Jaquet Droz ownes a special place in the heart of the belle arte lovers. for its ability to showcase many different arts in their watches. Their Métiers d’Art watches are renowned for their magnificent artwork. And within the Jaquet Droz collection, a special place is reserved for the Grande Seconde, a watch inspired by a pocket watch created by Pierre Jaquet Droz. This collection distinguishes itself with off-centred dials and, an oversized “small seconds” dial overlapping the hours’ sub-dial. After last’s year Grande Seconde Moon, the brand presented three new version in the Grande Seconde collection at Baselworld 2018. The watches, in red gold, white gold and the ceramic cases come with a novelty – a skeletonised movement and a sapphire dial. The design is extremely revealing, almost all details can be observed equally, from both the front and back. This is our hands-on review of the Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One.
From La Chaux-de-Fonds to Madrid, from Automata to the entire world
On a small farm (La Ferme de Sur le Pont) in La Chaux-de-Fonds, is born in 1721 Pierre Jaquet-Droz. He starts to learn the art of clockmaking from some distant relatives and from the age of 17, he dedicates his time only for clockmaking. His dexterity in creating sophisticated movements and knowledge in mechanics makes him a supplier to the rich and wealthy with clocks and automata.
After his wife and daughter passed away, he dedicates himself completely to the development of complicated watches and automatons. Earl Marischal, governor of the principality of Neuchâtel, advise him to travel to Spain and present his work to the Spanish Royal court. Pierre Jaquet-Droz builds a special carriage for the trip, capable to carry six clocks. In 1758, he presents his clocks to King Ferdinand VI of Spain. His success was tremendous, receiving a large sum for his presented work.
Returned to La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1759, Pierre Jaquet-Droz continues his work on clocks, watches and automatons. He is helped in his work by his son, Henri-Louis and a neighbour’s son, Jean-Frédéric Leschot. He soon became famous for his automatons. The most prominent automatons of the times presented in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1774 were the Writer, the Draughtsman and the Musician. After presenting the automata in Geneva, they toured by Paris, presenting to Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, to London, in Holland, France, Spain and even to the Russian court in Kazan. The brand was the first to import watches to the imperial court of China.
The video below shows one such automaton, a signature machine in the current catalog which showcases the expertise of Jaquet-Droz.
The Droz family established an entire business of workshops and trading offices. Working with some of the best watchmakers of the times, the name Jaquet Droz became known in the entire civilised world. The family moved to Geneva where they opened a workshop and a watchmaking school.
Pierre Jaquet-Droz moves to Bienne, Switzerland, where he died in 1790. A year later, his son Henri-Louis dies during a trip to Italy. In the following years, the business lead by Jean-Frédéric Leschot will enter into difficulties caused by the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. And the brand name vanishes.
In the modern era, SWATCH Group acquires Jaquet Droz name and rights in 2000. The brand launches in 2002 the Grande Seconde. This watch has direct inspiration from the pocket watch created by Jaquet Droz.
Review: the Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One
This year, Jaquet Droz goes to a new direction with the Grande Seconde. For the first time, the watch comes with a skeletonised movement – an example of expertise and capabilities of Jaquet Droz watchmakers. We will have a first look the presentation video.
The case, dial and hands
Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde comes in three variations: a 41 mm case in red or white gold and a 41.5 mm diameter case in ceramic. The choice of materials is a bit unusual, especially the ceramic case. The ceramic case is larger in dimensions due to manufacturing processes. Side by side, the size difference is invisible. The white metal lover will be fascinated by the white gold version or converted to the intriguing black ceramic.
The case is nicely polished. The rounded bezel and the curved lugs make it appealing on and off the wrist. The thin body makes the watch elegant. We found the crown shape and size to be perfectly proportional to the body. The watch has a good presence, feels substantial and robust – even if, at a first glimpse, the combination of slender body and skeleton movement looks fragile.
The watch construction features a sapphire crystal with an anti-reflexive coating on both sides. The backside is also a see-through sapphire crystal and unwanted reflection would ruin the beauty and legibility.
The dial is unexpected and interesting. The figure of eight, a shape identified and specific to Grande Seconde watches, is classical with a twist of the unusual. The specific Grande Seconde layout is kept: an upper time sub-dial display hours and minutes using printed Roman and Arabic numerals for the gold version. The oversized seconds’ register overlaps the hours and minutes dial. The numerals and indexes are printed over a sapphire crystal. While the “big” seconds offers an unobstructed view to the movement’s insides, the hours’ register features a metal disc underneath, to make it more eligible. The overall legibility is good, but under certain light condition, the seconds are harder to be follow.
