Although Jaquet Droz was established in 1738 by Pierre Jaquet-Droz, it laid dormant for over two centuries after his and his son’s death in the early 1790s. They had designed mechanical miracles of the age which still today leave the viewer speechless. The highly complicated objects, such as pocket watches, but also musical flasks and singing bird snuff boxes bared outstanding decorations, including engravings and various types of enamelling.
There was a well-curated exhibition of these at Les Ambassadeurs this February that we wrote about.
The revival of a name like Jaquet Droz therefore carries great responsibility. When in 2000 the Swatch Group opted for the brand name with success, they made a decision to breathe life into the company in the original spirit and also to preserve the traditional crafts employed by the masters of the Enlightenment but apply them in a contemporary style. We have been returning visitors to Jaquet Droz’s Baselworld stand for the past four years and have become big fans of what leaves the hands of the present’s masters. The House continues to amaze with new automata, flawless enamelling and applique work and with the beautiful face of the simple and pure.
The Charming Bird Automation and The Bird Repeater Geneva
Talking about automata, Jaquet Droz this year presented a redesigned version of the Charming Bird Automation timepiece introduced in 2013. They hired a new birdie with a 4 dB louder flute than the previous version. The result is fantastic – a lively chickadee whistle sounded by pistons in a tube while the little feathered fellow is moving around under the domed sapphire glass. Engineers reshaped the aperture on the flute in order to increase the volume. Other parts of the mechanics are identical to the previous version. The automation sources the energy from a separate complications barrel wound up by the crown at 2 o’clock.
Another bird automata, the Bird Repeater Geneva was presented in Basel in honour of the city giving home to Pierre and his son Henri-Louis during the last very productive period of their lives. The decorations on the white mother-of-pearl dial recall the main landmarks of the city and the birds of Île Rousseau nesting in the foreground. The parents are feeding their youngsters and they are all gathered around a hatching egg. All hand-sculpted creatures move, of course – 8 animations can be triggered by the pull of a slider. The soul of the timepiece is the RMA88 movement housed in a 47 mm diameter red gold case.
Lady 8 Flower
Pierre Jaquet-Droz’s lifetime coincided with a significant raise of the art of ballet. With the establishment of Académie Royale de Musique in 1673 and later in 1713 the École de Danse de l’Opéra de Paris (Paris Opera Ballet School), dance had moved out from the court-halls to the public. Ballet interludes became incorporated in Operas, increasing the number of spectators, admirers and dancers, of course. Pierre and Henri-Louis Jaquet Droz both spent time in Paris and their automata brought them into elite circles, so perhaps even they enjoyed ballet at one point. What is certain is that the level of concentration and life-long practice of moves are characteristics of both professions and therefore Jaquet Droz as a company have tightened their bond to ballet in 2013 by announcing a collaboration with the Lausanne-based Béjart Ballet. The cooperation has recently been extended to support the Rudra Béjart School, too.
Jaquet Droz presented the Lady 8 Flower timepiece at Baselworld with a beautiful video by the Rudra Béjart School.
The upper loop of the 8-shape encases a lotus flower, which opens by the push of the button at 2 o’clock, revealing a diamond in the middle. Each petal has been engraved or enamelled and they close slowly when the button is released. The dial is adorned with a butterfly. The timepiece comes in two limited sets of eight: one with an engraved and enamelled butterfly on a guilloché background, and another with blue sapphire wings on snow-set diamonds.
Jaquet Droz Lady 8 Flower blue sapphire wings on snow-set diamonds. The lotus flower opens by pressing the button at 2 o'clock.
Petite Heure Minute Relief Carps
Koi carp was bred in Japan in the 1820s for colour, initially in the north-eastern coast of Honshu island. Carps can live up to 100-200 years, therefore the colourful koi carp has become the symbol of long life. Artists of Jaquet Droz’s Ateliers d’Arts reached out to vivid champlevé enamel to depict the peaceful swimming of koi fish in a lotus flower covered pond bordered by lilies. Even the balance weight is adorned with enamel. Champlevé is one of the eldest enamelling techniques, the origin of which goes back to early Celtic art in Europe between 3rd–2nd century BC. Cells are carved in metal and then filled with vitreous enamel. The company offers the timepiece in two versions: white gold with mother-of-pearl sub dial and baguette cut diamonds, and red gold with onyx dial. It is limited to 28 pieces.
The Butterfly Journey
One of the drawings produced by the legendary automata of Jaquet-Droz in the 18th century was a cherub in a carriage pulled by a butterfly. The motif became a cheerful enamel work on The Loving Butterfly limited edition timepiece in 2013 and it also appeared as an applique on enamel on the unique piece offered for the 5th Only Watch auction the same year.
The butterfly’s journey continues on two sets in 2015, based on the Petite Heure Minute model. In fact, the series is called The Butterfly Journey and comprises of two times eight pieces – each capturing a moment of the little creature’s flight. One set is made of red gold and feijoa flowers appear on Grand Feu enamel, the other is enhanced with pink peonies, white gold with diamonds on the case as well as the lugs. The sculpted butterfly has intense blue wings, again champlevé enamelled.
Jaquet Droz could always silence me for long minutes by portraying the most captivating faces of purity. Artisans in their workshops have a perfect sense for balance, which they continuously demonstrate in the Astrale collection. Just look at the Grande Heure, the Twelve Cities or even the Éclipse. The latter was announced in 2010, which from this Baselworld on can be purchased in two new versions too: a 39 mm diameter with aventurine dial and a 43mm diameter with grey opaline dial. Stars accompany the Moon, which plays hide and seek according to the current moon phase observed. Date is shown by a crescent-ended serpent hand on the circumference of the dial, while the day of the week and month are visible in the two apertures under the JD logo. The aventurine version is encrusted with diamonds on the case.
Grande Seconde Deadbeat
Deadbeat is an old mechanism, which replaced the traditionally linear movement of the seconds hand to accurate jumps for each second. Jaquet Droz brought it back in the Grande Seconde Deadbeat and gave the slim seconds hand the highly visible centre court for the performance. The lower dial segment, which usually displays seconds in this collection, shows the date in this model.
Photo credits: Jaquet Droz, Loupiosity.com.
All registered trademarks are property of their respective owners.
All rights reserved.