By Laurie Kahle, August 23, 2013
Before he adopted the pseudonym Le Corbusier in 1920, the young Charles-Edouard Jeanneret’s studied as a sculptor and engraver at the School of Art in La Chaux-de-Fonds, a watchmaking capital and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Swiss Jura about five miles from the French border. The first watch ($53,200), which is named for the town, portrays one of Jeanneret’s early works with a bas-relief dial painstakingly constructed of mother-of-pearl marquetry. An artisan will devote seven days working on each dial, applying skills in sculpture, polishing and varnishing.
In 1920, a few years after moving to Paris, Jeanneret assumed the moniker Le Corbusier, which was derived from a family name. At the time, Modernism was sweeping the Paris art and design scene, and Le Corbusier embraced the movement with streamlined geometric forms in his architecture, painting, and even decorative arts. One 1929 collaboration yielded groundbreaking furniture designs built from an unprecedented combination of steel, tanned leather, and rawhide. Le Corbusier’s famous chaise longue inspired the Paris watch ($21,300), pairing a steel case with a cowhide strap and a hand-engraved metal dial evoking his Modulor anthropometric scale of proportion that was inspired by the human male figure, the Golden Ratio and his applied perception of light.
The third timepiece utilizes concrete for a dial referencing Le Corbusier’s postwar housing structure, the Cité Radieuse (Radiant City), in Marseille, France. One of his most significant buildings, the 12-story structure constructed from rough-case reinforced concrete housed 1,600 residents and established the design codes for Le Corbusier’s unités d’habitation that were built throughout France and in Berlin. The Modulor philosophy exhibited in these structures also guides the design of the Marseilles watch ($31,900) featuring an unprecedented concrete dial that requires three days to pour, dry and hand-finish.
Girard-Perregaux secured the rights to reproduce Le Corbusier designs in exchange for a donation to the Fondation Le Corbusier to help restore Villa Le Lac in Corseaux, Switzerland; and to the Association Maison Blanche for the ongoing preservation and maintenance of the Maison Jeanneret-Perret in La-Chaux-de-Fonds.