Our trip last week to the Jaquet Droz Atelier in La Chaux-de-Fonds was so perfect it even snowed. Hometown of founder Pierre Jaquet-Droz (1721-1790), this small Swiss Jura mountain city is also home to the new Jaquet Droz Atelier de Haute Horlogerie inaugurated by The Swatch Group in 2010. The Group acquired the prestigious brand in the year 2000, launching the Grande Seconde in 2002, its most emblematic timepiece first imagined in 1785.
Greeted with a showcase of minerals, stones and other materials, we discover that jade, lapis lazuli, onyx, mother-of-pearl, ruby, aventurine, slate and even parts of meteorites and petrified dinosaur bone can be sliced to a thickness of 0.8 mm to become dials for unique or Numerus Clausus editions limited to 8, 28, or 88 pieces. Even more exclusive, you can choose your favourite dial for your customized timepiece that will take 2 to 6 months to produce, depending upon whether you want it enameled and painted or sculpted and engraved. Rare, the brand produces only about 3,000 timepieces every year.
As part of The Swatch Group, Jaquet Droz benefits from other brands in the prestige and luxury range for specially designed rounded cases in white or red gold, titanium, ceramic, or stainless steel. The movements with silicon balance springs, since 2013, are all made at the Blancpain manufacture. Deadbeat seconds, perpetual calendar, chronograph, tourbillon and minute repeater movements are controlled, adjusted, and completed at the Atelier with, for example, black onyx on the oscillating mass, before becoming the heartbeats of timepieces that, whether sober or eccentric, create instant emotion.
Jaquet Droz is master of all métiers d’art. Outstanding sculptors, engravers, Grand Feu and ‘émaillage’ enamellers, and painters who paint birds with a brush no thicker than a hair demonstrate their expertise just a few rooms away from master restorers who, among other skills, can make new blued hands with a flame of 350°C to replace those on century-old timepieces.
The end of our visit, in a showroom where we are met by playful automaton Charlie first seen at Baselworld 2013, takes us back in time with a rare, inestimable collection that includes singing birds in Bird Cages, pocket watches and snuff boxes, some of which date from 1785.
More news about Jaquet Droz follows next week.
Until then, for your visual and audio pleasure, here again is The Charming Bird, winner of the Mechanical Exception Prize at the 2015 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.
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Photo Credit: Haute Time. For more information, please visit the official Jaquet Droz website. Follow Haute Time on Instagram to catch all of the new releases as they happen.