What makes a brand unique? In the case of Jaquet Droz, our September brand of the month, it’s difficult to quantify, since there are so many elements that make the brand stand out.
Jaquet Droz began in 1738 when Pierre Jaquet-Droz opened his first clockmaking workshop in Switzerland. From clocks, to automata, to watches, Pierre specialized in creating intricate mechanical pieces which he elevated to works of art by devoting painstaking attention to artistic detail. He and his protégés, son Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz and neighbor Jean-Frederic Leschot, mastered some of the most innovative and striking techniques of the day. They ornamented watch faces with paillonné enameling, miniature paintings, minerals, automata, sculpture and engraving.
The Jaquet-Droz family rose to fame through their automata, moving mechanical marvels that could perform incredible feats, which enchanted the French royal family and many others. For example, the Draughtsman (pictured below) took 3 years to make, was completed in 1774 and could produce 4 different drawings: a portrait of Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, a dog and a cupid driving a chariot pulled by a butterfly.
Incredibly, these techniques are still used by Jaquet Droz artisans and watchmakers over 250 years later. Take a look at how these arts have been applied to modern watches.
Paillonné Enameling – Petite Heure Minute Paillonnée
The art of paillonné enameling involves covering ornamental paillons cut from gold leaf with translucent enamel. The result of employing this technique on a small watch face is striking, as you can see in the Petite Heure Minute Paillonneé.
Minerals – Grande Seconde SW Lady Steel
Since the beginning, Jaquet Droz has used natural minerals to highlight the beauty of their watch faces. The Grande Seconde SW Lady Steel, for example, features a dial adorned in mother-of-pearl. Each watch adorned with minerals is unique thanks to the one-of-a-kind nature of the material.
Automata – The Bird Repeater Geneva and The Charming Bird
In this day and age, moving mechanical elements have become commonplace. It’s easy to forget how amazing something like the Draughtman or a singing mechanical bird would have been in the 18th century, but some of the original magic becomes apparent when these automata are miniaturized to the size of a watch face. The image on the face of the Bird Repeater Geneva features multiple moving elements, from a bird that opens and closes its wing to an egg that cracks open, revealing a chick.
Meanwhile, the Charming Bird features a miniature moving, singing bird encased in a tiny bubble which also showcases the mechanism that makes it work.
Sculpting/Engraving – Petite Heure Minute Relief Monkey
One of the Jaquet Droz signatures is a dial featuring tiny figurines which are molded and sculpted, giving the impression of a relief carving. The dial of the Petite Heure Minute Relief Monkey watch is also adorned in a hand-engraved motif which serves as the background for the monkey.
Miniature Painting – Petite Heure Minute Tigers
Each Jaquet Droz watch featuring a painted face is unique, as the dials are hand-painted one at a time with the aid of a microscope. A Petite Heure Minute Tigers watch like the one pictured takes at least one week to be produced.
Should you wish for a completely unique timepiece featuring a motif of your own design, Jaquet Droz can accommodate you. The brand will create a custom timepiece featuring a translated version of your design using suitable materials and techniques upon request. How’s that for unique?
Which ornamental technique is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!