Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Chronograph Ivory Enamel Limited Edition
If you equally value superior technical refinement and decorative art.
The timepieces that currently lead in "Haute Horlogerie" are a handful, and they all have a long history. It is hard that a dress watch, for instance, even if it comes from a respected brand, will quickly become highly sought-after if the collection it belongs to, has no recognized foothold, or has earned the "respect" of watch collectors. Owning some of the most wanted classic watches in steel, gold, platinum, or whatsoever material is like joining an exclusive club, where new members are hardly accepted unless they have a remarkable pedigree.
The same goes for luxury sports watches too: some of today's most eagerly wanted ones did not gain immediate success when they first appeared, and they took years before moving under the spotlight. In this ultra-traditionalist scenario, the Grande Seconde by Jaquet Droz is a "case study"; it was capable of creating its status in watchmaking by blending a classic watch's DNA with a somewhat powerful sports look, thus creating a successful formula in a short amount of time. Take a look at the recently released Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Ceramic, for instance.
In the Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Chronograph Ivory Enamel Limited Edition, the equation works even better. Widely considered as one of the most recognizable wristwatches in the industry, regardless of whether you love it or hate it, the Grande Seconde is also less advertised in comparison to its peers from renowned competing brands, whose multi-channel ad campaigns are anywhere, anytime. Yet, when you get a glimpse at this Grande Seconde in red gold, you get a boost to your good vibes.
The king of automata has introduced a single push-piece chronograph, a technical choice quite unusual and hard to find, that aims at preserving the figure-eight signature layout of the Grande Seconde, in my opinion; the only renowned brand (along with sister company Blancpain) that offers such an option is Minerva, but product philosophy and outcome are different, and far less artistic, from a pure decorative standpoint. The base architecture is paired here to decorative art: the ivory Grand Feu enameled dial has more to do with miniature painting rather than with standard mechanical watchmaking.
The case, as a stand-alone part, sporting its unmistakable two-register vertical dial, somehow reminds me of stopwatches used for timing competitions during the first half of the 20th century. Professor John Keating from the award-winning film "Dead Poets Society," would probably yell at me while I try and compare the Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Chronograph to an equilateral triangle, such is this watch balanced, in my opinion, between sport, classic watch (yet hardly dress watch), and pure decorative art. Those ingredients combine so carefully on this specific Grande Seconde. Also, the ivory Grand Feu enamel finish adds that special touch that's missing, honestly, on any steel variant of the same watch.
I hope Jaquet Droz will, after introducing this exclusive limited-edition timepiece (88 are the specimens), soon replicate this experiment, by adding more accessible variants sporting this design, anytime soon. The two recessed counters adopt different treatments: the tiny hour and minute hands are in red gold as the case, while the dial pays vaguely tribute to the once-popular "California" dials (it combines Arabic and Roman numerals). All the chronometric functions are organized in the lower end and feature blued elongated steel hands instead. Since it is a Chrono and has just two registers, the thirty-minute Chrono counter has replaced the running seconds' display.
A third and no less intriguing complication is the date display: coupled to the single-button chronograph mechanism, whose performance is flawless and guarantees no unwanted jump of the Chrono hand during start and re-start operations, is a pointer date complication with retrograde hand (crafted in red gold) placed around the thirty-minute register itself making the Grande Seconde Chronograph Ivory Enamel Limited Edition even more appealing from a technical standpoint.
The Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Chronograph is an "Ode to Symmetry", its dial is close to the "golden ratio" in terms of proportions and is easy to read (dark hours not included, unfortunately). The only letdown is the crown design; I believe it is too hefty and should be slightly reduced in both height and thickness, and last but not least, more finely grooved. The addition of a coaxial push-piece button makes the crown protrude too much out of the already generously sized case (43mm in diameter and 14,83mm in thickness confirm how uncommon this classic-non-classic-looking watch is).
The pin buckle? It is something I would extend to the entire Grande Seconde collection: I believe it's way better than the most refined folding clasp in quickly and more comfortably securing any Grande Seconde onto your wrist. As I pointed out in previous articles, Jaquet Droz did a great job in improving the finishes of its mechanical movements, and the new Jaquet Droz 26M5R caliber, designed specifically for this watch, is no exception.
The mechanical movement takes advantage of many improvements and various upgrades introduced by the brand in 2018, on the occasion of the celebrations for its 280th Anniversary, whose flagship model, the Skelet-one, has represented the manifesto of this change. The slimmed-down red gold winding rotor unquestionably takes inspiration from that one and is a perfect complement to the exclusive "Grand Feu" crafted ivory enameled treatment, on the dial. The retail price of a Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Chronograph Ivory Enamel Limited Edition? Given that you can still find one of the 88 specimens available, out there, be ready to pay € 29,500, which I believe it's a fair price too, considering the technical refinement and the craftsmanship required to produce the Grand Feu dial, alone.
(Photo credit: Marco Antinori for Horbiter®)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®