Jaeger-LeCoultre is one of the most versatile brands in the industry. They are a full-fledged manufacture with a variety of movements and families of watches. Perhaps best known for the iconic Reverso developed in 1931, Jaeger-LeCoultre has continued to expand their portfolio with watches such as the Railmaster, which may get a new life, and the Deep Sea, which was recently reissued. Most recently were the Duometre and the Rendezvoux for women. Leading the design charge now is Artistic and Design Director Janek Deleskiewicz. With over 250 years of history looming over his shoulder, he has a huge responsibility to caretake the brand. Longitude got the rare opportunity to take a peek into Deleskieewicz’s process. These are some of the most honest and interesting answers I’ve ever gotten in an interview.
What is your background?
The first interest in watchmaking came from my family, my grandparents and my father who liked watches and wore them in a very elegant way, British-style. Later on I did technical studies and worked with people that were interested in combining technology and arts. In the beginning, I worked for the car industry and in various agencies for different areas such as mass consumption, sports, art exhibitions for Paris Museums – Grand Palais, Centre Georges Pompidou. Industrial design interested me the most, as it is aimed at creating objects that make life easier and bring lots of pleasure.
Designing watches is such a niche area. Did you always know you wanted to design them? How did you get into it?
Our work is partly that of a designer and that of a stylist.
Contrary to the common idea, it’s a sector where invention, succession of styles has accelerated in recent years. No, I did not plan to be in this profession as it was not a profession that existed at the time! All the artistic development to the service of the watch industry is something relatively recent. Development and demand have increased in the last 20 years, and more so in 5-10 years. But imagine… 50% of products that we will consume next year, do not exist yet. The same for the images – almost 100% of them do not exist, as they come as a consequence of events that are not created yet. The same for products. I always wanted to be in an artistic profession, I was interested in drawing, creating objects in their volumes. I am more in an imaginary drawing rather than in the visual representation of reality. I am more in the imaginative – thinking of what could be a future product, and shaping a vision of the future objects.
Every brand has defining DNA. What is Jaeger-LeCoultre’s?
The DNA of Jaeger-LeCoultre is defined by the history of the brand with a strong influence of French, Parisian style and Swiss technique. The encounter between Edmond Jaeger, the great French watchmaker with an open-minded attitude toward innovation, and Jacques David LeCoultre, a man of a strong personality with a boundless passion for watchmaking, led to the creation of what were to become legendary models such as the Reverso and the Duoplan models. The knowledge of history helps us a lot to define future products.
How do you go about designing a watch? What’s your process?
The first thing is to understand the questions of our clients, their preoccupations, their way of life, their personalities, whether they are Europeans, Americans, Asians or from the Middle East, to listen to all their aspirations. Then, we try to convey that in terms of watch functions (GMT, chronographs…), we start from the mechanism, working on such aspects as precision, ergonomics, ease of use. And the final stage is to find a way to express all those elements through a watch case design, conceiving its architecture and volumes, graphics of the dial, taking into consideration its readability and user-friendliness. And throughout the whole process we keep in mind the personality of the client who would wear the object and for what reason.
Do you sketch, make a clay model?
We do a lot of sketches to visualize the future timepiece while shaping the idea. Then there is a creative committee and directors’ committee that defines, before we start the whole design process, what could be the product we are looking for.
What has been a specific inspiration for a model? Was it a TV show, a song, something in nature, someone you know, a fragrance?
It is all of it: We try to associate all the senses. When we look at a watch, we will inevitably sense its personality, it’s like a perfume, a pair of shoes – if they do not suit us, we do not want to buy them. The watch can be comfortable and precise, but if it does not correspond to the personality of the buyer, there is a very little chance for success. We are very much influenced by everything that is happening around us … For this reason, the watch design is linked to the technique, but also to a style – integrating the trends, glamor, psychological traits of a person.
How did that inspiration translate in the execution of that model?
When creating a sports model, for example, we tend to highlight the features resulted in the research for efficiency, in case of the AMVOX Chronograph, the function linked to the bezel; colors, graphics of the dial; but also the use of luminescent elements, the use of certain light materials such as titanium. For a more precious watch, we will use materials like gold or platinum, a more refined dial in terms of details and the graphics of indications. For ladies’ watches or even on some high-end highly demonstrative men’s watches, we will use diamonds or other precious materials, introduce rare and precious techniques that we master at Jaeger-LeCoultre – such as enameling, marquetry, engraving, lacquering, gem-setting. Anything is possible because at Jaeger-LeCoultre we have a chance to have answers to all design questions – for the fact that all watchmaking and artistic professions are under one roof at the manufacturing facilities in the Swiss region of Valley de Joux.
Has there been a wild idea that you wish had made it into a final design? What was it?
We did not have crazy ideas that have not been implemented! For example, a Reverso with its swiveling case is a crazy idea by itself. A movement that can be used on two sides – one movement with two dials – technically was close to impossible, and currently it has become almost our standard! Flying tourbillons that are linked to the rotation of the sky on the dials – it was unthinkable at the time, in such a miniature dimension. And yet it exists and keeps running!
What is your greatest professional triumph?
It is to have been able to contribute to the development of Jaeger-LeCoultre, together with all the directions, to continue and to bring back to life different watches that were references in their corresponding epochs, in the 20s, 60s, 80s, 2000, to introduce new models carrying on the spirit of invention of Jaeger-LeCoultre and sharing this spirit with younger generations of designers who will continue and transfer it… and I am convinced they are better than us!
What is your favorite watch design from another brand?
The only brand that has succeeded in making a design favored by a broad public is Rolex, I like their design of Yacht Master II.
Which watches have you worked on designing that are the most emblematic for you?
* Reverso Duo for men and Reverso Duetto for ladies. A watch that has two dials, two faces and one single movement… unique
* Duomètre line – a new watch, very modern and technical
* Rendez-Vous, a watch which has just been revealed, and we are at the very start of a new adventure