“You employ stone, wood and concrete, and with these materials you build houses and palaces: That is construction. Ingenuity is at work. But suddenly you touch my heart, you do me good. I am happy and I say: ‘This is beautiful.’ That is architecture. Art enters in.” Vers une architecture, Le Corbusier, ed. G. Crès, 1923
High in the Jura Mountains of Switzerland, a few kilometers east of France, is perched the small town of La Chaux-de-Fonds — for centuries the wellspring of an almost divine congruence of genius.
Among those born here: Le Corbusier (né Charles-Edouard Jeanneret), one of the greatest names in modern architecture and design; pioneering automaker Louis Chevrolet; and poet/novelist Blaise Cendrars.
The aesthetic movement L’Art nouveau was refined in La Chaux-de-Fonds — as the old village gave way to a modern city beginning of the 20th century, a regional Art nouveau variant, the “Style Sapin”, emerged here, exclusive to the burgeoning industrial watchmaking centre. And the grace of its architecture and ingenuity of its urban plan have led to its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The genius inherent to La Chaux-de-Fonds is today best exemplified by the watchmakers of Girard-Perregaux, who - in cooperation with Foundation Le Corbusier - are employing gold, sapphire crystal, steel and even concrete to reinterpret the work of the great Modernist in a series of exceptional new timepieces.
This sublime project is the apotheosis of more than a century of communal history between the Jeanneret and Girard-Perregaux families. Mere happenstance? Hardly. It is, rather, serendipity at its most poignant — the seemingly inevitable result when genius takes up residence in close proximity to genius. The very essence, in other words, of La Chaux-de-Fonds.
Le Corbusier’s life took him well beyond the shadow of the Jura, of course; he traveled the world designing buildings — and, in some cases, entire cities. Fittingly, he was part of the multinational team of architects that designed the headquarters of the United Nations Secretariat Building in Manhattan — a metaphor, in glass, reinforced concrete and steel, for his own global citizenship.
The Girard-Perregaux Le Corbusier Trilogy, however, reflects the three places that most embodied the concept of home to the man himself, who once observed that “the home should be the treasure chest of living”: La Chaux-de-Fonds, Paris and Marseille.
The model selected by Girard-Perregaux for the basis of the Le Corbusier Trilogy is the Vintage 1945, the year Le Corbusier published one of his most famous works, Les Trois Etablissements Humains (The Three Human Establishments) and devised his anthropometric scale of proportions the Modulor.
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