Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Off-Centered Chronograph Black Onyx
The Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Off-Centered Chronograph Black Onyx is a new addition to the Maison’s alluring portfolio of models. Over the years, this high-end Swiss firm has repeatedly shown its artistic and technical capabilities. This latest model reaffirms this reputation, however, its seemingly simple dial proves one of its most charming qualities.
Jaquet Droz joined the Swatch Group in 2000 and ever since the brand has enjoyed increasing popularity. The company’s atelier on the outskirts of La Chaux-de-Fonds is a haven for craftsmanship and helps perpetuate skills that may otherwise have been lost.
Skilled artisans often capture a scene from nature and impart it to a watch dial with the finest brushes. An array of enamelling techniques are skilfully practised. Several references encompass hand-engraving and feature sublime gem-setting.
The company can trace its roots to Pierre Jaquet Droz (1721-1790), ironically born close to the location of today’s atelier. Initially, he was devoted to making clocks, but subsequently made exquisite pocket watches. However, perhaps his most remarkable creations were his automata, including the three legendary humanoid automata, “The Draughtsman’, ‘The Musician’ and ‘The Writer’. In recent times, the Maison has produced modern-day automata such as ‘The Signing Machine’ (2014) and the wristworn ‘Chiming Bird’ (2013).
The Swiss marque has also made watch dials from aventurine, bronzite, lapis lazuli, meteorite and sunstone. This latest creation, the Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Off-Centered Chronograph Black Onyx features an array of technical highlights, such as monopusher, column wheel and silicon balance spring and pallet horns.
However, despite its mechanical attributes, I find this model’s most endearing qualities relate to its dial. The black onyx, a variety of silicate mineral chalcedony, provides an incredibly dark backdrop, proving the perfect foil for the dialside indications. Jaquet Droz has set aside symmetry, positioning the off-centre hour and minute display in the northeasterly territory of the dial. In addition, a 30-minute chronograph and retrograde date are grouped together in the southwesterly dial region, ultimately providing a seemly dose of equilibrium. Once again, the extraordinary design prowess of this Maison is clear to see.
The brand’s press release
Music, architecture, painting, sculpture: the major arts are all based on the same principle of balance. Music alternates between notes and rests. Architecture and sculpture between matter and void. Painting between colour and shadow. Indeed, artwork rests on a subtle harmony between what the human hand expresses and where nature is given free rein.
The new Grande Seconde Off-Centered Chronograph is no exception. Created in 2019, the piece is now offered with an onyx dial for the very first time. It joins the long tradition of mineral dials — a Jaquet Droz signature. Through its intensity — its absolute blackness — onyx grants the piece unprecedented depth. Like a treasure from nature, the perfect black colour of this precious mineral allows Jaquet Droz to design a composition from which the smallest detail and slightest reflection can be admired. Such is the case with the hour markers, off-centre at 1 o’clock, whose fine white gold appliqué features a circular satin finish. The hands are mirror polished, while those of the chronograph and date are polished. The large central seconds is equipped with an openwork counterweight, and the date with a solid counterweight, evoking a full moon or new moon against a black backdrop like the vastness of space itself.
This mechanical ballet is arranged to the “off-centre” choreography so dear to Jaquet Droz, according to which the retrograde date is located at 7 o’clock. At its heart is nestled the chronograph’s 30-minute counter. The Jaquet Droz 26M5R calibre, an automatic monopusher chronograph with column wheel, is the driving force — revealed through a sapphire crystal case back. The discerning gaze won’t miss the openwork oscillating weight in red gold, which unmasks the Cotes de Genève applied to each bridge. These traditional Fine Watchmaking finishes, which today combine with advanced technologies such as the silicon escapement, guarantee increased precision, unaffected by magnetism and temperature variations.
Perfectly balanced, the Grande Seconde Off-Centered Chronograph is a modern interpretation of the famous “8” traced out by its ancestor, the Grande Seconde, almost three centuries ago. Its new onyx dial provides a blank canvas on which to project one’s imagination. Nocturnal magic, the Greeks saw in onyx the imprint of the body of Venus and considered it the symbol of love. Twenty centuries later, Jaquet Droz offers a unique interpretation over which time glides—and out of which each of us tell a story.