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 Reverso Tribute Enamel Hokusai – The Waterfall at Yoshino portrays a notable scene from Japanese history, specifically an incident involving General Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159–1189). In a moment of retreat from his elder brother, who accused him of betrayal for allying with Emperor Go-Shirakawa, Yoshitsune took refuge in the mountains of Yoshino, now part of modern Nara Prefecture. There, he took a respite to wash his cherished horse. The artwork captures this moment with a dynamic visual style, using the vigorous contours of the waterfall to illustrate its powerful descent through a densely forested gorge. The illustration is metaphorically suggestive, likening the cascading water to an immense hand cradling the earth, its fingers unfurled, symbolically delving into the intricate interplay among nature, humanity, and animals.
The front dials of the Reverso Tribute Enamel Hokusai 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 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 Hokusai watches contribute to the legacy of the Reverso as a platform for artistic exploration and cultural appreciation.