The Heritage Gallery extends across more than 500 m2 of the oldest buildings in the Manufacture, which used to house the LeCoultre farm in the early 19th century when the destiny of the Maison’s founder, Antoine LeCoultre, had yet to unfold. To afford visitors a real experience of the Brand, the gallery design is totally in harmony with Jaeger-LeCoultre’s aesthetic codes, with pure colours, understated pale furnishings, and light as a central feature. This area marks the starting point of the complete Manufacture tour that takes in the workshops.
An accompanying guide leads visitors on a journey through the wealth of the Maison’s Heritage, leaving plenty of opportunity for independent discovery, thanks to various interactive features. Right from the start, it is fun for visitors: they select a year on a touch screen – perhaps the year they were born – and get to see what was happening within the Brand that year. An image is projected onto a background symbolising a significant creative moment for Jaeger-LeCoultre, giving an insight into the Maison’s rich past and the breadth of its archives. Now visitors can step right into the story and have themselves photographed against this backdrop. The tour continues in this vein, and everyone will go home with some unique memories.
A very fluid experience, the tour leads into an elegant room bathed in light, with an airy curved staircase winding upwards in the middle. Here the Maison’s iconic pieces are on display, with modern-day creations basking in the glory of past masterpieces in a continuum that is purposely highlighted by three-panelled display cases. Atmos, Reverso, Geophysic – the Maison’s great icons are displayed in a setting that helps visitors understand how the current collections are legitimately descended from the rich legacy of the LeCoultre Maison and of Jaeger-LeCoultre.
By this stage visitors will not have failed to marvel at the magnificent wall of calibres, wrapping around the staircase like a precious cloak. The effect it creates, as you climb the stairs, is like stepping right inside the Maison’s DNA and feeling the heartbeat of its infinite inventiveness. There are 340 calibres on display, out of the 1,262 that have been built since the Brand’s beginnings – a number that tangibly and gracefully captures the creativity of all those who have worked under this roof since 1833.
Upstairs, in a more intimate and secret space tucked into the mezzanine under the building’s roof, the most exceptional pieces are laid bare. The uncommonly creative models from the Hybris Mechanica collection are set out in individual display cases. And to illustrate the wealth of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s artistic know-how, the Manufacture’s Rare Handcrafts “Métiers Rares” – gem-setting, enamelling, engraving and Fine Watchmaking – are shown off in a display of old pieces alongside contemporary designs.
Most watches that are restored here date from the late 1920s to the late 1980s, with some exceptional pieces even dating back to the 19th century. Restoration is carried out both to the movement and to the external parts of the watch. The challenge for the watchmakers is to get the movement back into working order and return the piece to its original appearance. If the components cannot be repaired or exchanged for stock items, the watchmakers will manufacture new ones using the original design drawings. It is a genuine made-to-measure service.
The tour ends on the gallery balcony, where visitors can view some watches on their own wrists, thanks to augmented reality. It is an exciting way to finish off this journey through the Maison’s past and present – both so inextricably linked – by taking a look towards the future. Exploring the Heritage Gallery, which serves as a window onto the Manufacture’s treasures, is an essential stage in getting to know Jaeger-LeCoultre. It anchors the visitor in a closer relationship with the Grande Maison and promises to be the first chapter of a wonderful story.