The watch is fitted with gold lance hands on the red gold and ceramic version and with blued hands for the white gold version. As a nice detail, the screws fixing the dial are gold for the red gold and ceramic version and blue for the white gold version. The contrast of the white version is interesting. Both combinations have a balanced feel between classic and modern. The seconds’ hand is long and slender. It reaches the dial’s edge and overlaps, bypassing, a quarter of the hours and minutes sub-dial.
The ceramic version applied gold baguette as hour indexes. The printed indexes are now in a railway track shaped (instead of points). The perception is that the legibility is better in this version.
The sapphire dial offers a good view of the calibre JD2663 SQ
The movement JD2663 SQ
The Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One is powered by the calibre JD2663 SQ. Its plates and bridges are skeletonised, the movement has, at a first look a fragile appearance. A closer look reveals an organic and robust construction, a combination of the spiders’ web and ultra-light metal constructions of the modern architecture or aeronautics. The edges are slightly bevelled and decorated with a black matt treatment. The movement features no other, maybe expected, haute horlogerie decoration. This makes it modern, anchored in the future of the watchmaking and not in the past.
The Calibre JD2663 SQ has an impressive power reserve of 68 hours coming from a silicon double barrel. The movement is automatic, and the two barrels architecture was not mandatory, but the construction is balanced and aesthetically beautiful. The balance wheel has 28,800 bph or 4 Hz, a frequency present in the vast majority of present-day timepieces.
The gold rotor is extremely hollowed, almost invisible if the watch is not moved. It offers the functionality without obstructing the view.
The Competitive Landscape
Priced at around CHF 35,000 in gold and CHF 25,000 in black ceramic, the Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-one is not a quite a cheap option for the ones wishing a skeletonised timepiece. But it is not on the extreme side either. The Skelet-One is somehow a unique design. There are not too many skeletonised small seconds available, in automatic form also.
One inhabitant on this landscape with with a modern approach of the skeletonization of the movement is Parimigiani Fleurier releases the new Tonda 1950 Squelette. Comparable in price at €35,300 in a gold case, the watch offers the purity of an ultra thin movement which is skeletonized for a nice aesthetic. The Parmigiani, however lacks a seconds hand.
Another candidate is perhaps on Armin Strom Skeleton Pure Air (CHF 35,400 in a titanium case. Full review soon). It features a small seconds hand, but is also handwound and features an 8 day power reserve. The maestro of skeletonization, Mr Strom leaves a powerful heritage, that the brand follows strictly in their modern designs. The Pure Air comes with a fully skeletonized manual movement with grey plated mainplate. The dial uses a sapphire disk with applique indexes.
An automatic watch with almost three days of power reserve is perhaps redundant. The Skelet-One is a good looking piece. It is not something to forget in a drawer and wear it from time to time. It is a watch that needs to be out, on the wrist, in the light, to show off, to demonstrate what was made of: a passion for beauty in a modern way, a heritage to follow and homage paid to a great mind.
The fabric strap does not make the watch necessarily sportier. We feel the other way round – the ceramic version with fabric strap is just another elegant interpretation of the active life, a cut from the present day. We salute the courage of Jaquet Droz to work with the modern material, to bring a contemporary design, modern not only in the materials used but also in the aspect and in the implementation. The Skelet-One is a great example of an interpretation of a traditional and traditions respectful design in a more actual and evolutive form. Below a clip with all three version of the Jaquet Grande Seconde Skelet-One.
Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Specification and price
The Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Ref. J003523240 in red gold and Ref. J003524240 will be priced at CHF34,600 or US$33,600. The ceramic version, the Ref. J003525540 will have a price tag of CHF24,850 or US$24,200.
Calibre: Jaquet Droz JD2663 SQ
Type: Mechanical with automatic winding
Power reserve: 68 hours
Frequency: 4Hz / 28’800 vph
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds.
Material: J003523240 – red gold, J003524240 – white gold, J003525540 – ceramic
Dimensions of the case: Ø 41mm; height 12.3mm red & white gold; Ø 41.5mm; height 12.48mm ceramic
Crystal: Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on both sides
Caseback: See-through sapphire crystal
Material: Black alligator leather strap for gold versions, fabric strap.
Buckle: Pin buckle for gold versions, folding buckle for ceramic version.