If you think Breguet is the Swatch Group’s most exclusive brand, you’re forgetting a special make you may never have heard of. You’re forgiven, but you’d better brush up because Jaquet Droz is on the way.
Swiss brand Jaquet Droz takes its name from one of the legends of Swiss watchmaking, Pierre Jaquet-Droz, who was born in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1721. Now, close to 300 years later, the brand is launching in Australia; time can travel slowly. Jaquet-Droz was a mechanical genius and pioneer who was famous throughout Europe and the Orient for complicated and fascinating contraptions including mechanical birds and animated dolls, aside from bespoke clocks and jewellery watches.
Today the brand is housed in the Swatch Group and concentrates on one-off and limited-edition timepieces, with a penchant for exotic custom dial designs. That said, the modern Jaquet Droz is perhaps best-known to enthusiasts for its Grand Seconds model, whose dials feature a huge seconds hand said to be based on an 18th century design. The latest version, the Grande Seconde Quantieme, has a face rendered in ivory enamel. But not all is olde-worlde; the movement boasts distinctly modern touches such as a silicon balance spring. Silicon is highly flexible and can withstand shock and variations in temperature and pressure while being unaffected by magnetic fields, thus “maintaining perfect stability over time”, according to Droz. Even today its use is mastered by only a few brands.
Jaquet Droz is additionally known for employing a range of time-honoured fine finishing techniques on their movements. Visible through a sapphire case-back are circular-grained plates, chamfered, shaped and circular-grained wheels, and chamfered steel parts with patterns of straight lines and hand-polished angles and additional fanned Côtes de Genève decoration. According to the brand these features “compose a unique aesthetic signature”, a grand statement but close to the mark. But back to that distinctive dial – its lack of clutter suggests a watch that’s larger than it in fact is: the two versions of the Quantieme, in red or white gold, span 39 or 43 millimeters.
Not everything is cut from such classical cloth. The house look has also been carried across to distinctly contemporary pieces, for example the steel-cased Grande Seconde SW, a 45mm model with 68-hours power reserve and the option of a ceramic bezel and crown.
That said it’s in feminine models that the brand’s past involvement with exotica comes to the fore, boasting hand-engraving, applique, and painted dials in various enamels, minerals and mother-of-pearl.