In the heart of the Vallée de Joux, where watchmaking mastery meets artistic finesse, Jaeger-LeCoultre continues to weave a tale of cultural exchange and creative expression. The latest chapter in this ongoing narrative unfolds with the introduction of two new Reverso Tribute timepieces for 2023, paying homage to the iconic Japanese artist, Katsushika Hokusai.
Hokusai, a luminary of 19th-century Japan, redefined the ukiyo-e genre, expanding its scope beyond the hedonistic depictions of Edo’s merchant class to embrace landscapes, flora, and fauna. The two miniature-painted enamel reproductions featured on the Reverso Tribute models draw inspiration from Hokusai’s series, “A Tour of the Waterfalls of the Provinces,” created during his extensive travels around Japan from 1831 to 1833.
The first of the two masterpieces, “The Waterfall at Ono on the Kisokaido Road,” captures the majestic beauty of Nagano Prefecture. The composition emphasizes the power of falling water, with a Shinto shrine perched on a rocky promontory and travellers on a bridge below, awestruck by nature’s might. Hokusai’s animistic beliefs infuse the scene with a sense of life, as he believed remarkable phenomena signaled the presence of a kami or Shinto god.
The second painting, “The Waterfall Where Yoshitsune Washed his Horse at Yoshino in Yamato Province,” narrates a tale from the life of General Minamoto no Yoshitsune. The graphic composition expresses the waterfall’s force as it courses through a tree-lined valley, symbolizing the intricate relationship between nature, man, and animals.
The meticulous craftsmanship behind these timepieces is a testament to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s commitment to artistic excellence. Executed using the Geneva technique, each enamel case-back undergoes a meticulous process involving 14 layers of enamel, fired at 800°C, requiring 80 hours of meticulous work. The enameller faces the challenge of reproducing Hokusai’s original colors and details on a miniature scale, showcasing not only technical expertise but also a deep understanding of the artist’s intention and touch.
The simplicity of the front dials, with faceted appliqué hour-markers and Dauphine hands characteristic of Reverso Tribute timepieces, belies the complexity of their creation. Hand-guillochage of the dials, featuring classical barleycorn and lozenge patterns, adds an extra layer of craftsmanship. The translucent green enamel layers, applied in multiple stages, further elevate these timepieces, requiring weeks of meticulous work.
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