Jaquet Droz: the brand values and expertise. Invitation to JD exhibition within.

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Jaquet Droz: we explore the brand. The values it represents, and the expertise it offers to modern horology. We begin our exploration of the brand values of this maison way of examples through these three pillars – the Grande Seconde, the Arteliers d’Art, and Automatons.


The Jaquet Droz Pillars

Jaquet Droz defines 8 codes which shapes the identity of the brand. These codes are as follows”

  1. Grande Seconde
  2. Automata
  3. Ateliers d’art
  4. Grand Feu enameling
  5. Watchcase
  6. Exceptional mechanisms
  7. Minerals
  8. Numerus Clausus

In our exploration of the brand values, we begin with the first three, set as pillars of the brand. We examine each in sequence:


The Grande Seconde

The Grande Seconde was the first watch to be introduced when the Jaquet Droz brand was re-introduced in 2002. The watch is a basic design which has become the calling card of the brand. The design is defined by the the hours and minutes sub-dial which is off centered at 12 o’clock, embracing a large seconds subdial situated at 6 o’clock. This arrangement has a harmonious and beautiful aesthetic, which embodies what JD stands for. The two subeials form a figure of 8, a symbol of infinity and an important number in traditional Chinese numerology.

Many variations, each limited, of this basic blueprint exists. The latest which we recently reviewed from Baselworld 2018 is the Skelet-One, a skeletonized variant, using a clever interplay of skeletonisation, a solid toroidal shaped hour sub-dial and a transparent seconds sub-dial. Making a very elegant and beautiful interpretation of the schema.


Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One

Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One is a revealing watch. The movement is left to the discretion of the viewer


The Automatons – the Tropical Bird Minute Repeater 

Automatas are the cornerstone in which the Pierre Jaquet-Droz first his expertise to advertise his mastery of the craft of mechanical movements. His automata, principally three doll automata built between 1768 and 1774 by Pierre Jaquet-Droz, his son Henri-Louis, and Jean-Frédéric Leschot. They are the Musician, the Draughtsman and the Writer. The dolls are still functional, and can be seen at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire of Neuchâtel, in Switzerland.

The automata are totally mechanical in nature, their movements are defined by the precise cams which mimic human movement, and quite startlingly so. We visited the museum in the winter of 2017, and observed them working and also got a chance to see the mechanism. Here we show the most complicated of the three – the Writer.


The writer is the most complex of the three automata originally created by Pierre Jaquet-Droz, his son Henri-Louis, and Jean-Frédéric Leschot between 1768 and 1774. Using a system similar to the one used for the draughtsman for each letter, he is able to write any custom text up to 40 letters long. The text is coded on a wheel where characters are selected one by one. He uses a goose feather to write, which he inks from time to time, including a shake of the wrist to prevent ink from spilling. His eyes follow the text being written, and his head moves when he takes some ink.


The mechanism of the Writer is totally programmable and fully mechanical.


Reviving this art, the Jaquet Droz company now use these very same principles defined, some 250 years ago to build fascinating automata watches today. One recent example is the Tropical Bird Minute Repeater which we reviewed in detail here.



This art form is also practiced in other Jaquet Droz pieces, such as the Bird Repeater. And the Charming Bird, which is the first miniature singing bird in a wristwatch, directly inspired by the famous birdcage automata popular in the 18th Century.


The Ateliers d’Art – Petit Heuer Minute Smalta Clara

Pierre Jaquet-Droz and his family also established the tradition of fine art decoration. They ;supported an entire generation and genre of craftsmen. Enameled cased embellished with paillons, painting on enamel, sculptured and engraved ornamentation were some examples of this art.

This art is kept alive in Jaquet Droz. Watches such as the Petit Heure Minute Smalta Clara is an example. The Petite Heure Minute Smalta Clara is presented on occasion of the brand’s 280th anniversary this year.



The technique employed is one known as plique-à-jour (French for “letting in daylight”) enamel, or “smalta clara” in Latin. While Jaquet Droz is well known for mastery of the Grand Feu enamel, the plique-à-jour enamel is reportedly a more demanding technique. First developed 1500 years ago, the skill level needed to prevent the enamel from cracking in the kiln is multitudes over the standard enameling.

The technique requires enamel to be applied in cells, similar to cloisonné. Unlike cloisonné, the backing is temporary, and is is dissolved by acid after firing. The final product is such that light can shine through the transparent/translucent enamel. This effect is a minature version of stained glass.


The Petite Heure Smalta Clara has no case back. Light shines through the enamel, illuminating every color and hue.

The Petite Heure Minute Smalta Clara is one of the very few Jaquet Droz pieces to have an off-centered hour display at 2 o’clock. The dimensions of the dial are reduced to a minimum, leaving the tiger space to express itself to the fullest. The hour minute sub-dial is in mother-of-pearl with blued hands. The winding crown is also placed at 2 o’clock in such a way as to make the winding-shaft as discreet as possible through the enamel.


On the wrist, the PHM Smalta Clara is rather fetching.

The Petite Heure Smalta Clara is available in two versions. Each issued in Numerus Clausus (code no8) limited series of 28 pieces, both versions measure 35 mm and are set with diamonds on the lugs and bezel. A white gold version features a tiger gleaming in hues of blue, while a red gold version depicts the creature in gold and brown tones. Both versions are paired with a hand-finished wraparound satin strap that is color-coordinated with the dial. Together these two pieces open a new chapter in the long tradition of the Ateliers d’Art at Jaquet Droz.


And an invitation to view

A traveling exhibition to celebrate 280 years of Jaquet Droz will be presented in

Marina Bay Sands, Singapore from 28 September to October 14, 2018.

Come to see the exhibition, where examples of these pillars will be displayed, including the Parrot Repeater Pocket Watch as a demonstration of the brand’s expertise.





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