Inspired by Asia’s centuries-long artistic tradition of depicting the natural world, Jaeger-LeCoultre enriches the Rendez-Vous Sonatina ‘Peaceful Nature’ series with three new timepieces. An exquisitely feminine expression of time that celebrates both precision and artistry, the new trilogy unites Eastern and Western artistic traditions and links the richness of rare decorative crafts with the technical sophistication of high watchmaking.
As a joyful ode to nature and its special place in the Asian artistic tradition, the new Rendez-Vous Sonatina trilogy calls upon three of the decorative crafts that Jaeger-LeCoultre has so thoroughly mastered in its Métiers Rares atelier: miniature-painting, lacquer work and gem-setting.
The use of lacquer, with its incomparable translucence and rich lustre, draws on deep links between Asian craft and European style. An ancient craft, of which the first known examples date back to the end of the Neolithic period, urushi lacquer was first brought from Asia to the West in the 16th century. Highly prized for its precious appearance and exotic origins, it has had a profound impact on European art and taste ever since.
Plants and animals have always been highly symbolic in Asian cultures, imbued with special powers and attributes, and scenes from nature play an important role in Asian art history. Closely studying the correct forms and anatomy of plants and animals, artists have for centuries reproduced them in delicate and highly accurate detail.
Nature painting reached its apogee with “flower-and-bird pictures” (known as kachōga in Japan and Hwajohwa in Korea), although subjects were not limited only to flowers or birds, and those elements did not necessarily appear together. It is this tradition that Jaeger-LeCoultre’s designers and Métiers Rares artists have interpreted on the dials of the new timepieces, uniting the crafts of lacquer work, miniature-painting and gem-setting with consummate skill.
Peaceful Nature—Crane: Against a background of deep blue-green lacquer, a crane (tsuru in Japan) hovers above a pine tree, the arc of its wings following the curving lines of the dial layout. Revered throughout Asia as an auspicious sign, the crane embodies happiness and a soaring spirit. Symbolising longevity because it was thought to live for 1,000 years, and being monogamous, it often appears in wedding décor, representing a long and peaceful life for the couple. The pine tree, as an evergreen, is also considered a symbol of longevity and virtue.
Peaceful Nature—Kingfisher: A golden-brown dial is adorned with the delicately painted branches of a red quince tree – also a symbol of longevity, renewed and rejuvenated by the reappearance of its blossom every spring. Amid its red blooms perches a kingfisher (hisui in Japan; cuiniao in China). A harbinger of summer, the kingfisher is a positive symbol in almost every cultural tradition, representing beauty and virtue, fidelity and devotion, faithfulness and happy marriage.
Peaceful Nature—Koi: On the black dial, a vivid orange-coloured koi swims beneath the gently rippling surface of a pond, framed by the spreading branches of a willow tree – a symbol of spring and, thus, of romance and feminine charm. The delicate qualities of the willow are balanced by the strength of the koi – believed to confer strength of purpose, courage and perseverance in the face of adversity, bringing the rewards of success, abundance and good fortune.
Executed entirely by hand in the Jaeger-LeCoultre Métiers Rares atelier, each of these dial exquisite compositions has been brought to life by the artisan in a remarkable ballet of skill and precision over the course of many weeks. To begin, the artisan prepares an absolutely pristine dial surface, then starts the work of building up the gradient colour of the lacquer, layer by layer, to create a richly gleaming background. Only after the layers of lacquer have been fully hardened, can the painting begin.
First, guided only by eye and hand, the artistan applies miniscule dots of gold lacquer paint to imitate the effect of maki-e lacquer (a technique, perfected during the Japanese Edo period, of sprinkling gold powder or fragments of gold leaf onto wet lacquer to create a gradient effect). Next, in a manner similar to oil painting on canvas but on a microscopic scale, the detailed image is formed, one tiny brushstroke at a time—a process taking some 35–40 hours of painstaking and highly focused work.
As a joyful and refined expression of femininity, with exquisite dials complemented by highly sophisticated mechanisms, the Rendez-Vous Sonatina ‘Peaceful Nature’ series is a testament to the remarkable skills of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Métiers Rares craftsmen in both technical execution and aesthetic expression.
Perpetuating the cultural exchange between East and West that has been so important to the world of the arts for centuries, and limited to 10 examples of each watch, the new Rendez-Vous Sonatina timepieces are available exclusively from Jaeger-LeCoultre boutiques.