For eight years, Jaeger-LeCoultre and famed commercial and architectural designer Marc Newson have worked together on multiple collaborations revolving around the famed Atmos watch – the clock that “lives on air.” Now the duo announces the newest fruit of their combined labor: Atmos 568 Marc Newson. The new and unique rendition may well be the most impressive embodiment of both “brands” to date.
With a decidedly Newson spirit, the new design is startlingly open and pure when it comes to a contemporary appeal. However, it also has an incredible blend of heritage and technical virtuosity that emanate from Jaeger-LeCoultre, and also from the material that forms the outer crystal globe: Baccarat.
Now, before I launch into a close up look at the clock, I have to admit right up front, I am somewhat partial to Marc Newson and his designs. I actually had the distinct pleasure of working with him a few decades ago when he designed the well-known Ikepod watch brand with monocase that was revolutionary for its time. He has since gone on to design everything from additional watches to clocks, furniture and more – but all with his distinct avant-garde and individualistic approach to design.
“I was thrilled to have been asked to design an Atmos because it is a timepiece that I have loved since I first saw one when I was in my early teens. An Atmos for me is a complex and magical object, it seemingly runs on perpetual motion or the closest thing to it and it needs a constant environment to function in,” says Newson. “It is as if it is a living thing – you have the feeling that it can sense your presence – which I find strangely comforting.”
The Atmos, invented in 1928, has remained an icon in time. It runs constantly thanks to a mix of gases hermetically sealed inside a capsule. The gases expand (and therefore swell the bellows of the accordion) when the temperatures rise, and contract when they fall. Just a single degree of temperature change provides the clock with enough energy to run for two days. The gear trains require no oil — allowing for a stunning autonomy that is unparalleled in today’s timekeeping world.
For Newson, the uniqueness of the Atmos is alluring. Virtually silent, always moving and breathing, the clock begs to be interpreted in a light, transparent simplicity. To accomplish his goal, Newson redesigned most of the visible pieces, including hands, dial, case and counterbalance. In fact, the mechanism of the perpetual calendar clock seems to float in air when viewed from the front. The back view shows that the mechanism is actually held in place at four different points (rather than at three points as in typical Atmos clocks) that offer symmetric beauty. Newson likens the look to a ship within a bottle – fully and majestically finished in an outer case that showcases it regally. It should be noted, though, that the front door of the cabinet opens and is removable to make adjustments, when needed, easier.
In order to render the new crystal clock clearly readable, Newson turned to one of his favorite colors, and a historically rich hue for the brand: blue. The Arabic numerals and distinct minute circle are transferred onto the glass dial in bold blue. The marker that indicates the month is actually part of the transparent dial and the entire cycle of the moon’s phases is displayed using a white moon and blue sky.
Certain elements of the movement of the clock have also been slightly redesigned by Newson, so that the membrane bridge is now in a cross shape to showcase the bellows in all their beauty. There is also a newly designed balance wheel that features grooves with matte tooth surfaces and shiny hollows to create a mesmerizing pattern as it rotates. This is one of Newson’s signature approaches: all of the moving parts must have something more detailed to showcase other than just movement. He is, and always has been, fond of using contrasting matt and polish surfaces to add depth, dimension and a bit of reality to his designs.
Says Newson, “I asked myself: to what extent could I express myself within that object? And that, in fact, was the real challenge. … Despite the careful consideration for designing the interior elements, the “wow factor” of this clock is the Baccarat crystal case with its rounded cube shape. However the case was extremely complex to fabricate, there was an enormous amount of work and development required to perfect the shape.”
Designed as a rounded cube — a modern form that follows Newson’s love of softened corners and fluid appeal – the outer cabinet has been finely and expertly milled so that in certain places the crystal is no more than 13mm in thickness. This thinness allows light to more easily stream over the clock, offering light from all directions and almost offering a magnified effect of the clock for a dramatic appeal. The base of the cabinet is naturally thicker, designed to hold the clock confidently.
“ Good design has always been about creating objects that have stood the test of time…that don’t date…that have a sense of quality and timelessness. This has not changed – especially as now it feels like we live in a disposable age. With objects like the Atmos, they are not disposable but valuable, they are objects that people will form unique emotional connections with and will become part of their lives. … The new Atmos is a product, which is, I hope, both modern [and yet] communicates the values of Jaeger-LeCoultre. It is very important for me to respect and integrate the DNA associated with the brand I am working with; this needs to come through in the design. It is not about re-inventing the wheel but respecting the DNA of the brand. There had to be a certain character, something about the new Atmos to make it different, to appeal to a new audience. “
Naturally, the clock carries both brand names. While the clock name is in the chosen blue, Newson’s signature graces the dial in his trademark orange. The clock — which retails for $28,000 — will be a highlight at the 2017 Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie.
Technical Specs: Atmos 568 by Marc Newson
MOVEMENT: mechanical, virtually perpetual, Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 568, manufactured and assembled by hand; 211 parts; annular balance wheel, oscillation period of 60 seconds
FUNCTIONS: hour, minute, month, perpetual moon-phase indication (1 day’s discrepancy every 3861 years)
DIAl: glass with blue transferred numerals
HANDS: two-tone blue hands (indication of time) and brushed stainless steel (counterweight)
CABINET: Crystal monobloc