In the history of Japanese art, no other name looms larger than Katsushika Hokusai. Over a career spanning the late 18th and the first half of the 19th century, Hokusai created thousands of ukiyo-e paintings, sketches, and woodblock prints celebrating the serene natural beauty of Japan, including the single most globally recognizable piece of Japanese art, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.” With its extensive expertise in enamel work, Jaeger-LeCoultre is well-positioned to translate these intricate works of art to horology and has paid tribute to “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” with a limited-edition Reverso in 2018. For 2021, the brand aims to capture the artistry of Hokusai a second time, miniaturizing the delicate line work, intricate use of gradient color, and the quiet sense of majesty present in the artist’s 1831 print “Kirifuri Waterfall.” The new limited-edition Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Enamel Hokusai “Kirifuri Waterfall” pairs one of the brand’s most ornate enamel works to date with a bespoke complementary dial design, handsomely interpreting one of the great works of Japanese art for the wrist.
The 27.4mm by 45.5mm tonneau case design of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Enamel Hokusai “Kirifuri Waterfall” is pure classic Reverso. The Streamline Moderne form, with its signature short flowing lugs, distinctive grooves at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock, and its signature rotating central case assembly, is rendered here in bright white gold for an added luxury touch. While the view from the front of the rotating case is familiar, the rear becomes the focal point of this entire model. Here, the solid back is given over entirely to a hand-painted Grand Feu enamel rendition of Hokusai’s “Kirifuri Waterfall” print. Painted over 70 hours by Jaeger-LeCoultre’s master enameler, this painting required the invention of new proprietary enameling techniques to achieve the bokashi color gradient effect that helps to define Hokusai’s original. Another great challenge is the minute scale of the painting — while the original print measures 37cm by 24.5cm, the enamel painting is barely more than one-tenth the size, but preserves nearly every detail of the original artwork down to the intricate artist’s signature.
To accent this caseback artwork, the dial of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Enamel Hokusai “Kirifuri Waterfall” takes on a unique new look. Using the wave patterns beneath the falls in “Kirifuri Waterfall” as a reference, Jaeger-LeCoultre has devised a bespoke stylized guilloché wave pattern finish. According to the brand, each dial takes five hours of guilloché surfacing on an antique lathe, before multiple layers of translucent Grand Feu enamel are added. This translucent seafoam green tone and wave pattern give the Reverso a tranquil aquatic feel in initial images, which may or may not be to everyone’s taste. Outside of the new finish, there is little to differentiate this dial design from the standard Reverso, with the classic blend of dauphine hands, pointed beveled indices, and a prominent railroad minutes track.
Jaeger-LeCoultre powers the Reverso Tribute Enamel Hokusai “Kirifuri Waterfall” with its in-house Calibre 822 hand-wound movement. The Calibre 822 has long been a staple of the Reverso line and is beginning to show its age slightly with a middling 42-hour power reserve at a 21,600 bph beat rate. To complete the design, Jaeger-LeCoultre pairs the watch with a timeless black alligator leather strap.
While offering little in the way of mechanical novelty, the limited-edition Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Enamel Hokusai “Kirifuri Waterfall” is an intricate and astounding showcase of the brand’s enamel and guilloché capabilities and a loving homage to Japan’s most famous artist. Only 10 examples of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Enamel Hokusai “Kirifuri Waterfall” will be made. The watch is available now through authorized dealers at an MSRP of €80,000. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.