As Jaeger-LeCoultre’s artistic director for the past 28 years, Janek Deleskiewicz is the man responsible for dusting off the iconic Reverso watch for its 60th anniversary in 1991, and introducing complications into the stylish Art Deco case of one of the world’s most loved and recognised watches. The Reverso Tourbillon and the Reverso Répétition Minutes are some of his most famous designs, along with the Reverso Duetto dedicated to women.
Born on the west coast of France near La Rochelle to Polish parents, his early artistic temperament was reoriented to a more practical career path. Following a degree in technical studies he moved to Paris in 1977. Attracted to the vibrant design and art scene in 1970s’ Paris, Deleskiewicz soaked up the culture, helping organise exhibitions combining technology and the arts at important museums. Industrial design - a way of fusing his artistic talents and technological skills - began to fascinate Janek and led to him working on projects as far apart as designs for TGV high-speed trains and Citroën cars, to ski boots for Salomon and food packaging. Then, in 1987, he was invited to join Jaeger-LeCoultre as the Swiss watch brand’s artistic director.
Like the Reverso watch with its two faces, Deleskiewicz cultivates all the facets of his artistic personality. He enjoys jazz music - one of his favourite pieces is John Coltrane’s interpretation of My Favourite Things - Pop Art, playing his saxophone, and surfing - he has not yet given up on the idea of opening a surf museum.
How does an industrial engineer approach the microcosmic world of watchmaking? What were the advantages of your background?
The main advantage of my background was the experience I had on the technical side of design. I had no difficulty working with technicians and engineers - professions I also found at the Jaeger-LeCoultre manufacture. My experiences in Paris also helped me give my projects a more intellectual dimension.
The Reverso has grown in complications over the years. Without wanting to compete with the Duomètre à Grande Sonnerie, is there a limit to the amount of complications you can fit into the Reverso format?
No, there is no limit in any watch. The Reverso offers great possibilities. You can have a Reverso with one face, or two faces, such as the Reverso Duetto, and even three faces as with the Reverso Grande Complication à Triptyque. The Reverso represents the DNA of Jaeger-LeCoultre with its Art Deco aesthetic. It combines a classic design with a contemporary expression of its functions.
The Rendez-Vous collection for women is growing in complexity and beauty. Is this a line you will continue to cultivate? Following the Ivy Minute Repeater and Tourbillon, what kind of complications can we anticipate?
We launched the Rendez-Vous collection in 2012. This collection achieves a perfect blend of aesthetics and technical excellence. The key highlight of each model is that it is possible to ensure plenty of variety and to convey the different nuances of a personality. In some instances this may be a clever, user-friendly complication and, in others, an exquisitely delicate and subtle rare handcraft. We want to continue developing the Rendez-Vous line, maintaining a classic design and incorporating other concepts, such as the Rendez-Vous Ivy Minute Repeater featuring functions and complications of the Hybris Mechanica and Hybris Artistica collections.
How are women responding to complications?
Really well. To the point that we have a waiting list.
Which are your best-selling women’s watches?
Rendez-Vous and Reverso, equally.
The Reverso has two faces. We know your face as a designer, but which is your other face?
You were an artistic child, but encouraged to go to technical school. Would you give your children the same advice if they wanted to pursue an artistic career?
No. If they were really creative children, I would tell them to do what they like (photography, painting, music…) and to study in a business school to learn what they do not know. For instance, to learn how to express their ideas and sell them.
The biggest lesson I have learned as a designer is...
You have 20 minutes to vacate your home. Apart from your family and loved ones, what five objects would you take with you?
My saxophone, the book Lawrence of Arabia, my watches, my passport and my credit card.