The fifth work in the series of Atmos clocks created in tribute to Gustav Klimt is inspired by The Waiting, part of the artist’s famous frieze adorning Stoclet House, a mansion built by a Brussels banker. The original marble and coloured stone mosaic has been faithfully rendered by a meticulous marquetry motif covering the glass crystal cabinet. This exceptional model, which will be produced in a strictly limited 10-piece edition, combines the skills of the artistic crafts cultivated by the Manufacture with the fascination exercised by the Atmos clock. The latter’s apparently mysterious operation has for 80 years symbolised one of the most amazing and successful attempts to invent perpetual motion.
A marquetry masterpiece
Since 2008, Jaeger-LeCoultre has undertaken to pay homage to Gustav Klimt, who made an indelible imprint on Art Nouveau, an artistic movement that celebrated freedom and was determined to break free from the straightjacket of academic classicism. This approach superbly expressed through the work of the Austrian artist makes his creations as fascinating in 2013 as they were at the turn of the 20th century. Quite naturally, the talent of one of the rare masters of his art to have been awarded the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Craftsman of France) was indispensable in attempting to transpose such a work into marquetry, which involved conveying the subtle nuances of the frieze by means of more than 1,400 meticulously fashioned wooden elements. The latter stem from 35 precious wood varieties, of which the list mof names is a journey in itself: camassari boxwood, paolo amarelo, Andes boxwood, Ceylon lemonwood, madrona burl, tulipwood, walnut, amboyna burl… Each part reveals a miniature world of its own and is incorporated within an overall vision faithfully inspired by the original. Hundreds of hours of work have been lavished on completing this masterpiece.
Moreover, however splendid this object may seem when it sits enthroned on a chest or a cabinet, it also harbours a surprise concealed within the décor – in the form of a button that may be pressed to slide open the wooden outer case in order to reveal a clock with an ethereally light movement housed inside an inner glass crystal cabinet.
Another prodigious creation thus emerges in all its splendour: the Atmos with its mechanism comprising wheels turning at a majestically sedate pace. The regulator-type clock face features a large mother-of-pearl coated dial for the minutes, graced with five-minute markers composed of petrified wood, apart from the 60-minute one that takes the form of a cushion-cut yellow sapphire. On the smaller chapter ring, the hour-markers are also made from petrified wood. Below it, a narrow circle bears the graduated 24-hour scale, while the month indication appears around the circumference of the moon-phase display. Amid a firmament studded with sparkling diamonds, the radiance of the night star is expressed by a golden-toned moon set against a petrified wood backdrop. The magic of marquetry is thus reflected in the materials used to adorn the face of the clock. While the perfect mastery of the Rare Crafts meticulously cultivated by the Manufacture is impressive in itself, it is ideally matched by the horological feats embodied in the mechanism of the Atmos clock.
Having attempted in vain to grasp the elusive mystery of the Atmos, entranced observers may then naturally choose to close the marquetry cabinet once again, in order to immerse themselves in the universe of The Waiting. This very gesture ingeniously winds the sprung mechanism that will facilitate the next opening.
A mechanism released from the grip of time
At this point, a brief theoretical summary is doubtless required to reveal the secret of Jaeger- LeCoultre Calibre 582, a movement that was environment-friendly before the term even existed. Developed 80 years ago and consistently perfected ever since, the mechanism of the Atmos is based on a construction principle that is still as revolutionary as ever – since tiny fluctuations in temperature alone are enough to supply its movement with energy. The balance is a subtle one, and a single-degree difference within the range of 15 to 30°C is enough to keep the Atmos running for 48 hours. While the phenomenon is entrancing, the explanation behind is quite simple, as with all brilliant inventions: the beating heart of the system is composed of a gaseous mixture contained within a capsule that dilates or contracts in step with temperature differences, much like the bellows of an accordion. Each of its movement supplies power to a mainspring that in turn delivers its force to an extremely sparing horological mechanism of which the balance performs just two oscillations per minute – around 150 times less than the customary rate of a wristwatch.
The Atmos thus makes light of the passing of time. Its mechanical principle, which embodies an extraordinary technical and poetic approach to perpetual motion, lives on the alternation between daytime warmth and the cool of the night, as well as the rhythm of the seasons. Despite – or specifically because of – its innate simplicity combined with one of the noblest Rare Crafts, it remains an enduring enigma. This inherent paradox is the gift traditionally presented by the Swiss Federal Government to its most eminent guests. Driven by its almost perpetual movement, it imperturbably reminds them that history will be the sole judge of the significance of their actions. Like the work of Gustav Klimt, Atmos already belongs to the universal cultural heritage.