie 2009 models, which include a masculine interpretation, vie with each other in providing a stylish frame for Calibre 101. A slender profile outlined against a Reverso case; a round, rectangular or square dial revealing or concealing the mechanism; a range of noble and precious materials: each watch issued in limited series of three to five exudes its own personality and affirms its distinctive character.
Each of them carries the stellar watch mechanism and allows it to play the leading role on a sparkling “movie set”.
Joaillerie 101 1938
Embarking admirers a journey through time to the artistic wealth of the 1930s, this re-edition of a 1938 model features a streamlined case adorned with two rows of baguette-cut diamonds. The bracelet naturally extends the dial, while a geometrical frieze pattern meticulously engraved on the sides highlights its Art Deco profile. The hour and minute hands glide gracefully over a dial the exact size of the 101 movement, leaving in their wake a distinct sense that time has stood still to contemplate the graceful beauty of this horological work of art.
Joaillerie 101 Feuille
As if wafted on a gentle breeze, a leaf alights on the wrist and encircles it with radiant elegance. Its luxuriant and delicate lines enhanced by brilliant and baguette-cut diamonds conceal Calibre 101: the leaf-shaped cover can be raised to reveal the passing hours and minutes, and then closed again to help one forget time altogether. A full-fledged piece of jewellery in its own right, this re-edition of a 1959 model keeps jealous watch over its own “private domain” and tells a tale of moments drifting by like precious secrets.
Joaillerie 101 Nodo
Two gold ribbons adorned with baguette and brilliant-cut diamonds matching their smooth, supple texture are tied in a graceful bow over the dial.
Radiating a sense of vibrant movement evoking that of a rich fabric, this secret watch unites Haute Horlogerie and Haute Couture to truly striking effect. Inspired by a Jaeger-LeCoultre heritage model, it reconciles the angles of the case with the rounded curves of its face hidden beneath a bed of gemstones. Historical yet contemporary, daring and yet demure, it is nurtured by a set of fascinating paradoxes – very much in fact like women themselves!
Joaillerie 101 Résille
A bevy of blue and pink sapphires escort diamonds in magnifying the beauty of Calibre 101. The gems arranged in graded shades of colour express delicate artistry calling for a broad range of precious stones required to create such a flowing merge of hues, an effect further accentuated by the extreme suppleness of the watch gently embracing the wrist. Symbolising a blend of rigorous technical expertise and sensual aesthetics, it vividly
embodies the patience and talent of craftsmen at the peak of their art.
Grande Reverso 101 Art Déco, men’s and ladies’ models
When the infinitely small is given pride of place at the heart of one of the largest Reverso watches, the parade of time becomes an intriguing illusion. Enchantment pervades the transparent intricacies of a model in which Calibre 101 appears to be floating in mid-air. Time suspends its flight…
The trompe-l’oeil effect is based on a subtle feature generally reserved for Jaeger-LeCoultre’s skeletonised table clocks: fixed to an invisible sapphire crystal, the mechanism floats at the heart of the watch, without even being linked to the crown. The latter can even be removed from the case to serve as a winding tool by sliding it into the recess provided on the back of the movement in order to set the time.In the feminine interpretation, this fascinating stage-setting succumbs to the mysterious charm of a shimmering landscape composed of mother-of-pearl and diamonds. While rows of baguette-cut diamonds accentuate the Art Deco style of the model, the cradle is clothed in a dazzling fairytale radiance: nestling against each other according to the snow-setting technique, the stones completely conceal the underlying metal and form sparkling rays of frost between the swathes of mother-of-pearl.
The size of Calibre 101 is matched by the diminutive size of the snow-setting – a particularly impressive achievement considering the tiny gemstones measuring just 0.5 to 1.2 mm in diameter and the finesse of the gem-set surface.
In the men’s version, the scenario is played out in black and white. Onyx and mother-ofpearl provide Calibre 101 with a splendid geometrical backdrop framed on either side by the enamelled gadroons of the white gold case. The contrasting marquetry-worked décor pays vibrant tribute to the Art Deco movement, forcefully evoking the pure and regular linear shapes of that fascinating era. This eminently masculine model, illuminated by its mother-of-pearl flange, distils time in an aesthetic and technically rigorous manner that transforms illusion into glowing reality.
About Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre
Born of an invention, the Grande Maison has always been driven by the spirit of discovery; the need to create new, ever more accurate and more complex technical marvels. Year after year, knowledge and skills have been enriched, renewed and multiplied to serve the unique purpose of mastering the countless operations involved in manufacturing watch movements and cases – the fundamental prerequisite for rising to the most daunting technical challenges.
A major player in watchmaking history, Jaeger-LeCoultre has now celebrated its 175th anniversary. The Manufacture has an impressive range of world firsts, superlative creations and legendary models to its credit, including the Reverso, the Duoplan, the Master Control, the Memovox Polaris, the Gyrotourbillon I and the Atmos. In 2009, around 1000 people proficient in over 40 watchmaking professions and more than 20 cutting-edge technologies
continue to pay tribute to the pioneering ardour of the company founders by creating new masterpieces proudly perpetuating the grand horological tradition.
In 2010, as a further extension to the capacious premises now surrounding Antoine LeCoultre’s original atelier, Jaeger-LeCoultre will be inaugurating a new building providing 9,000m2 of additional workshop space.