Swiss watch brand Jaeger-LeCoultre has teamed with renowned Swiss artist Zimoun, commissioning him to create a special installation of sound art that reflects Jaeger-LeCoultre’s centuries-old history in sound making within the realm of watchmaking. The exhibition, Zimoun: 1944, which includes prepared dc-motors, MDF panels and Jaeger-LeCoultre watch parts, opens in China and will make a global journey.
Earlier this year, just before the global pandemic became a reality, Jaeger-LeCoultre announced that in 2020 it would be celebrating its history with minute repeaters, chiming watches and alarms – declaring it the year of The Sound Maker™. The intention was to celebrate the brand’s experience in sound, which is a very long and involved history. In fact, Jaeger-LeCoultre has created some very important sound-making watches over the years, including its famed Memovox alarm and its beautiful repeaters.
Additionally, this year, the brand has unveiled new watches that highlight the art of sound (including the Polaris Memovox) and announces the new sound sculpture installation of sound created by Zimoun using watch parts from Jaeger-LeCoultre.
Artist Zimoun and His Jaeger-LeCoultre Sound Sculpture
Zimoun, who uses a nickname given to him during his school days rather than his real name, is known for creating sound sculptures that are large architectural works of art. His work deals with the creation of mechanical rhythm using industrial raw materials. His works have been showcased in museums around the world, including Nam June Paik Art Museum Seoul, Art Museum Reina Sofia Madrid, Ringling Museum of Art Florida, Mumbai City Museum, National Art Museum Beijing; and dozens more. Likewise, of course, Jaeger-LeCoultre works with industrial materials such as steel and brass and builds architecturally inspired timepieces that chime the time or offer unprecedented sound in the form of school-bell alarms. The match seems perfect.
It took Zimoun approximately seven months to create the installation once he developed the idea after being commissioned by Jaeger-LeCoultre. The Sound Maker installation is entitled “1944 prepared dc-motors, mdf panels 72 x 72cm, metal disks Ø 8cm, 2020” consists of small dc-motors, medium-density fiberboard (MDF) panels, fine wires and almost 2,000 thin metal disks. The 2,000 disks are components obtained from Jaeger-LeCoultre’s workshops. Essentially, the watch components are connected to the dc-motors by fine wires. As the disks rotate against the MDF panels they create a sound similar to a coin falling to the ground. Not only is the sound important, but also, the movement of the disks creates a shimmering, always changing surface.
“I’m interested in sound as an architectonic element to create space, but also in sound which somehow inhabits a room and interacts with it,” says Zimoun. “I work with three-dimensional sound structures, with spatial experiences and the exploration of sound, material and space – and perception. Since all the wires holding the metal discs are bent by hand, each is slightly different, causing the metal discs to rotate at different angles or speeds. This creates a complex individuality that affects both the visual and acoustic properties of the work. The sound becomes very complex and is in constant change in its microstructures. Similar to the sound of a river, which never sounds exactly the same again. Visually, a similar complexity arises…resulting in a kind of flickering, similar to the effect we know from water surfaces.”
Zimoun, Jaeger-LeCoultre Sound Sculpture Installation
The installation takes up huge floor space and takes a full day to assemble it each time the exhibit moves. After its November 2020 Chengdu, China, exhibit, the installation moves to Paris in March of 2021, then on to Seoul in May 2021, with other locations to be announced in the early part of next year.
According to Zimoun, the biggest challenges in this project were caused by the COVID-19 time frame. “In a large and ambitious project like this one, involving different people from different areas, joint coordination and communication is of great importance. The crisis has generated additional challenges for all those involved. Especially in the cultural sector, practically all projects had to be cancelled at short notice, which fortunately was not the case in the cooperation with Jaeger-LeCoultre. I am very grateful Jaeger-LeCoultre held on to this project and kept calm during this crisis. This is a quality that not everyone seems to have succeeded in these days. In the end, a work was created that surprised and fascinated everyone involved. I’m truly very happy about the collaboration and its result.”
Jaeger-LeCoultre, The Sound Maker
The concept of the sound installation, as mentioned, is to celebrate Jaeger-LeCoultre’s rich history in the world of chiming watches. During the brand’s 150 years of innovation, it has created doezens of sound-making calibers that range from alarms to incredibly complex repeaters and sonneries, often introducing world firsts.
“Like our Manufacture, [Zimoun]transforms raw materials with precision. His expertise and creativity with metal was a perfect fit with our artisans, who are always looking for the ideal balance between technicality and beauty,” says Catherine Rénier, Chief Executive Officer of Jaeger-LeCoultre.
(*Portions of this article by Roberta Naas first appeared on Forbes.com)