High-spirited, unpretentious and au naturel, Magali Métrailler is one of the five designers at Jaeger-LeCoultre, one of the world’s most prestigious watch manufacturers. I was there to meet her at SIHH this year. I was so curious to get to know the personality behind the amazing watches. Responsible specifically for men’s and sports watches, Ms Métrailler is a far cry from the image of a traditional watch designer that we might have in mind. Watchmaking and design for Ms Métrailler are a complete lifestyle, as we find out in this special interview.
You have worked with glass, light, industrial design, interior design, and your background is architecture. How did you get started in watch design?
While studying in Milan, I thought of becoming an architect. But during my work experience, I realised I was missing out on the technical side of things. So I went back to Switzerland and came across the world of watchmaking, which was very fascinating to me. I love working in details. At Jaeger-LeCoultre, one designer is responsible for one product from beginning to end, and has to work out both the creative and the technical aspects of the watch.
What do you like about watch design?
What I love about it is that I learn something new every day. The watch designer at Jaeger-LeCoultre starts working with the watchmaker from the very beginning. For example, when developing the movement, I can already start giving my input. At Jaeger-LeCoultre, every department is based in the manufacture, and every part of the watch is produced here. We are like a family because we work so closely together. Our open team spirit allows us to exchange ideas, be fully integrated in the creation of the watch, and work towards a finished product. I’ve been here for 10 years. Time really flies!
What’s your biggest challenge?
Precision. It’s all about fitting all the millimeters together, literally. Space, thickness, width – we’re always trying to find that extra millimeter to make all the technologies possible in a watch. Even when I’m here away at SIHH, our technical department calls me with questions. The designer and the watchmaker both want to make a great design work! When faced with a challenge, we are able to move forward quite efficiently, thanks to our collaborative spirit at the manufacture.
In your opinion, what’s unique about Jaeger-LeCoultre’s design?
Every product embodies the history and innovation of Jaeger-LeCoultre. It’s only with a solid tradition that Jaeger-LeCoultre has been able to continuously achieve innovation over the years. But you see, in order to continue our history, we need to create it. And to create history, we need to be innovative.
Every year, we come up with new ideas not only because we have the know-how and the resources, but also because we come from different backgrounds: aeronautics, optics, etc, so we bring different knowledge to watchmaking. We also go to exhibitions around the world to see what’s new in design. All these things lead us to making better, younger and more creative watches.
You design sports and men’s watches. Are you an active person?
Well, not exactly! But I am super-active. As a designer, it’s very important for me to be curious. I have studied so many different things, because I want to discover and learn new things. Now I am learning Spanish! Everything new leads me to inspirations. Our life is like a book with so much to refer to. We just have to be open and keep writing our own stories.
What is luxury to you?
Time. You see, I don’t have a problem with getting old, but I feel it’s a great pity that I won’t be able to do everything I want to do in a lifetime. Journalists ask me what kind of watch I’d like to make. Well, I’d like to make a watch that makes happy moments in our life last longer, and the sad ones shorter!
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