Jaquet Droz Inside the Incredible World of Jaquet Droz
Since its inception in 1738, Swiss watch brand Jaquet Droz has been building extraordinary timepieces that raise the concept of Métiers d’Arts to all new heights.
When he founded his watch brand in 1738, Pierre Jaquet-Droz could hardly have imagined the lasting impact the brand would have. In his day, Jaquet-Droz, along with his son and Frédéric Leschot spent six years building some of the world’s most exceptional automata, including a life-size man sitting at a desk writing a letter, as well as a musician and a magician. These astonishing built-to-scale moving automaton fascinated royalty around the world. Today, the watch brand continues to capture the love and attention of watch aficionados globally with its incredible craftsmanship, artistic pieces and automatons.
Loving Butterfly Automate © Jaquet Droz
In its workshops in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Jaquet Droz employs some of the finest artisans in the world who create the storied watches that comprise its unique collections. A walk inside the hallowed walls of the Manufacture reveals room after room, where artists work using microscopes and tiny tweezers or paintbrushes to bring their art form to reality. From hand painting to engraving, enameling, gem setting and the art of automata on the watch dial, Jaquet Droz’ master craftsmen regularly surprise and delight aficionados with their exquisite work.
Taking its modern-day cue from the 18th century pieces with luxuriously embellished dials, Jaquet Droz offers an entire Ateliers D’Art collection that includes sculpting and engraving of gold and meticulous hand painting. For its recently released Petite Heure Minute Tiger watches – where a hand-painted tiger graces the grand feu enamel dial – the artisans spent hundreds of hours finely painting each and every hair with a single fine-tipped brush. A close-up look at the dial using a jeweler’s loupe reveals incredible detail of the hair, the mane and the whiskers. But the intense eyes are what steal the heart with their deep and mesmerizing stare. Each watch of the limited edition (28 pieces) is unique. Other stunning hand-painted dials include lions and even brightly hued flamingos.
Petite Heure Minute Tiger © Jaquet Droz
Jaquet Droz also works magic with sculpting and engraving – chiseling away at gold to create the finest, most detailed three-dimensional sculptures that reside on a painted dial. In its Petite Heure Minute Relief Seasons watch, the mother-of-pearl dial is hand painted with cherry blossoms and branches. Atop those branches, two beautiful birds with yellow chests and blue and white wings seem to flutter onto the scene. Those birds are stationary appliques, though. It is just that the hand engraving of each bird is so detailed and distinctive that, once painted, the 18-karat white gold birds majestically seem to come to life.
Here again, the artist spends hundreds of hours engraving this tiny applique that probably measures just about a quarter of an inch in diameter and height. Using a microscope and tiny old-world tools, the artist carves into the gold with extreme dexterity; one slip and the piece could be ruined. Just as there are four key seasons, there are four different scenes of birds on a background painted according to the weather. Just 88 pieces of each of the four seasons watches will be made.
Petite Heure Minute Relief Dragon © Jaquet Droz
In its most recently released Petite Heure Minute Relief Dragon watch, Jaquet Droz combines its gold engraving and sculpting work with another of its specialties: stone dials. In this exquisite and alluring piece, the mythical dragon graces the dial, with three different applique pieces that give the illusion that the dragon is writhing in and out of the “earth” beneath it. That earth is actually a specially carved mineral cut from a Spiderman Jasper stone. Its colors range from brown to burgundy and other tonal hues. There are multiple challenges for the artisans in the making of this watch with stone dial. Not only does the craftsmen carving the dragon in relief have to be careful with the tools, but also the artist placing the applique on the stone jasper dial must be incredibly patient and experienced so as not to crack or break the ultra-slim slab of stone.
Petite Heure Minute Relief Dragon © Jaquet Droz
As if these – and other watches like them – are not enough, Jaquet Droz continues to up its artistic game by offering one of the most comprehensive lines of Automata ever introduced by a single manufacture. The brand builds multiple bird repeaters, where the birds on the dial flutter their wings and feed their babies in the nest beneath them as the hours, quarters and minutes are sounded. In the Charming Bird watch, the brand showcases a domed crystal, beneath which sits a three-dimensional bird that actually moves and sings on demand.
In each of these watches, the brand’s various Métiers d’Arts skills come into play – along with its incredible watchmaking skills. After all, the movements inside the watch are incredibly complex, as well, boasting hundreds of tiny parts all finely finished and assembled.
In the Magic Lotus Automaton, enamel work, hand painting, engraving and automata come together on a dial that moves – showing a fish seemingly swimming in a lotus-adorned stream. In its Loving Butterfly Automaton, a butterfly carrying a chariot moves its wings and the wheel of the chariot moves, as well, on demand. The most recent version of this sculpted-gold enchanting flight, the scene takes place against a dial of rare chinchilla red petrified wood.
Loving Butterfly Automaton © Jaquet Droz
In all of these watches, Jaquet Droz uses an off-center dial to indicate the time – ensuring there is plenty of room left on the approximately 1-1/2-inch canvas to work its artistic magic.
An elegant, outward-looking philosophy that dates back to the Age of Enlightenment is still at the heart of Jaquet Droz's identity. The fine and rare handcrafts practiced at the company’s workshops produce exquisite miniature works of art and automata that combine the best of design with unprecedented levels of horological know-how.Find out more >
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