Still, Metrailler admits that she is often most inspired by the miniature technical feats Jaeger-LeCoultre achieves with its watches. “The challenge is size,” she explains. “Each millimeter counts. I try to bring out the beauty intrinsic in each mechanism.”
She achieved just that earlier this year when Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced the Master Compressor Extreme LAB, a watch so advanced it runs without grease or oil—a stunning technological accomplishment in the Swiss watchmaking domain. To accent the piece’s heady mechanics, Metrailler opened up the face with a floating bridge and added an unexpected red crown—not exactly your grandfather’s stodgy
The Swiss-born Metrailler, an industrial design graduate of Milan’s Institute of European Design, forged a career in horology after a freelance gig at a small Swiss watchmaking firm taught her the joys of enhancing machinery with design. “I was instantly intrigued,” she says. “I am Swiss. Watches must have been in my blood.”
Metrailler joined Jaeger-LeCoultre in 2002, the first female designer in the 174-year-old history of one of the field’s most venerable names. (Progress has come swiftly. Today, of the seven designers Jaeger-LeCoultre employs, four are women.) Though she admits to early difficulty in finding her footing, Metrailler quickly earned the respect of the top brass by giving the company’s most intricate devices the kind of chic, contemporary facades coveted by collectors.
Case in point, for those with a techy side: the recently issued Gyrotourbillon, a flamboyant timepiece with a multiaxial rotating system and nearly 600 components. Metrailler framed the tourbillon’s spherical cage, making the complex mechanism’s movement even more fascinating.
“I try to think beyond the typical paradigms,” says Metrailler. “It’s not about destroying the rules, but about seeing beyond typical appearances.”
Considering her industrial design background and particular artistic leanings (she’s a great admirer of furniture designer Verner Panton’s graphic, futuristic style), it’s little wonder that Metrailler prefers to design men’s watches—an inclination that initially surprised some of her colleagues. “When Magali arrived, I thought she would design these superfeminine, glamorous watches,” says Janek Deleskiewicz, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s artistic director. “Actually her designs are a bit macho.”
Those words delight Metrailler,who admits to an aversion to women’s diamond-dappled watches. “I’d much rather design for men,” she says. “Why not? Aren’t most of the great women’s fashion designers men?”