Jaeger-LeCoultre last year celebrated its 175th anniversary; almost two centuries that have established the Manufacture as one of the maisons at the forefront of technology and innovation. Looking back, how would the brand qualify this event? “It was an excellent year during which we were able to forge a bridge with the past, and bring our heritage to the fore,” commented CEO Jérôme Lambert, in Geneva for the latest Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH). “We have seen how, in many markets, a distinct awareness has grown of the breadth and diversity of our heritage. This anniversary provided us with a magnificent opportunity to convey the full scope of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s activities across the decades, through major events such as in China, Germany, Hong Kong and France. Having said that, the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 was a watershed moment. This has been a brake on business with inevitable repercussions on deliveries, the advantage being that we have been able to partly catch up on the backlog of recent years. This has helped alleviate the macroeconomic effects of the current slowdown.”
The Calibre 101 is 80 years old
The Manufacture’s projects for the coming year are no less ambitious for this, as Jérôme Lambert explained. “In November, we decided to develop our distribution business model. We will release additional resources for major marketing operations corresponding to deliveries of our models, and to propose a high quality of service. This year will also take us through the barrier of 30 own-name boutiques, with seven new points of sale in Buenos Aires, Beirut, Cannes, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, and two in China. The Jaeger-LeCoultre boutiques are a vital link in our distribution chain, in that we control our product offering from end to end, and with greater efficiency. This is the best selling point the brand can have.”
The “Grande Maison” certainly isn’t lacking the means to fuel its projects. While last year was a milestone in the company’s existence, 2009 will mark the 80th anniversary of its Calibre 101, still the smallest mechanical movement in the world. Alongside the models unveiled at the SIHH, which include the new Master Grande Tradition line, with a perpetual calendar Tourbillon and a Minute-Repeater with retrograde display, and the Master Compressor Diving Navy SEALs range, the Manufacture will, in Jérôme Lambert’s words, “develop the theme of the Calibre 101 over the coming months by highlighting the brand’s horological excellence.” Not forgetting jewellery watches, now “guests” at the festivities held for the Mostra film festival in Venice.
Master of complications
And so Jérôme Lambert concludes: “More than any other year, 2009 will be a year of choices. For Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre, this means concentrating on our primary qualities of creativity and innovation. This is a tendency we clearly observed at the SIHH. All the brands are returning to their core values; the very ones that allow them to distinguish themselves in this competitive arena. One of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s strengths is, without doubt, a complete command of complications. Hence our new Master Grande Tradition range, which combines technical prowess, particularly in the form of a new silicon escapement, with the brand’s cultural heritage. In an economic climate such as this, what matters most is to quickly take stock of the situation, hence the benefits of holding the SIHH in January, so as to gather the force and momentum needed to tackle reality.”