“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” – Confucius

Automatic emotions

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My next Baselworld story started 292 years ago under the ridges of the Jura, when the super-talented engineer Pierre Jaquet-Droz was born. At the age of 17 he opened his first clock-manufacturing workshop making the brand Jaquet Droz 275 years old today. From the late 1760s he was accompanied by his son Henri-Louis and Jean-Frédéric Leschot in his atelier and between 1768 and 1774 they constructed three highly complex automata devices (The Writer with 6000 components, The Musician with 2500 parts and The Draughtsman with 2000 elements), which some consider to be the predecessors of computers. The three automata have brought great recognition to Jaquet Droz and the machines were demonstrated at royal courts from Paris to London, Flanders, Russia and Madrid.  The fame and exports of the manufacture even expanded to China. In 1784 Henri-Louis and Jean-Frédéric moved to Geneva and established the city’s first clock-making shop marking the heroic age of the manufacture’s history.

With the death of Pierre Jaquet-Droz in 1790 and Henri-Louis’ in 1791 the company was to lay dormant for over a century.  The brand was awoken true to the original quality and spirit of the House in 2000, when the Swatch Group purchased the rights of Jaquet Droz. The emblematic 8-shape has found its clientele and has opened a new chapter in the book of Jaquet Droz.

At Baselworld the brand celebrated the 275th anniversary of Pierre Jaquet-Droz’s workshop opening by presenting 8 new models, including the Charming Bird Automation Watch evoking the heydays of the House. The singing bird automation built in the wristwatch is clearly the House’s tribute to the genius of their predecessors, but probably even more a statement of walking the same road of mechanical brilliance as the ancestors. The obvious complexity of the movement stays in contrast with the elegantly simple case. The lower curve of the characteristic 8 silhouette is the dome-shaped sapphire case of a blue-yellow bird, under which the little singer chants by a piston-driven bellows system. At the same time, the tiny wings, head, tail and beak of the bird are moving. This exceptional timepiece is limited to only 28 pieces.

The bird motif so characteristic of Jaquet Droz has also returned on another novelty of the company, the Petite Heure Minute Relief Seasons watch. The sculpted and engraved birds on the mother-of-pearl dial are meticulously elaborated so the tip of the feathers and the moves are astonishingly alive. The watch is actually a series of four with the theme of the four seasons, two of which ­- fall and winter – were announced at BASELWORLD, with spring and summer yet to come. The red gold captures the warm colours of autumn, while the diamond-set resembles snow-flakes in the winter version. All editions are limited to 88 pieces.

The Loving Butterfly is a playful reminder of childhood and the joy of tales. The drawing of the little boy on the cart riding the butterfly was originally scratched by one of Pierre Jaquet-Droz’s automata. The cheerful scene comes alive via the vivid blue of the butterfly and through the sunshine of the yellow gold case. On the back of this model, which is dedicated to Pierre Jaquet-Droz in a limited edition of only 28 pieces, the oscillating mass in white gold and the hand engraved decoration on the case-back are displayed for all to see.

I find clean lines and minimalistic design beautiful therefore the Grande Heure GMT is a true hit for me. Two time zones are displayed by one hand each (a blue and a red gold) on 24 indexes around the Grand Feu enamel dial. When in the home zone, the blue and the gold hands complete each other and move together.

Grande Seconde has become the most emblematic watch of the brand in its new age history. The pieces of the newly announced blue and chocolate versions of the Grande Seconde Quantième bring a modern breeze to the well-known model. The dials reflect these elegant colours with the play of the Côtes de Genève.

In the Perpetual Calendar Eclipse engineers combined two complications, the perpetual calendar and the moon phase indicator in the characteristic design of the Eclipse. The main straight hands show the time, while the wavy hands belong to the calendar. The right indicates the day of the month and the left shows the day of the week. Months are displayed at 12 o’clock and the moon phase can be followed at 6. The red gold case comes with ivory or black enamel dials.

The Eclipse collection was expanded with a smaller, 39mm diameter version called The Eclipse Mother-of-Pearl. The white gold case, the diamond circle, the white mother-of-pearl dial, the white gold stars and moon on the dial evoke the clear winter skies.

Another 39mm watch The Twelve Cities Aventurine was also announced. The asymmetric dial with the mother-of-pearl inlay is particularly attractive. Local time in the selected city at 6 o’clock is displayed in a small opening at 12. Minutes run around the dial, starting their journey every hour under the two little Jaquet Droz stars at the top.

The House has issued a very feminine watch, the Lady 8. The Lady 8 is not only the female version of a masculine creation, but it is truly dedicated to ladies. This time the traditional 8-shape does not appear on the dial, instead the entire case has been curved. Following the lines of the case, gemstones are laid out like a ribbon. At the summit a pearl or a round precious stone –depending on the version – together with the dome sapphire glass emphasize the three dimensional shape of the timepiece.


Photo credits: Jaquet Droz, Loupiosity.com.
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