Fine Art In Motion: Discovering Jaquet Droz’s 2019 Novelties And Interview With CEO Christian Lattmann
Involving hundreds of man-hours per piece, the new Jaquet Droz novelties are hidden gems for savvy collectors.
Jaquet Droz is a brand that has maintained insider status in the US, known only to those in the know. But with the extension of their lease on their 5th Avenue boutique from increased customer interest, it seems word has gotten out.
Founded in 1738, Jaquet Droz was best known for their automatons, wind-up machines that performed human-like tasks of sketching an image, writing a signature, or pouring a cup of tea. So life-like and futuristic, these machines brought sorcery allegations against Jaquet Droz.
After an extended dormancy period, the brand was revived by two former Breguet employees in 1995 and was purchased by the Swatch group in 2003. Since then, the brand has regained notoriety for their intricately hand-carved and hand-painted automaton watches and for their signature Grande Seconde collection.
The three defining pillars of Jaquet Droz are the Grande Seconde collection, Automatons, and a commitment to craftsmanship. True to form, the new 2019 novelties move the needle on all three.
Grande Seconde Skelet-One
The recognizable Grande Seconde collection gets a cutting-edge overhaul with the Skelet-One. The open-worked watch reveals a sapphire dial, silicon balance spring, and depending on the colorway, an 18k red gold or 18k white gold oscillating weight.
The Skelet-One should attract a younger market interested in skeleton designs, but without having to spend on a Richard Mille or Audemars Piguet. The Skelet-One is available in 18k white gold, 18k red gold, or black ceramic.
Grande Seconde Quantième Satin-Brushed Blue
Available in 39mm or 43mm, the Grande Seconde Quantième Satin-Brushed Blue adds a sunray finish to the classic Grande Seconde. This model also features a 68-hour power reserve, white gold indexes, and an exhibition caseback.
Grande Seconde Dual Time
The world map function adds a touch of elegance to the collection, set in a silver opaline, onyx, black enamel, or ivory Grand Feu enamel dial. The 43mm case is available in either stainless steel or 18kt red gold.
Grande Seconde Off-Centered Chronograph
This mono-pusher chronograph showcases a double-level, blue dial that has been sandblasted by hand to achieve just the right amount of texture. The 43mm piece is available in either stainless steel or 18kt red gold with dials in blue, gray, silver, or ivory enamel. This watch also features a 40-hour power reserve and a pointer-type retrograde date display at 7 o’clock.
Petite Heure Minute Mother of Pearl
In the ladies' collection, the 35mm Petite Heure Minute features a mother of pearl dial, 18kt white gold applied ring, optional diamond bezel, and under the hood, a 68-hour power reserve.
Magic Lotus Automaton
Finally, the Magic Lotus Automaton is a true show-stopper. Each element of the mother of pearl dial has been hand-engraved and hand-painted. The mono-pusher activates the rotating rings, animated pond with carp, dragonfly, and lotus. The automaton features an astounding four-minute runtime that cycles through four-seasons, representing a continuous cycle of death and rebirth. Through the exhibition caseback, one can view the intricately hand-carved movement. In total, the watch requires nearly 300 hours of artistry.
In conversation with CEO Christian Lattmann
To learn more about the brand, its approach to watchmaking, and what it’s like to be a niche manufacture, Watchonista sat down with Jaquet Droz CEO, Christian Lattmann.
Thomas Hendricks: Christian, it’s a pleasure to meet you, and thank you for sitting down with Watchonista. How is 2019 going for Jaquet Droz?
Christian Lattmann: For Jaquet Droz, 2019 is an exceptional year for our novelties. What we presented during Time To Move was really well accepted by the press and retailers. All said that we are going in a good direction, we are doing well with our new products in terms of creativity, design, and technique, of course, craftsmanship, but also price positioning. They all said the price for value is good and money for value is good, so I'm really happy with the result.
The baseline of Jaquet Droz is that some watches tell time, some tell a story. And for each new product we create, we try to tell a new story. To explain why we have done this product and what is behind it, the symbolism, the philosophy of each watch. We're not talking about watches anymore, it's more about trying to position watchmaking as art and explaining this to all our clients.
So, yes, it was a good year - it is a good year, it's not finished - and now we're traveling around the world to present our novelties.
TH: It seems like by and large Jaquet Droz is undiscovered or even underappreciated. You've been CEO for 3 years now and the brand seems to have gotten more recognition in that time. What have you found that's worked?
CL: First what we have done, in terms of market and product, is for everything to be more focused. We don't want to open too many points of sale or be in too many markets without having reached a certain level and being a bit more established. So, we decided to not go too fast in every market and we only have 200 points of sale in the world.
For the people who love watches and are discovering Jaquet Droz, we want it to be easier to "read" the brand, to understand where we are going, who we are, what our values are.
I think, more and more, people want to know about what's behind the brand. They want to know the authenticity of how we work, how we do things, and to be completely transparent with how we create. This is very important for the future of Jaquet Droz.
TH: For my final question, I saw that Jaquet Droz is a supporter of the Béjart Ballet in Lausanne and I was curious to get your take on the overlap between the arts and watchmaking.
CL: Well, we did that 3 years ago and we decided to choose the Béjart Ballet but, more generally, what we want to support is the arts in general. You know, we have 8 in-house artists who are creating this kind of craftsmanship. So, what we sell, what we show, what we develop, what we create is not watches, it's pure art. When you see the ballet, it's so elegant and so beautiful that you don't see all the work behind it. This is the beauty of dancing. Here it is the same. When you see, for instance, the new Magic Lotus Automaton, it is very beautiful, but you cannot imagine all the work that is behind it.
You have the beauty where you can just imagine how it is difficult to create the leaves which are in gold and engraved and enameled. It's quite difficult. Normally gold, when you put it in the heat it moves, it changes the shape. So, it's the first time we've done that. But when you see the watch you don't realize it.
Well, that's not completely true. I was wearing this watch at the airport and this lady, who I didn't know, came up to me and said, "Ah, you have the new Jaquet Droz! I love it!" And this was not the first time. So sometimes we say that not enough people know the brand but in fact, the people who do know the brand love it.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)