The artisans of the Grande Maison have been cultivating their expertise, faithfully devoting themselves to reinventing it, nurturing it with venerable techniques or introducing novel methods. Among the 40 professions exercised within the Manufacture, the talents of the Master Watchmaker are further enhanced by engraving, enamelling and gem-setting. These complementary Rare Handcrafts have been the major ornamental modes on watches since the 17th century, and are now perfectly mastered within the Jaeger-LeCoultre workshops.
Enamel miniature painting has great artistic value and a timeless aura due to the enduring stability of its colours. Enamelling is an art that requires absolute patience and the reproduction of a painting on a few square centimetres calls for weeks of work and concentration. Moreover, each firing involves the risk of annihilating all the work done up until that point.
The first traces of enamelled objects date from the 5th century BC around the Mediterranean area, particularly on the island of Cyprus and in Egypt. The technique of cloisonnéenamelling, which features enamelled segments separated by partitions, began to catch on from the 6th century onwards. Champlevé enameling is a method by which enamels are applied to a metal plate bearing raised ‘fields’ to which they fuse during the firing.
Circa 1890. Pocket watch – LeCoultre Calibre 19/20RMS is astrikingly realistic pocket watch bears the effigy of the Maharaja of Porbandar. The miniature enamel portrait shows a depth of field and brilliance that highlights every detail of the painting. The yellow gold case is artfully engraved and chased, featuring a rim of vibrantly coloured enamelled flowers.
1936 – Reverso with enamelled portrait of an Indian beauty – Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 410 is personalizedwith a portrait of an Indian woman whose story remains cloaked in mystery, this model dating from 1936 is a testament to the intrinsic beauty and durability of enamel.
Circa 1900. Enamelled Lépine-type pendant watch – Calibre LeCoultre 9HPV is a yellow gold pendantjewellery watch which features a ribbon-shaped mobile brooch, graced with a chased décor appearing beneath the translucent enamel. The finely crafted case decoration subtly combines the talents of the gem-setter, the engraver and the enameller.
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s master enameler Miklos Merczel says “I have founded the Atelier in 1996. Before that I was working as a watchmaker here at the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre. Several years I was alone, and now we see more and more younger people who get interested in this profession. The time needed to finish a piece varies from one day for enameling the multicolored dial of the Tourbillon World Map to one week for a miniature of a detailed painting or a design with swans that takes 160 hours of work. There is a difficulty in every step, and we learn with mistakes, reinventing and reinterpreting the techniques. The most enjoyable moment is when we get the result that we wished, even if it’s a simple piece.”