Jaeger-LeCoultre Hybris Artistica – Master Gyrotourbillon I
Jaeger-LeCoultre. A watch manufacturer that is synonymous with watchmaking prowess, so much so that it is nicknamed “the watchmaker’s watchmaker”. Over the decades, thanks to its technical know-how, Jaeger-LeCoultre has brought to the horological world reliable tool watches, sleek dress pieces, as well as timepieces with mind-bending complications. But there’s another facet of watchmaking – one that is more aesthetic – where the Le Sentier brand really shines: Rare Handcrafts, or “Métiers Rares”. And this is where Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Hybris Artistica collection comes into play. First revealed in 2014, the Hybris Artistica collection showcases the talents of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s artisans and highlights ancestral techniques used in watchmaking artistry such as guilloche, enameling, and engraving.
Perhaps one of the most stunning pieces ever to have been given the Hybris Artistica makeover is the legendary Master Gyrotourbillon I. The Gyrotourbillon I hardly needs an introduction. It is one of the most important contemporary watches ever made, and even 16 years down the road since its debut, the watch is still considered a technical feat. Here, we take a good look at a breathtaking Hybris Artistica iteration of the Master Gyrotourbillon I.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The case of the Hybris Artistica Master Gyrotourbillon I is rendered in the noblest of metals: platinum. Measuring in at around 43 mm x 15 mm, its presence is undeniable – this is not a watch that you can slide under a dress cuff, nor should you. Despite its size, the simple design and polished finish of the case ensures that it appears as refined as possible. Jaeger-LeCoultre has also opted for a gem-set look, with the bezel, lugs and crown set with baguette diamonds. A total of 114 diamonds, weighing 6.7 carats, are used on each piece. It will not be to everyone’s liking, but if there ever was a good time to pave a watch with diamonds, it would be when you’re creating a Hybris Artistica showpiece.
The dial of the Hybris Artistica Master Gyrotourbillon I is nothing short of mesmerising. Using semi-precious stones and marquetry, the artisans at Jaeger-LeCoultre were able to impart a truly gorgeous geometric design onto the dial. The choice use of blue aventurine is a brilliant one, as its mineral inclusions sparkle, giving off the impression of a night sky filled with stars. Combined with the technique of marquetry, looking at the dial feels as if one is gazing at the night sky through the windows of a cathedral. There is nothing quite like it.
If you manage to get yourself unhypnotised from the sheer beauty of the dial, you will find that there are other displays on the dial. The most obvious one is the multi-axis tourbillon at the 6 o’clock position – the star of the show. Right next to it are the month display for the perpetual calendar on the left, and the power reserve display on the right. These are indicated by retrograde sword hands rendered in gold. At the 12 o’clock position is the time and equation of time display – the former is indicated by gold leaf hands while the latter, by a sun-tipped hand. Just beneath the time display is the date display for the perpetual calendar; it is also indicated by a retrograde hand.
Driving the Master Gyrotourbillon I is the 679-part, 118-jewel Calibre 177. With its two mainspring barrels, the movement boasts an impressive power reserve of 8 days even in the presence of numerous energy-hungry complications. Presented in 2004, the Calibre 177 became the first Jaeger-LeCoultre movement with a multi-axis tourbillon. The awe-inspiring mechanism had two carriages: the outer carriage rotates once every 60 seconds, while the inner carriage rotates once every 24 seconds. Within the inner carriage is the 14k gold balance wheel, balance spring, and the escapement of the Calibre 177. Thanks to its aluminium and titanium construction, the entire tourbillon mechanism, which comprises no fewer than 90 parts, weighs less than half a gram. Of course, the Calibre 177 is more than just the tourbillon. As we have covered earlier, it also features a perpetual calendar mechanism, an equation of time mechanism, and a retrograde power reserve indicator. The leap year indicator (also indicated by a retrograde hand) is placed behind the case since it is the least used of the calendar indications. For convenient leap year setting, Jaeger-LeCoultre have thoughtfully included a bonus month indicator next to it.
The architecture of the Calibre 177 is relatively open, giving the movement a pleasing depth effect. Many of the movement’s 679 parts can be seen through the sapphire crystal case back. As one would expect, the finissage is excellent – classic with an industrial aftertaste. The top surface of the bridges are adorned with Geneva waves, while the edges have been beveled and polished. The screw heads are black polished to a sheen and there is plenty of perlage to go around.
The Competitive Landscape
It is worth noting that the Master Gyrotourbillon I is a 16 year old watch. There may be more than a handful of multi-axis tourbillon watches today, but in 2004, they were an ultra-rarity. Only the likes of Franck Muller and Greubel Forsey could claim to have also done it back then. Thus, it is easy to see why the Master Gyrotourbillon I was (and continues to be) so revered by the watch community. The decision to give the Master Gyrotourbillon I the Hybris Artistica treatment should come to no surprise – the watch is, after all, a Jaeger-LeCoultre cult icon. The price of this masterpiece? SGD745,000.
Fast forward to 2019 and Jaeger-LeCoultre have unveiled the Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel, the fifth and latest addition to the Gyrotourbillon series, a legacy that began with the Master Gyrotourbillon I. The Gyrotourbillon 5 was the culmination of everything Jaeger-LeCoultre had learned in the years since the Gyrotourbillon I. The watch boasts a technically superior, miniaturised multi-axis tourbillon with a spherical hairspring. The remontoir within the movement enables the jumping minute feature and provision of a consistent level of power to the escapement. As if that’s not enough, Gyrotourbillon 5 is also equipped with a perpetual calendar and a Westminster chime minute repeater. This makes it one of Jaeger-LeCoultres most sophisticated timepieces, and at EUR800,000, one of it’s priciest too.
We also found the Breguet Marine Tourbillon Équation Marchante 5887 to be comparable to the Master Gyrotourbillon 1, perhaps more so than the Gyrotourbillon 5. Not only are both the pieces ornately decorated, they also share the same technical complications: the equation of time, perpetual calendar, power reserve, and tourbillon. The only difference is in the fact that the Breguet isn’t fitted with a multi-axis tourbillon. The platinum edition of the Marine Tourbillon Équation Marchante 5887 was priced at USD230,400 when it debuted in 2017.
The Hybris Artistica Master Gyrotourbillon I is a spectacular watch made even more spectacular. Sure, the aesthetics may not be to everyone’s taste, and yet one can’t help but admire the rare crafts involved in creating its one-of-a-kind dial. The watch may be 16 years old now, but it is just as relevant today as it was the day it was introduced, perhaps even more so, because now it has become one of the brand’s most iconic and collectible creations.