Interview: Jerome Lambert for Jaeger-LeCoultre

With the first edition of Jaeger-LeCoultre's Proto Zero project coming to a close, we sit down with Jerome Lambert, CEO of the 179-year-old watch manufacture, as he talks about the importance of charitable giving and tapping Diane Kruger as the face for the new Rendez-Vous line

Interview: Jerome Lambert for Jaeger-LeCoultre

From building hospitals in war-stricken zones to restoring ancient Chinese films, Jaeger-LeCoultre is noted for its support of various causes. In fact, if there’s one thing that brand CEO Jerome Lambert relishes in rattling off about – aside from watch movements of course – it’s the list of charities that the Le Sentier-based manufacture contributes to. Last November, Jaeger-LeCoultre partnered End Child Sexual Abuse Foundation to launch a novel venture: the Proto Zero project.

Every year, the Swiss watch manufacture will pick prototypes of five to six covetable watch models to be sold at the brand’s 1881 Heritage boutique in Hong Kong. With each successful piece sold, Jaeger-LeCoultre pledges to donate 10% of the proceeds to the ECSAF, a Hong Kong based charity founded by actress-turned-philanthropist and child psychologist Siu Fong Fong in 1998. The first edition of the Proto Zero project came to a fruitful close last month, when Lambert presented a HK$ 500,000 cheque to Nansun Shi, vice chairperson for ECSAF.

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Master Grande Tradition a Repetition Minutes

How did the collaboration with End Child Sexual Abuse (ECSAF) come about? Why pick Hong Kong the Proto Zero project?

Jerome Lambert: Jaeger-LeCoultre has always sought the rarest and most unique stories to tell. We find that each watch prototype has a unique story to tell. Not only does it lend a new timepiece its first breath of life, it also exemplifies the process whereby an idea becomes a reality.

At the same time, we wanted the project to take on additional meaning, so we began sourcing charities, with the aim of dedicating part of the proceeds to one selected charity. As for how the partnership with End Child Sexual Abuse Foundation came about, over to you Nansun…

Nansun Shi: Gladly! In fact, the partnership happened by chance. I mentioned that we needed funding for ECSAF to a friend in passing one day and he, a fervent collector of Jaeger LeCoultre timepieces,, introduced me to Jerome.

Could you tell us something about the End Child Sexual Abuse Foundation?

NS: To put it in a nutshell, the foundation’s aim is to raise awareness of child sexual abuse, and to arm children with the knowledge that they have the ability to defend themselves against sexual predators. The charity runs two mobile classrooms, with four educational programmes targeting children of different ages and learning capabilities. There is a hotline, as well a library corner at the Shatin Public Library for anyone wishing to brush up their knowledge of the issue.

So far the foundation has talked to more than 400,000 children and parents in Hong Kong but there’s much more that needs to be done. As I always say “when it comes to child sexual abuse, one case is one case too many”.

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Reverso Repetition Minutes a Rideau Venise

How will ECSAF allocate the proceeds from Jaeger-LeCoultre's Proto Zero contribution?

NS: We don’t know yet, seeing as we just wrapped up our first year. Hong Kong people are very generous when it comes to donating to various causes, but we weren’t sure how much money would be raised. I was delighted at the warm reception – hopefully this will be the beginning of a long-term relationship with Jaeger-LeCoultre.

Now that you’ve stepped into the second year of partnership with ECSAF, should we expect any changes in terms of products or audience? Do you anticipate an increase in proceeds raised in view of the growing popularity of the Proto Zero project?

JL: We haven’t finalized the details yet but the general idea is to extract six of the most important prototypes (pictured here, and on the next page) from the year, and send them to the master watchmakers to have them restored. There would be a book about the ECSAF and the Proto Zero project. Now that we've gotten the word out there, we also expect the crowd to be more international.

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Atmos Reedition 1934


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Jaeger-LeCoultre gifts the End Child Sexual Abuse Foundation with a HK$ 500,000 cheque

What other causes does Jaeger-LeCoultre support?

JL: Many. We’ve been supporting UNESCO in its mission to protect the various sea and ocean heritage sites for four years. We’ve also donated to Emergency, an Italian-based NGO that builds hospitals in war zones, and a charity in Rwanda which combats child suicide. Being a fervent supporter of the arts, in particular the cinematic world, we’ve also collaborated with the Shanghai International Film Festival to restore three ancient Chinese films, Spring River Flows East, 8,000 of Cloud and Moon and Crossroads.

Have you personally traveled to these war zones and poverty-stricken areas?

JL: As CEO of the company, I have a strict travel policy (chuckles). In other words I can’t expose the company to danger, for example, getting kidnapped, so no I have never been to Afghanistan or Rwanda.

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Grand Reverso Blue Enamel

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Grand Reverso Ultra Thin SQ

Jaeger-LeCoultre has shied away from celebrity ambassadors in favor of their technical know-how (e.g. the ‘Have you ever worn a real watch’ campaign) over the years. With Diane Kruger as friend of the brand and the face for the Rendez-Vous collection, is Jaeger-LeCoultre changing its approach?

I wouldn’t say Jaeger-LeCoultre is changing its approach, it just took us some time to find the right person to be the face for the Rendez-Vous collection. We wanted to find someone who embodies what Jaeger-LeCoultre stands for: essentially elegance, sophistication, culture and knowledge. And Diane, being quite the watch buff and having visited the Jaeger-LeCoultre factories several times, is the perfect fit for the job.

Can you tell me more about the collaboration with Valextra, especially the Rendez-Vous clutch bag?

We thought it would be something fun and inventive to do, to present the watches through different accessories!

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Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2


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