History radiates from deep within Jaquet Droz, yet the La Chaux-de-Fonds-based watchmaker never dwells in the past. Enchantment reigns supreme. Their designs effortlessly capture the spirit and magic of watchmaking, while looking to the future with timeless originality. Pierre-Jaquet Droz must have felt that same sense of wonder in 1738 when he first presented his magical creations to the world. That wonder remains essential to the brand today, and has captivated enthusiasts and collectors for centuries.
The advanced clocks and automata invented nearly 300 ago share a similar DNA with Jaquet Droz’s contemporary collections, eliciting a “wow” factor that continually surprises and delights. This year proves to be no exception, with two new variations of a timepiece representing the understated artistry of Jaquet Droz. Based on an archival pocket watch, the Grande Seconde Skelet-One updates a timeless design with exceptional lightness of touch and a dab of that essential Jaquet Droz magic in two remarkable novelties.
The very first Grande Seconde bowed in 2002, inspired by an 18th-century pocket watch, in turn shaping the modern Jaquet Droz aesthetic. In 2018, the Grande Seconde Skelet-One took on this more-than-200-year-old concept, removing the dial and leaving an invisible outline of what once was. The original piece’s architectural framework is all that remains, its now-skeletonized movement suspended in thin air. The original’s elegant ivory Grand Feu enamel dial is now rendered as a ghost-like hour and minute display at twelve, overlapping a completely transparent seconds counter at six.
“The Grande Seconde Skelet-One is without a doubt a new chapter in our history, and this modern interpretation is the reason behind this great success,” Jaquet Droz CEO Christian Lattmann explains. “From the initial idea to create a skeleton Grande Seconde, to the presentation of the first model in 2018, it took three years. We worked through all the details, the openwork movement, of course, the dial in sapphire with gold indexes, the new rotor in gold, and even ensuring the screws on top of the dial are all oriented in the same direction, which is not easy to realize!”
For 2020, the Skelet-One continues its evolution with a new look and new materials, a classic variant in red gold, and a distinctly modern version in plasma ceramic. The warm tones of the 41-mm red-gold case form the piece’s outer structure, giving the watch a framework to support the intricate movement. The plasma ceramic version heads in a more contemporary direction. Its 41.5-mm case matches its movement and strap, presenting a complementary look like a futuristic camouflage. While these takes on an original design produced two very different results, both remain distinctly Jaquet Droz.
“We refer to our core elements as the 8 Codes of Jaquet Droz,” explains Lattmann. “These Codes include the Grande Seconde design, handsomely curved cases, and the cutting-edge mechanisms that power our pieces. While these are the most common traits, it is important to note that many of our pieces get inspired by the naturalist themes that were so dear to our founder. Themes found in our dials are an extremely important piece of the story, as they showcase our minerals and grand feu enameling expertise. If a one-of-a-kind piece of art is what you desire, our craftsmen in the Ateliers D’Art can produce it. The mastery of the arts and watchmaking can also be seen in our Automata pieces. These lifelike creations, like our Tropical Bird Repeater, continue to push the boundaries of what can be placed in a watch case.”
The red-gold version of the Skelet-One utilizes a white-gold base for its dial, with hours and minutes displayed by red-gold hands. The dial is affixed to the movement by red-gold screws, which also anchors the movement inside its case. Seconds are displayed on a sapphire crystal subdial just below. The second version of the Skelet-One features a futuristic plasma dial with grey treatment, white-gold indexes, and white gold screws. Streamlined indices replace the Roman and Arabic numerals from earlier models for both Skelet-One colorways.
Plasma ceramic, a significant innovation and a first for Jaquet Droz, is utilized for a lightweight and scratch-proof case. The case material is formed under intense heat at more than 900º Celsius. The hardening process subjects the white ceramic to a gas activation at 20,000º Celsius, raising the ceramic’s temperature, which produces a steel-like metallic glow in the material, without introducing any actual metal fragments into the process. The plasma ceramic’s metallic color matches the movement’s grey treatment to form a distinctive, unified appearance. In opposition, the red gold has a warm look, while the cool anthracite plasma ceramic has a hypoallergenic visual quality that reveals a surprising warmth to the touch.
Within both models, the Jaquet Droz 2663 SQ self-winding mechanical movement is reduced to its barely-there essence. Skeletonized bridges suspend the gear train, and the open-worked engraved oscillating weight rotates inconspicuously around the exterior of the dial. The minimalist skeletonized movement appears simple to the eye, but it incorporates a tremendous 68-hour power reserve with a frequency of 28,800 VpH. The watch is water-resistant to 30 bars, lending the Skelet-One a go-anywhere, do-anything versatility.
“Thanks to its strong identity and beauty, the Grande Seconde is considered an icon, and we continue to develop new complications,” Lattmann explains. “The beauty is, we don’t have to choose between the two; Our watches can be perceived as both modern and classic. Jaquet Droz is one of the few brands that has a modern vision of traditional high watchmaking.” While respecting its past, Jaquet Droz looks resolutely toward the future. “The beauty of our brand is, we are not swayed easily by shorter to medium trends. We have remained true to ourselves since 1738.”
Jaquet Droz 2663 SQ, self-winding skeleton mechanical movement; hours, minutes and large offset seconds; silicon balance spring and pallet horns, double barrel, 18-karat white gold oscillating weight; 68-hour power reserve
41.5 mm in black plasma ceramic and 41mm in red gold; water resistant to 300m
Rolled-edge hand-made gray alligator strap on the red gold version and rolled-edge hand-made gray fabric for the black plasma ceramic version