JAQUET DROZ

Jaquet Droz is a Swiss luxury watch brand founded by master watchmaker Pierre Jaquet Droz (1721-1790) in 1738. Jaquet Droz wrist watches have a fresh, clean modern design while retaining credibility an a long tradition of Swiss clock work manufacture.

Since it was first established in 1738, Jaquet Droz has perpetuated the spirit of innovation and aesthetic refinement of its founder, Pierre Jaquet Droz. The first watchmaker to set up shop in Geneva, this ingenious inventor and man of uncommon vision conquered the royal courts of Europe and China with his stunning creations: fabulous humanoid automatons and precious musical watches.

Expressing the values of the Age of Enlightenment, this elegant and well-travelled philosophy still forms the core of brand’s identity. Jaquet Droz time-pieces have always combined design, materials with the most t unexpected mechanical refinements. The most elaborate complications are beautifully showcased with the purity of enamel or the lustre of pearls and precious stones. The Manufacture’s exclusive spirit is intact after nearly three centuries, as attested by its exquisite dials, made to order from precious minerals and rare woods, its ultra-select collections and its “Numerus Clausus” limited editions.

Pierre Jaquet Droz (1721-1790)
The story of Pierre Jaquet Droz and his sons is one of the most moving in the history of Horology. Born in 1721, Pierre Jaquet Droz, master of time in the Age of Enlightenment – mechanical genius, avant-garde creator of jewellery watchmaking and composer of poetry and dreams – is one of the most fascinating figures of the period.

Pierre Jaquet Droz

Through his mastery of complex mechanisms and movements, Pierre Jaquet Droz became the uncontested master of automata that were also genuine works of art: songbirds, fountains, and musical watches to name but a few. He was also the creator of “L’Ecrivain” (The Writer – 1775): a unique automaton and a true piece of art; its six-hundred-piece mechanism was extremely complex, much more intricate than those of other automata. It could be set to write any text of up to forty letters or symbols on a smooth piece of paper, as if on a typewriter. Two other automata, “La Musicienne” (The Musician) and “Le Dessinateur” (The Draftsman), were designed by his two sons, whom he trained from their earliest years. Today, these creations can be admired at the Neuchâtel Museum of Art and History in Switzerland.

Pierre Jaquet Droz was always at the forefront of developments in watchmaking, creating, for a clientele of connoisseurs, limited series that were seen as true artistic masterpieces. His ingenuity and talent were recognised throughout the world and applauded by all the Courts of Europe, Russia and even China. Surrounded by the best watchmakers, alchemists, mechanics, enamellers and gemstone craftsmen, he opened three Manufactures: La Chaux-de-Fonds (1738), London (1774) and Geneva (1784). In the 18th century, he was the first to recognize the potential of London, whose trade already established with China offered unparalleled access to the Forbidden City.

Time Line (1721-1791)

  • 1721: Pierre Jaquet Droz is born in La Chaux-de-Fonds
  • 1735: Pierre Jaquet Droz takes classes in physics and mathematics given by Swiss scholar Daniel Bernoulli, as well as studying theology at University.
  • 1738: Pierre Jaquet Droz sets up his first watchmaking workshop at a farm called “Sur Le Pont” in La Chaux-de-Fonds
  • 1758: Pierre Jaquet Droz leaves La Chaux-de-Fonds to go and present his creations in Spain
  • 1759: Pierre Jaquet Droz has his first audience with Ferdinand VI in Madrid. Pierre Jaquet Droz earns a triumphant success at the Spanish Court and sells all his creations. The money thus raised is invested in the creation of “Grande Complication” watches
  • 1769: Pierre Jaquet Droz is joined by his son Henry-Louis who has just completed his studies in mathematics, physics, science and art.
  • 1774: Orders continue to flow in from around the world. Pierre Jaquet Droz opens a second workshop in London with his son Henry-Louis, a gifted musician and ingenious design-engineer
  • 1775: Presentation in Paris before King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette of the three android automatons: The Writer, the Draughtsman and the Musician.
  • 1784: Pierre Jaquet Droz opens the first organised watchmaking manufactory in Geneva – his third along with those in La Chaux-de-Fonds and London
  • 1790: Pierre Jaquet Droz dies in Biel.
  • 1791: Henry-Louis Jaquet Droz dies in Naples while travelling.
Henry-Louis Jaquet Droz

Promoted Innovations
The passion of Pierre Jaquet Droz for innovation and creativity marked his production from the beginning and created a veritable business culture. One of the very first applications was the swanny, or sliding-piston, whistle. This major invention by the Jaquet Droz family gave a perfect imitation of birdsong by modulating the sound produced by a whistle, whereas the “serinette”, or French bird-organ, previously used to teach birds to sing, required a number of wind pipes to produce the same effect. This invention made it possible to produce a greater number of extremely small songbirds, housed in tobacco boxes, bottles, opera glasses and even pistols.

