Diversity is not exactly the ﬁrst quality that comes to mind when one thinks about the Swiss luxury watch industry, but that was exactly what was on the cards when the Richemont Group overhauled its management two years ago. Notable among the many personnel movements: The appointment of Van Cleef & Arpels veteran Catherine Renier as the CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre. Renier took the reins at the Vallee de Joux manufacture last May, becoming the ﬁrst female CEO in the high-horology realm. Poised, concise and careful with her words, the Frenchwoman sat down with us during the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie watch fair in Geneva to share her biggest challenges at this hallowed house – and gender-related issues, mind you, are the last thing on her mind.
What has struck you most about Jaeger-LeCoultre since becoming its CEO a year ago?
The history of the maison (French for house) is very rich and goes back 186 years – there’s so much innovation and creativity. It’s a maison not only with a strong history but also a strong identity. What strikes me most is the collective spirit when you go to the manufacture and meet the people who share the same high level of passion and pride.
What are your plans for the brand?
We have a complete collection that was built through time. We have the iconic Reverso; classic feminine and masculine movements with the Rendez-Vous and the Master line, respectively; a sport-elegance collection with the Polaris; and, of course, our signature, the high complications such as the Gyrotourbillon. Now, we aim to enliven the high complications, which require years of development. We also want to make each of our collections very comprehensive and innovative – such as the new Rendez-Vous collection, which merges our watchmaking know-how with our gemsetting techniques, all done in-house.
Much has been made of the fact that you’re the ﬁrst female CEO to head an haute horlogerie company. What do you ﬁnd most challenging?
I think the fact that I’m a woman doesn’t bring more challenges. I don’t feel that way. The challenge is to explain, simply and clearly, how unique our maison is, in a very competitive environment. My time with this maison will be just a short one in comparison with its nearly 200-year history and the hundreds of years to come, so my role is to protect and develop – to talk about the past but always build for the future.
Many brands are streamlining their distribution networks. Is this the case for you?
Your distribution is always on the move. There is always a need to upgrade, renovate, relocate, to challenge yourself. As with products, it’s a work in progress – you constantly need to be at the top of what you can deliver to your clients in terms of image, service and location. So yes, we have work to do for our own boutiques as well as our multi-brand partners; we have to make sure we get the right visibility for our maison, and that we’re not just in a little corner here or a little space there.
You were based in Hong Kong before moving to Switzerland for Jaeger-LeCoultre. Which kind of environment do you prefer?
I enjoyed being based in Asia for 10 years. I appreciated the beauty of Hong Kong; the ocean, the hills and the hiking. I was in love with the dynamism of Central and the energy of the city. In Switzerland, I’m in love with the mountains – I’ve always skied – and the beauty of nature. The energy at our manufacture in the Vallee de Joux is as high, if not higher, than that in Asia then. And I’m still the same person: I want the beauty of my surroundings to be inspiring, and I want things to move.
JaegerLeCoultre CEO Catherine Renier.
TEXT LYNETTE KOH
01 THE GREEN OUTDOORS
Let these nature-themed timepieces inspire you to unleash your inner mountaineer. Montblanc really wants you to go out and reconnect with nature. This year’s theme of mountain exploration is expressed vividly in its 1858 collection — of the four new references, three sport new khaki-green dials and matching Nato straps. To augment this aura of adventure, the new models – which comprise the 1858 Automatic, 1858 Chronograph, 1858 Geosphere and 1858 Split Second Chronograph Limited Edition (a brand new watch and the only one with a black dial) – are cased in trendy bronze.
While all are brilliant examples of timepieces that will look fetching with hiking attire, Montblanc’s watch division MD Davide Cerrato believes the Geosphere is set to be the brand’s next big icon. It’s not hard to see why. The Geosphere is Montblanc’s creative take on the world-time complication, ﬁrst seen in the Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique Geospheres Vasco da Gama in 2015 and simpliﬁed in last year’s 1858 Geosphere with a black dial. It uses two separate hemispheres that each makes a full rotation every 24 hours. The northern hemisphere turns anticlockwise, while the southern one turns clockwise, and both are ringed by a scale with 24 time zones. As it is inspired by the Seven Summits challenge, small red dots mark the locations of the seven mountains on the globes.
The green-dialled models are limited to 1,858 pieces each, while 100 pieces of the 1858 Split Second Chronograph are available.
02 COLLECTING THE DOTS
Great design doesn’t need to come at exorbitant prices. Maurice Lacroix has been proving that by sweeping Red Dot Design Awards with its (relatively) affordable watches for years. This year’s prize winner is the Aikon Automatic Skeleton Manufacture, an unquestionably stylish 45mm open-worked ticker in a black PVD-coated case, with the Aikon collection’s signature six-arm bezel in alternating brushed and polished surfaces. It’s the ﬁrst Aikon to win an award, and given the pleasing architecture of the skeletonisation, we say it’s well-deserved. The watch was ﬁrst unveiled last year and only 250 pieces were made.
Length of warranty on Jaeger-LeCoultre’s clocks and watches under the newly launched Jaeger-LeCoultre Care programme.
03 COMMANDING THE PAST
Watch lovers aren’t done with the vintage look, so watchmakers aren’t done making them. Rado’s throwback to the 1960s comes in the form of its remade Captain Cook models, and it has just released its third edition, and the second one in the original 37mm size. The Captain Cook Automatic Limited Edition bears the same design codes of its historic predecessor, including the three seahorses stamped on the case back, diver-style rotating bezel, red date numerals, sword- and arrow-shaped hands, and creamy lume. But modern concessions – like an 80-hour power reserve, high-tech ceramic bezel, and water resistance of 100m – make it wearable today. It is limited to 1,962 pieces and comes in a leather carrying case packed with an additional Nato strap, a Milanese mesh bracelet and a strap-changing tool.
04 WHEELS OF TIME
If you consider Laurent Ferrier’s passion for motor sports, the fact that he released a sports watch isn’t too surprising, even if it is the ﬁrst among a stable of restrained dress watches. Ferrier and his eponymous brand’s co-founder Francois Servanin are both former racing drivers, and the Tourbillon Grand Sport is an extension of that shared affection. The thick, cushion-shaped bezel and barrel-shaped case are reminiscent of luxury sports watches from the ’70s (think Patek Philippe’s Nautilus and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak infused with Ferrier-style elegance) and its smoky taupe dial makes an excellent backdrop to orange lumeﬁlled hands — the same orange of the Porsche 935T Ferrier and Servanin once drove. It’s powered by the LF619.01 hand-wound calibre, the latest evolution of the brand’s original tourbillon movement conceived 10 years ago. Limited to 12 pieces with a matching taupe rubber strap.
TEXT CHARMIAN LEONG