Jaeger-LeCoultre, the prestigious Swiss watch house that has been making watches for close to two centuries, has created the Rendez-Vous, a brand new watch family that for the first time ever, are just for women. Up until now women could chose from feminised versions of the men's ranges such as the Reverso Duetto or a lady's Compressor or Master Twinkling Diamond. So the arrival of the Rendez-vous presents a totally new phase in Jaeger-LeCoultre's relationship with women.
The beautifully detailed new collection of Rendez-Vous watches with automatic winding movements aims to delight with oodles of details to coo over. The first thing to note is that these watches are all round. Big deal, you might think. But if you consider that until now the rectangular Reverso has been their best seller with women, you can see that the Rendez-Vous signals a break with the past.
And being Jaeger-LeCoultre, nothing but the best mechanics will do for a watch, however tempting it might be just to admire the Rendez-Vous' glamorous looks, but underneath lies a mechanical marvel that echoes the quality of work and design that mark this watch.
The watch comes in several variants including with diamonds or even elaborately decorated dials as well as on a steel bracelet or a leather strap. There are two sizes to chose from: the 29 mm or a 34 mm and both work equally well on the wrist. For real 'horologistas' there is a tourbillon version that sits in a 39 mm case as well some elaborately enamelled and bejewelled special editions in 36 mm cases.
Hovering daintily between contemporary chic and retro appeal, the Art Deco lines of the Rendez-Vous have a timeless appeal. I tried on the larger sized model in rose gold and a single line of diamonds around the bezel. It's clear dial and subtle details such as the blued steel hands and swirling ArtDeco numerals all remind me of the strong house style and its pedigree is immediately evident in the quality of these details and the little golden sun and moon that indicate if it is day or night.
The inspiration behind this design comes from the first round movements by Jaeger-LeCoultre featuring an extremely small diameter, such as the LeCoultre Calibre 7HP created in the 1880s and which was found in enamelled, diamond-set and pearl-beaded watches, often worn around the neck. When in the 19th century the wristwatch first made its appearance they were often worn by women before being adopted by men who had long clung to their preference for the supposedly masculine elegance of pocket- watches. At that time, the sleeveless dresses of the Directory and Empire periods revealed women's arms and wrists, thereby encouraging jewellers to adorn them with a wealth of sparkling creations. Some even had the idea of incorporating a watch mechanism inside these exquisite models. And so the first wristwatches were born: individually commissioned, crafted, and exclusively destined to play a resolutely jewellery-oriented role. And with this antecedent, the Rendez-Vous takes on the mantle of adorning women's wrists.
Diane Kruger, a Jaeger-LeCoultre brand ambassador appears in the advertising campaign for the watch. This German actress has long been associated with the house and was in fact first given a Reverso as a teenager by her parents, a moment she treasures and has given her a special affection for this Swiss watch house with its ateliers in the remote Vallée de Joux. So rural is the location that cows roam in grassy fields near the manufacturing plant and staff pop out for a spot of ice skating during their lunch break in the winter or a swim in the summer.
So why did this 179 year old house, with over 1000 calibres to its credit, decide that now was the time to make a watch for the ladies, with a brand new smaller round automatic movement? "Well the 'Master Lady' or the 'Extreme Lady' just sounded silly," says Janek Deleskiewicz. "No seriously, we needed to have a style dedicated just to women and copying a man's watch is not the way to make a women's watch."
Rich in details on both the case and the dial, Deleskiewicz explains that designing a women's watch is a different game. "With men's watches, the layout of the dial and the decorations, such as the sandblasting, reflect the internal layout of the watch. With the Rendez-Vous, we have three different layers on the dial and three different sandblasted patterns that are purely aesthetic." Great care has been taken in the not just the shape of the case but its profile and finishes and the effect is a watch that does truly look like a lady's timepiece. "Like a woman," explains Deleskiewicz, "the watch has to look good from all angles."