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Jaeger-LeCoultre - A book of revelation

Jaeger-LeCoultre A book of revelation

With their new Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque, Jaeger-LeCoultre celebrates 90 years of the Reverso, telling the story of celestial and terrestrial time in four chapters

Causality is a tricky thing to determine. If you were to say that the seeds of the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque were planted half a millennium ago by the heretical musings of an Augustinian monk in Saxon Germany, that might be difficult for some people to comprehend. It is a fact, however, that these heretical musings, otherwise known as Martin Luther’s Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum of 1517, precipitated the Protestant reformation, leading to the French Wars of Religion (1562–1598), which drove French Protestant tradesmen and skilled workers to settle in exile in the Swiss Jura. Among those fleeing religious persecution were the LeCoultre family, who founded the village of Le Sentier in the Vallée de Joux. In 1803, Antoine LeCoultre was born; 30 years later he and his son Elie founded a watchmaking atelier on the southwest bank of the Lac de Joux. His spirit of perseverance and innovation are the touchstones of watchmaking at the manufacture we now know as Jaeger-LeCoultre, touchstones that are perhaps best exemplified through the Hybris Mechanica timepieces.

A book of revelation

Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 © Jaeger-LeCoultre

It takes a kind of divine perspective to extract the threads of this story from centuries of European history, or at least a sense of presumption (some might say a hubristic sense of presumption) to think that your interpretation of the causal link between 16th century religious/political history and 21st-century watchmaking is the correct one. But it is an entirely appropriate attitude with which to approach the Hybris Mechanica pieces of Jaeger-LeCoultre. After all, it takes ambition to understand ambition.

The Hybris Mechanica family of timepieces from Jaeger-LeCoultre was established in 2003, with the Atmos Mystérieuse, and rapidly expanded to include other groundbreaking explorations of horology such as the Master Gyrotourbillon 1 (2004), the Reverso Grande Complication à Triptyque (2006) and the Master Compressor Extreme Lab (2007). More recently, the Master Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon (2014) and the Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel (2019) have introduced new standards of watchmaking virtuosity. In context of the 21st century (and you could even make the argument to expand the parameters of this statement to include most of the 20th century too), there is no other sustained exercise of modern horology that has done as much as the Hybris Mechanica project to further the horizons of mechanical watchmaking.

Did you say quadriptyque?

The 16th timepiece in the Hybris Mechanica family, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque was presented at Watches And Wonders 2021: the most complicated and wearable Reverso ever made, the first wristwatch to present four faces of timekeeping display, and the first wristwatch to unite indications of the synodic, draconic and anomalistic lunar cycle.

Given the unique design of the emblematic Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, there are four surfaces upon which it is possible to display information – the two faces (recto and verso) of the reversible case, and the two sides (interior and exterior) of the cradle. The Reverso Grande Complication à Triptyque (2006) utilised three of these surfaces, hence the name, and this year’s Quadriptyque, with 11 functions contained in a space measuring 51mm by 31mm by 15mm, fulfils the ultimate promise of the versatile Reverso by utilising all four surfaces.

A book of revelation

Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 © Jaeger-LeCoultre

The recto face of the Quadriptyque indicates the hours and minutes (by hands), with a perpetual calendar and a one-minute flying tourbillon, opening this tour de force of haute horlogerie with a chapter that’s all about La Grande Maison’s expertise in traditionally prestigious mechanisms. Although the executions of both the perpetual calendar and the flying tourbillon appear quite standard, a closer study reveals that both these mechanisms have been reengineered to be as compact as possible.

More than muscial prowess

On the verso face of the Quadriptyque, the musical prowess of Jaeger-LeCoultre takes centre stage. A second time display, this time using jumping hours and peripheral minutes, is surrounded by the exposed components of a minute repeater. This is only the third execution of a minute repeater in a Reverso case, the previous two being the Reverso Répétition Minutes (1994) and the Reverso Répétition Minutes à Rideau (2011). Apart from showcasing all the well-known chiming innovations of Jaeger-LeCoultre such as the silent strike governor, the crystal gongs, square gong cross-sections and trebuchet hammers, the Quadriptyque features an all-new minute repeater innovation. Although Jaeger-LeCoultre has previously created minute repeaters that reduce the gaps of silence between hour-chimes, quarter-chimes and minute-chimes, the Quadriptyque eliminates them entirely, producing a seamless, fluid chime.

A book of revelation

Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 © Jaeger-LeCoultre

The third chapter of the Quadriptyque, written on the interior face of the Reverso cradle, takes us into the cosmic realm of astronomical complication. For the first time in a wristwatch, displays of the synodic, draconic, and anomalistic lunar cycles are united. While most of us are familiar with the display of the synodic cycle – indicating the different phases of the moon – the draconic and anomalistic cycles are less well known. The draconic cycle tells us when the path of the Moon around the Earth intersects with the ecliptic (the Earth’s plane of orbit around the Sun). When one of these intersections occurs while the Moon is either in a full or new phase, an eclipse event is taking place on Earth. Combining the readings of both the synodic and draconic cycle therefore allows us to predict an eclipse. The anomalistic cycle display shows us the eccentric path of the Moon around the Earth, identifying the points at which the Moon is furthest from the Earth (known as apogee) and when it is nearest (known as perigee). When looking at the synodic and anomalistic displays together, we can predict when the phenomenon known as a “supermoon” will occur. This happens when the Moon is in its full phase, near or at perigee, and results in a Moon that appears almost 14% larger in the night sky.

Across space and time

The last chapter of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque is an epilogue, showing the phases of the Moon in the Southern Hemisphere on the exterior face of the watch cradle. Most watches that indicate the lunar cycle restrict themselves to Northern Hemisphere displays, and this final indication is emblematic not only of the Reverso philosophy (showing the other, unseen side of things) but also of the Hybris Mechanica ethos. When 99 percent of voices are all saying one thing, the 1 percent that constitutes a different perspective can reverberate across space and time.

A book of revelation

Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 © Jaeger-LeCoultre

Which brings us back to the idea proposed in the first paragraph of this article, an idea that connects the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque to the origins of a world-changing Reformation, an idea that we can stand by. History is made by those who stand by their beliefs despite being in the vast minority – as Martin Luther did when he nailed his revolutionary theses to the Wittenberg church door, as Jaeger-LeCoultre do every time they release a new Hybris Mechanica as a statement of excellence and progress. One pushed against the constraints of outdated, ossified doctrine; the other continues to redefine the limits of what we think we know about mechanical watchmaking. Challenge begets challenge. Thus do we expand our horological heaven.

 

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