By Maria Doulton
The arrival of the impressive flagship Jaeger-LeCoultre boutique in London firmly confirms Mayfair's status as a global destination for lovers of luxury watches.
To mark the occasion, the Maison held a housewarming party at its new store at 13 Old Bond Street and invited some of its most distinguished friends of the brand. Among the 150 or so in attendance was the serene Carmen Chaplin, actress, director and granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin, who features in the new advertising campaign and helped cut the opening ribbon.
In canary yellow silk trousers, the Puerto Rican model and photographer Astrid Muñoz Astrada also added her exotic glamour to the evening.
The world of polo was well represented thanks to the presence of the Argentine champion Eduardo Novillo Astrada, whose Latin good looks also light up the brand's new advertising campaign. British polo players George Meyrick and Luke Tomlinson also attended, as well as long-time brand ambassador of Jaeger-LeCoultre and polo player The Marchioness of Milford Haven and her husband.
Hosting the event was CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre, Daniel Riedo, alongside Zahra Kassim-Lakha, UK brand director, who in her welcoming speech said: "As a flagship in the UK, it has the Maison's largest collection throughout the world. Exceptional pieces will be showcased here at regular intervals giving you a reason to return again and again. Each visit you will discover something new about our timepieces, about our heritage, and about luxury watches in general."
The enduring beauty of Art Deco design - evident in the famous Reverso watches and Atmos clocks - is reflected in the interiors by British designer Tim Gosling. The sequence of light-filled spaces invites visitors to discover the rich universe of Jaeger-LeCoultre watches, with comfortable sofas in the Heritage Room and pleasingly cosy corners, including the private salon, in which to linger.
Formerly an artist's studio, the high ceilings and generous proportions lend themselves to telling the Jaeger-LeCoultre story in luxurious detail. Like the brand's new advertising campaign, the warm sycamore wood, textured walls and flow of the rooms encapsulate the watchmaker's rich history, technological prowess and mastery of crafts.
I particularly liked the period light fittings as well as the recessed plaster reliefs, of what I assume are the Jura Mountains, set above the dado rails of each room. The cool grandeur of the Swiss peaks is captured in this subtle play of light and plaster.
Watch fanatics can dive into the world of high complications with some of the Maison's most grandiose and elegant mechanical creations on display, and the Master Watchmaker in residence is on-hand to share his knowledge and reveal the mysteries of its miniature mechanical masterpieces - when he is not in his workshop repairing timepieces.
A wall is decorated with 60 of its 1,249 famous watch calibres and creates a screen between two areas, interspersed with framed prints of early Jaeger-LeCoultre advertising and grainy black and white photographs of the original manufacture.
Visitors can also discover delights such as watchmaking instruments developed by founder Antoine LeCoultre in the 19th century, rarely seen outside the House's museum in Switzerland. Meanwhile, historical pocket watches and clocks reveal the wealth of heritage that this legendary Swiss brand brings to its modern watchmaking.
For women, the selection of ladies' watches encompass the most exuberant, gem-laden, red-carpet-worthy timepieces as well as the more everyday Rendez-Vous models.
Famous for its Métiers Rares, craftsmen will offer demonstrations of exquisite skills such as miniature painting, enamelling, engraving and gem-setting. I was delighted to see an original 1933 Duoplan diamond watch on display - barely the size of a ladybird - as well as an original 101 watch, like the one Queen Elizabeth II wore on her Coronation.
But go and discover for yourself why the latest London destination devoted entirely to Jaeger-LeCoultre watches is a must for those who want to browse, discover and purchase the ultimate in horology.