Pierre Jaquet Droz promoted the following technological developments:

  • The suspended-barrel bridge calibre, invented by the French watchmaker Jean-Antoine Lépine in 1770. In the Manufacture’s accounting registers, watches produced with this calibre were designated by the expression “à la Lépine”.
  • The keyless watch device, where watches were rewound by repeatedly use of the pendant (pump winding). This technique was used on many watches in the 18th century, either to wind the main spring, for a “sonnerie au passage”, or a chime.
  • Automatically wound watches with an oscillating mass. Pierre Jaquet Droz contributed to raising awareness of this technical marvel first in England, then in the Far East.
  • Decoration of high luxury watches. The enamel on the case of Jaquet Droz models is embellished by gold foil and silver “sous fondant”. This enamelling technique, called “paillonné”, was adopted by numerous Genevan enamellers.

Founded nearly three centuries ago, Jaquet Droz has always incorporated cutting-edge watchmaking technology into its time-keeping creations. Jaquet Droz mechanical self-winding and manually wound movements are all engraved with a clover, the secret signature of the founder of the Manufacture. The bridges and plate are adorned with “Côtes de Genève” ribbing, while the luxurious sunray motif on the oscillating body is visible through the transparent case back. This precious sunburst harbours sophisticated complications: tourbillon, minute repeater, equation of time, perpetual calendar, jumping hour or retrograde moon phase. In a never-ending quest to surpass its own achievements, Jaquet Droz takes the inventiveness of its luxury watches – and the pride of their possessors – to new heights.

Special Features of Jaquet Droz watches
Signature: From his very first creation, Pierre Jaquet Droz saw his products as works of art rather than simple timepieces. He therefore created his own artist’s signature: either he would set the Jaquet Droz hallmark – the logo – or he would set his secret seal, a miniscule three-leaf clover on the bottom of case or on the movement; a graphic that exists to this day.

“Figure 8”: The figure 8, a union of two circles resembling the mathematical symbol of infinity, is universal. Jaquet Droz made this a timeless composition, present in all collections and the source of inspiration for the design of pieces of art. The figure 8 is also highly appreciated because it is synonymous with prosperity in Asia; it symbolises eternity, and in many countries possessing an object bearing this symbol brings good luck. For Jaquet Droz, the 8 represents perfect balance. This figure, with its two sections, can be seen on the dial of the Grande Seconde. This figure imposed itself quite naturally for the “numerus clausus” editions: series of 8 – 28 – 88.

Movement : Jaquet Droz automatically or manually wound mechanical movements are adorned with bridges and plates bearing the “Côtes de Genève” decoration, while the sumptuous sun ornamentation of the oscillating weight is visible through the transparent caseback. The horological complications beat within this precious radiance: tourbillon, minute repetition, equation of time, perpetual calendar, jump hour or retrograde moon. For all models, Jaquet Droz begins with a consideration of aesthetics and then moves on to produce a development on the movement.

Watch Case: At Jaquet Droz, a watch case is like a treasure chest full of mechanical wonders to track time. The Manufacture believes that each watchcase is absolutely essential, whether it has a screw-type back or comes in one piece. Each one undergoes no fewer than 80 different operations. That’s why Jaquet Droz prizes the hands of its master craftsmen above any manufacturing tool.

Dial: The dials are designed in such a way as to give excellent legibility, giving them their distinguished appearance. In 1785, Jaquet Droz created the iconic model of the brand, the Grande Seconde, and gave shape to a new way of perceiving space. It is the course of the seconds’ hand that provides us with the best visualisation of the passing of Time, established many centuries ago.

With the Grande Seconde dial and its figure-8-inspired design, scientific precision is no longer the reserve of academics, merchants, priests and kings. Now any admirer of fine objects can share the privilege of precision and refinement. Nearly two centuries after its creation, the philosophical values, aesthetic identity and scientific rigour of this iconic model remain, and prove the perpetuity of Jaquet Droz designs. Since its first launch, the product has appeared in a never-ending variety of different versions: Grande Seconde Email, Grande Seconde Email Noir, and Grande Seconde Cerclée Minéraux. These models illustrate the extraordinary level of skill of the dial makers and the infinite possibilities for personalisation.

