Jaquet Droz’s New Grande Seconde Deadbeat

Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Deadbeat dial detail - Perpetuelle

With a warm grand feu enamel dial and an appealing presentation of time, the new Grand Second Deadbeat from Jaquet Droz is not a watch one comes across every day.  Of course its most distinguishing feature — as its name clearly notes — is the incorporation of a “dead beat” seconds into the mechanics. What this means is that the seconds hand “ticks” in one second increments – yes, imitating the action of an analog quartz watch, of all things.  So rather than sweeping smoothly as would typically be seen with an automatic mechanical movement, the seconds hand uses some clever mechanics to give it unique appeal.

Inspired by the Pocket Watch created by Pierre Jaquet-Droz in 1784, the Grande Seconde is one of Jaquet Droz’s core collections. In this collection the seconds subdial sits in the lower half of the dial centered along the 6 o’clock line.  It is noticeably larger than the hour+minute dial, also set off center just off of 12 o’clock — hence the “Grande Seconde” name.  However in this latest model, the seconds hand is center-set and sweeps the entire circumference of the dial rather than being a subdial.  On top is the hours+minutes (note the use of “5 6 7” numerals in tandem with the Romans — unusual for sure, but it works), and down below is a date hand.  It all comes together quite nicely.

Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Deadbeat - Perpetuelle

Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Deadbeat caseback detail - Perpetuelle

The Bird Repeater Geneve, by Jaquet Droz

Jaquet Droz Geneva Bird Repeater Red Gold - Perpetuelle

Jaquet Droz just unveiled a new edition of its enchanting “Bird Repeater” automaton chiming watch.  This piece has a special Geneva theme, with symbols of the Swiss city on a white mother-of-pearl dial, in a red gold case.

The Geneva themed dial brings together the work of engravers, painters, and enamelers in representing Lake Geneva, its famous Jet d’Eau fountain and lighthouse (Le Phare des Pâquis) as well as the silhouette of the Salève, the pre-Alpine peak considered the city’s “balcony.”   Geneva is where Pierre Jaquet-Droz opened the city’s first clockmaking manufacture in 1784 and, at the same time, introduced the production of timepieces featuring grand complications.  More prominent on the dial are a pair of elegant goldfinches, hand-sculpted in gold with brightly colored plumage.  In the nest sit their two young and a hatching egg.   All created by the hands of very, very skilled artisans!

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Enamel Explained: The Art of Cloisonné, Grand Feu, Champlevé, Paillonné, Flinqué & Other Enamel Techniques

  JLC Master Ultra Thin Grand Feu Closeup

In our most ambitious “Making of” special yet, we go in-depth on enamel techniques.  You see the terms referred to regularly here at Perpétuelle:  “grand feu”, “champlevé”, and “cloisonné”.    And what are they?  Enamel techniques, of course!  Very often used to create some of the most beautiful watch dials the world has ever seen.  But what exactly do these terms mean?  How are these enamel techniques different?  What distinguishes each of these enamel types from the others?  And what about those other rare occasions where we see the art of “flinque”, & “grisaille” — enamel techniques as well — on display.  I explore these questions and more in this overview of the art of enamel in watchmaking.

In many articles related to fine watchmaking, it is easy to brush past big, fancy (and typically French) words used to describe watchmaking techniques — enamel-related or otherwise.  But given that enamel dials are often the most unique and beautiful of all dials in fine watchmaking, with basically all of the most prestigious haute horlogerie brand producing such pieces (some more frequently than others), the time has never been better to deepen our understanding of what these terms mean.

Because of the organic nature of the material and manner in which it is produced — almost always by the skilled hand of an experienced artisan — I believe that it can be fairly stated that every watch with an enamel dial is a unique piece as well.   But for most, the difference between a cloissoné dial (such as that found on a Patek 5131G) and a champlevé dial (as seen on a Vacheron Metiers d’Art) is but another trivial watchmaking detail.  This naivete, I confess, was somewhat the case for me as well — at least for a while.  But then I became more and more intrigued by the art of enamel and decided to expand my knowledge base, which I share with you now.

This is an article I’ve had in my head for quite some time now, and an admittedly one that only the nerdiest of watch-nerds might appreciate.  But I’m glad to have finally finished it and I enjoyed writing it.  So follow along as I take you through the finer points of enamel and enameling techniques used in fine watchmaking.   And please note — this is not an exhaustive study of the very broad ranging “art of enamel”, but as I say will review the most commonly used techniques fine watchmaking, and a few less commonly used techniques as well.

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Rare Singing Bird Cage Clock Automaton by Jaquet Droz to Sell (Video)

SOLD!  291,750 Swiss Francs (about $305,000 USD

on Nov 9, 2014Rare Singing Bird Cage Clock Automaton by Jaquet Droz

The top highlight of Antiquorum’s mega-sale this weekend in Geneva is unquestionably the Small Singing Bird Cage Clock with Automaton Jumping Bird & Automaton Waterfall, attributed to Jaquet-Droz et Leschot Geneva.  At upwards of 400,000 Swiss Frances, it is projected to be the top selling lot of the auction, out of more than 1,000 lots which include such exceptional pieces as a Patek Philippe Ref 2499, a Blancpain  1735 Grand Complication and a Patek 5004.

But forget the price — this is one of those truly rare, special and exceptional pieces of horological history that happens to not be a pocket or wristwatch — and I absolutely love it.  You have to see — and hear — this amazing piece of horological history.  It really is an awe-inspring piece of automaton, particularly when you consider it was made circa 1785 (!!!!).  And here it is:

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