Since its inception, Jaeger-LeCoultre has been inspired by Asian art, incorporating Eastern motifs and techniques into its luxury timepieces as part of a centuries-old cultural dialogue between Asia and Europe. In 2023, the brand celebrates this heritage with two new Reverso Tribute watches, featuring enamel miniatures of renowned works by Katsushika Hokusai, a pivotal figure in Japan’s ukiyo-e art movement of the 19th century. Hokusai is known for broadening ukiyo-e beyond its previous focus on the pleasures of the merchant class, incorporating themes from nature.
The specific artworks selected for the 2023 Reverso models—The Waterfall at Ono on the Kisokaido Road and The Waterfall Where Yoshitsune Washed his Horse at Yoshino—are part of Hokusai’s series A Tour of the Waterfalls of the Provinces, conceived during his travels through Honshu. These pieces follow previous Reverso models celebrating other works from the same series in 2021 and 2022, reflecting both Hokusai’s and Jaeger-LeCoultre’s deep connection with the natural world. Hokusai’s oeuvre, which includes the influential Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, was instrumental in shaping Western perspectives on Japanese art through the woodblock print medium.
The Waterfall at Ono depicts a powerful scene of nature’s majesty in Nagano Prefecture, highlighting the spiritual significance of natural wonders in Japanese culture, a sentiment captured in the meticulous craftsmanship of the Reverso timepieces. The Geneva technique used to reproduce Hokusai’s paintings on the watch case-backs involves a labor-intensive process with numerous layers of enamel, each layer fired at high temperatures, demanding extreme precision and artistry to achieve a miniature yet faithful and emotionally resonant representation of the original artworks.
The front dials of these watches contrast with the elaborate art on the reverse, featuring a clean design with faceted markers, Dauphine hands, and a chemin-de-fer minute track typical of the Reverso Tribute series. Yet, the dials themselves are the result of complex artisanal techniques. The guilloché patterns—barleycorn for The Waterfall at Ono and a dense lozenge for The Waterfall at Yoshino—require hours of exacting manual work, followed by multiple applications of translucent green enamel, each demanding separate firings.
These timepieces exemplify the union of art and horology, embodying Jaeger-LeCoultre’s commitment to artistic expression and showcasing the skills of its Métiers Rares™ atelier. The 2023 Reverso Tribute Enamel watches contribute to the legacy of the Reverso as a platform for artistic exploration and cultural appreciation.