The aesthetics of the model has not aged in the slightest. Resolutely fashionable in the treatment of the typography of the numerals – Roman or traditional for the hours and minutes, modern and immediately accessible for the seconds – the watch incarnates simultaneously an impressive history and the present moment. The relative proportions of the two counters continue a line of geometrical progression inspired by the golden number – the figure 8 – a symbol at the very heart of Jaquet Droz’ identity

Setting: Jewellery watches celebrate Time in luxurious style. Since 1738, Jaquet Droz has forged an alliance between its superlative technology and the beauty of pearls and precious stones. For more than two hundred and fifty years, its timepieces have set the standard for luxury watches as well as fine jewellery. The art of the setter reaches its apogee in the spectacular dials of the “Fleur du Temps” models… in the gleam of gold, the fire of diamonds, the deep purple-reds of rubies or spessartines as well as in flawlessly cut sapphires and emeralds, each more rare .

Unique pieces: Jaquet Droz has developed the concept of unique pieces made to order, where the watch is a work of art. Master Stone cutters and dial makers work on gemstones: aventurine, spectrolite, rutile quartz, meteorite, onyx and nuummite. As an incarnation of exception, these models are available in limited editions, “numerus clausus” of 8 or as a unique piece.

Numerus clauses: Limited-series pieces are prized by connoisseurs and all those who seek to stand out from the crowd. In the “numerous clausus” version, production is limited to 8, 28 or 88 pieces.

Montres Jaquet Droz SA
After a few years’ absence from the world of watchmaking, and an intermediate period marked by the presence of foreign shareholders, the brand was acquired in 2000 by the Swatch Group, and returned to its town of origin, La Chauxde-Fonds. Today, the success of Jaquet Droz is undeniable; the Manufacture is resolutely positioned within the prestige and luxury segment of the Swatch Group.

Montres Jaquet Droz SA, La Chaux-de-Fonds

The excellence of Master craftsmen
During the 18th century, in the workshops of La Chaux-de-Fonds, London and Geneva, Jaquet Droz trained the very best watchmakers and artists who were to assure the reputation of Swiss Horology. To create the link between 18th and 21st centuries, Jaquet Droz continues to call on the very best craftsmen, who find their inspiration in a contemporary interpretation of the horological art of the bygone age.

Dial makers – Enamellers: “Grand feu” enamelling is one of the unique skills and the signature of Jaquet Droz. This technique is worked entirely by hand, in a subtle play between the finesse of powders – as fine as human hair – and the power of flames. Enamellers alone know the formula for producing these dials with their absolutely unique colour and grain. The dial, usually ivory, can also be absolute black; fascinating and mysterious, this black is the fruit of an alchemy whose secret is jealously guarded.

The brand attaches extreme importance to the quality of the enamel, and the slightest hairline crack leads to a systematic rejection of the piece. The craftsman may produce five or more, and in the end keep only one.

Blueing finishers: Jaquet Droz dials are embellished with one or more gold rings that are applied, bevelled, drawn and secured by screws, entirely by hand. This striking decorative feature is further enhanced by the characteristic blue of the hands and screws used in Jaquet Droz watches, which are created by bluing steel in a very delicate operation. The blueing craftsman, a specialist in this meticulous task, works with an open flame and adjusts the heat (to about 300°C) depending on the size and thickness of each watch hand. Treating steel with heat changes the colour of them metal from its original grey to blue. This operation is carried out for two reasons: the first, purely aesthetic, is to give the steel parts an attractive and uniform colour; the second – more technical – is to modify the resistance and thus the elasticity of the pre-treated metal.

Gem setters: Ever since 1738, Jaquet Droz has always combined the best technology with the beauty of pearls and precious stones. Timepieces are as much horological references as treasures of “Haute Joaillerie”, a tradition that lives more than ever through the Grande Seconde’s ring set with pearls and rubies, or the dazzling bezel and horns – a passing yet distinguished reference to the pocket watches of the Age of Enlightenment. The art of the master gem setter reaches its apogee in the spectacular dials of the Fleur de Lotus models… in the gleam of gold, the fire of diamonds, the deep purple-reds of rubies or spessartines as well as in flawlessly cut sapphires and emeralds, each more rare and splendid than the next.

