It’s what’s known as a velvet revolution. Certain brands like to hit hard, go out on a limb and really dazzle. Others take a more modest approach – but actually introduce just as many significant changes in their technical stance. Jaquet Droz is one of them.
One small part, one giant technological leap
It’s only a few millimetres big, and yet it could turn out to be the star of this year’s Baselworld for the manufacture. The part in question is a spiral made out of silicon. It’s the first time that Jaquet Droz has used silicon in its timepieces, but it will surely not be the last.
For this pivotal year in the firm’s history, the Grande Seconde – what else? – is the chosen beneficiary. The Calendar version of the Grande Seconde – an iconic model for both the manufacture and fine watchmaking since 1784 – has been selected. And just to really emphasise this major technological leap forward, the timepiece comes in two 39 or 43 mm red or grey gold versions.
Why silicon? Technically, because it’s non-magnetic and immune to changes in temperature and pressure. All of this makes it highly robust over time. That’s what lies behind the watchmaking industry’s move to use it, now taken up by Jaquet Droz. That said, this element is not without its drawbacks. It is still just one player in a larger ecosystem (the escapement), and fixed to another part (the balance): both of these are sensitive to impacts, gravity, and so on. And some people lament the fact that it’s impossible to repair. It is possible to change a silicon spiral, but it’s a very expensive operation that is only within the grasp of a very small number of manufacturers.
The fact that a firm like Jaquet Droz, firmly established in the watchmaking tradition, is embarking on the adventure with silicon offers confirmation of a technical approach that others still feel is too risky. Opting to incorporate it in the Grande Seconde Quantième is a powerful statement, too, signifying a decisive step forward for this disruptive technology. The watch is set to become a sought-after collector’s item in record time.
A family likeness
It’s definitely a Grande Seconde sort of year in Basel – no fewer than six variations of the SW version will be on show. Fans will recognise all their favourite features: the crenellated bezel, the steel tones, the central crosspiece – and as always, a decidedly contemporary look and feel.
The 2014 models do have two distinctive features, though: a welcome new diameter of 41 mm alongside the 45 mm, and a Côtes de Genève finish for the dial. Basically, the spirit of the Grande Seconde Quantièmes at Baselworld 2013 – with two models that also had Côtes de Genève dials in blue and brown – is still very much with us. The styling experiment was conclusive, and so Jaquet Droz has decided to keep on the same track.
A bird laid bare
The Bird Repeater Openwork has yielded to the trend for skeletons. This offers a little aesthetic breathing space for the automaton, following two successive years of really innovative developments (unveiling of the automaton in 2012, enhanced in 2013 with a whistling tune).
The next episode in the saga is a little more refined. It retains the animations that brought it success: two tits feeding their babies, opening their wings, a waterfall murmuring and an egg hatching. Beneath the sapphire crystal dial, the automaton movement has been exposed to highlight each of the colourful animations, revealing the black, anthracite and grey automaton parts. The overall effect is one of unprecedented depth and colour contrast.