Gem stone Craftsmen: Jaquet Droz is the brand that pushes furthest the use of mineral gems in the ornamentation of dials. Their partners search constantly for the rarest stones which will elevate the beauty of unique pieces, and which will reflect the choice and personality of the client. The Master craftsman calls upon all his art and the excellence of his skill for the presentation of these prodigious minerals. The greatest challenge is to find the right orientation so that the materials are cut whilst respecting the very nature of the stone.

Collections
The brand collections are divided into four product lines that pay homage to the Manufactures established by Pierre Jaquet Droz, and his success in the City of Light.

1.Hommage La Chaux-de-Fonds 1738: Pierre Jaquet Droz, creator of watches, clocks and automatons of a unanimously acclaimed finesse, excelled in the complexity of mechanisms and movements required for his masterpieces to work. It was in his first workshop that he began to specialise in the production and exportation of timepieces with grand complications, such as a songbird or a passing chime, surpassing himself in all domains of mechanical ingenuity. The “Hommage La Chaux-de-Fonds 1738” range is dedicated to grand complications.

2. Hommage Londres 1774: With the opening of his second Manufacture in London, Pierre Jaquet Droz gave an astonishing demonstration of his strategic daring and visionary genius. During the Age of Enlightenment, London was at the centre of European trade, and the departure point to major destinations in Asia and the Far East. The “Hommage Londres 1774” collection is dedicated to distinctive, urban, cosmopolitan watches, with an elegant and distinguished charm.

3. Hommage Genève 1784: As a bridge between the Age of Enlightenment and the third millennium, the “Hommage Genève 1784” collection evokes the union between Haute Horlogerie and poetry, contemporary aesthetics and timelessness. Directly inspired by a pocket watch created in the 18th century, this collection echoes the luxurious and refined pieces designed by Pierre Jaquet Droz in his third watchmaking Manufacture. In choosing Geneva, he became a pioneer: his workshop was the very first to be established in this city.

4. Hommage Paris 1785: As a cultural crossroads, an intellectual epicentre, and the city where the history of the 18th century was written, Paris has always had particular importance for Jaquet Droz. During the Age of Enlightenment, their founder, Pierre Jaquet Droz, frequently visited Paris, where he presented his models. Designated the capital of femininity, art and fashion, the city has been famous ever since for its jewellery watches, set with precious stones or pearls. Mysterious and enchanting, the “Hommage Paris 1785” Collection represents a quest to push back the limits of Beauty.

JAQUET DROZ – 275 YEARS OF FINE WATCHMAKING 

Jaquet Droz celebrated its 275th anniversary in 2013. Some important key dates in the extraordinary history of the brand are given below.

1738: Pierre Jaquet-Droz sets up his first workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds. He produces a whole series of long-case clocks with increasingly sophisticated movements that surpass anything before seen. His manual dexterity, meticulous nature and serious approach to his craft, as well as the reasoned application of the mechanical principles, led him to add music and automata to his movements, which came rapidly to the attention of a wealthy and demanding clientele.

1758: Pierre Jaquet-Droz, together with his father-in-law, Abraham Louis Sandoz and a young hired hand named Jacques Gevril, plan a journey from La Chaux-de-Fonds to the Spanish Royal court. They build a special carriage equipped to carry 6 clocks. 49 days after leaving Switzerland, they are received in Madrid by a Spanish nobleman. After a wait of several months, Pierre presents his clocks to King Ferdinand VI. The presentation was a triumph; the monarch and his court are left speechless by his creations and purchase the complete set for a large sum of money. Upon his return to La Chaux-de-Fonds, he devotes himself exclusively to making watches, clocks and his famous automata.

1773: Pierre Jaquet-Droz and his son, Henri-Louis, present their famous humanoid automata, the Writer, the Draughtsman and the Musician, in La Chaux-de-Fonds, then all over Europe. Their extensive research into picturesque mechanics and the artificial reproduction of life and movement give their creations a level of realism that astonishes and amuses all the Royal courts of Europe. But beyond their entertainment value, they provide excellent opportunities for Jaquet-Droz to show his watchmaking skills and sell his pieces. The automata really are an excellent promotional tool.

1774: Pierre Jaquet-Droz decides to set up a workshop in London, a hub for industry and trade. He gives his son, Henri-Louis, the responsibility over the management of the workshop, with a particular focus on managing relations with the Cox company, whose agents in Canton will provide access to the Far East market. For many years, they will represent the brand in China, the East Indies and Japan.

1779: With more than 600 pieces exported to China in 10 years, the Jaquet-Droz father and son have captivated the Qianlong Emperor himself. He and the mandarins of the Imperial court have developed a passionate interest in European mechanical watches and automatons, and Jaquet-Droz becomes the first watch brand imported into the Forbidden City. Several automata and pocket watches are still carefully preserved in the Imperial Palace museum today.

1784: Jaquet-Droz opens the first watchmaking manufacture in Geneva, specializing in making and exporting fine luxury watches with automatons, music and other complications, while developing the production of singing birds. They also contribute to founding a factory-school in the city; producing dials for repeater watches, and go on to develop a host of projects related to watchmaking technology and the support of crafts connected with watchmaking. Their efforts help a whole generation of craftsmen to earn their living. Cases enameled with spangles, painting on enamel, as well as the skills of carving and engraving contribute significantly to the success and reputation of Jaquet-Droz creations: pocket watches, urns, snuff boxes, bird cages… all these masterpieces are decorated.

1790-1791: Pierre and Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz die just one year apart. The French revolution and the troubles that followed it, as well as the Napoleonic wars, bring an end to a period of creativity and prosperity for the company.

2000: Montres Jaquet Droz is acquired by the Swatch Group and joins its prestige and luxury range. The Swatch Group enables the brand to recapture the success it enjoyed during the Age of Enlightenment, and preserve the exceptional heritage of its founder. The Group makes its expertise, technical resources and its famous production system available to Jaquet Droz, as well as its international distribution network.

2002: Launch of the Grande Seconde, a piece inspired by a pocket watch created in the 18th century. The dial of this ageless icon of the company is a refined demonstration of the art of Grand Feu enameling, with the hour and minute display at 12 o’clock overlapping the seconds counter at 6 o’clock.

2008: Launch of the Pocket Watch, the legendary timepiece that was made for centuries. This model, created in 1785, has survived and become the inspiration for the brand’s flagship, the Grande Seconde Enamel, honoring a philosophy that has remained unchanged since the Enlightenment.

2009: Nicolas G. Hayek takes the reins at Jaquet Droz, assisted by a steering committee.

2010: Montres Jaquet Droz SA moves into its Fine Watchmaking workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds. This 2,500 m2 site gives the brand a new energy, with the intention of becoming, like its watches, a synthesis of horological expertise and craftsmanship with a distinctive personality that enables it to meet the strong demand from the market and its customers.

Marc A. Hayek takes over at Jaquet Droz, with the firm intention of cultivating the spirit of excellence and innovation while continuing to respect the emotional and poetic values created in the 18th century.

The Eclipse

The Launch of The Eclipse: an exceptional timepiece displaying 8 stars (a lucky number for Jaquet Droz) and an engraved moon that continuously evolves, changing with each new dawn. This 18th century inspired design evokes both the origins of the brand and its passion for the decorative arts that dates back to the Enlightment.

2011: One of the most recognizable Jaquet Droz models, the Grande Seconde, is combined with a masterpiece of high-precision watchmaking: the tourbillon. Sapphire and Grand Feu enamel, innovation and tradition… many creative possibilities are opened up. The master dial makers finally decide to place the tourbillon right at the heart of the seconds counter, repositioned at 12 o’clock.

Jaquet Droz Tourbillon

Jaquet Droz makes a priority to develop its Ateliers d’Art workshops within the Fine Watchmaking workshop, to integrate and preserve the centuries of special expertise that have created the brand’s identity. The meticulous work involved in miniature painting, carving, engraving and paillonné enamel is highlighted in some exceptional pieces in the Jaquet Droz collection.

2012: With the support of the Musée d’art et d’histoire de Neuchâtel, the famous humanoid automaton, The Writer, is taken to Beijing as part of an extraordinary exhibition “Automates & Merveilles”.

In partnership with Montres Jaquet Droz, it introduces the genius of Jaquet-Droz and Leschot to a new public. An incredible amount of information is assembled for the first time in the three museums in the canton of Neuchâtel : the Musée d’art et d’histoire de Neuchâtel, the Musée d’horlogerie de Locle and the Musée international d’horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

A new automaton, The Bird Repeater, is presented in November. This exceptional piece that involves all the decorative arts has been created in-house, demonstrating the history, expertise and imagination of Jaquet Droz craftsmen.

The Bird Repeater

2013: Jaquet Droz celebrates its 275th anniversary, maintaining the avant-garde spirit and refined taste that distinguished its founder. After almost 300 years, the link between the Age of Enlightenment and the third Millennium remains intact.

Official website: www.jaquet-droz.com

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