Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Deadbeat - One of the most romantic and intriguing complications in Haute-Horlogerie
In a world that, watch-wise, talks often about Tourbillons, Minute Repeater, Fusée-chaine transmissions, and perpetual calendars, there is also a romantic complication that a few people are aware of and that has caught by surprise more than a friend during our haute-horlogerie discussions; the so-called “Deadbeat”. The name might not sound too appealing or too catchy from a communication point of view, the English name actually sounds better than the Italian one, but that's not the issue because this is a mysterious complication, even intimate on a certain level, and strictly related to pure mechanics and thus created and designed for refined connoisseurs only. Jaquet Droz is familiar with this complication and, during its history, in 1785 it created a splendid pocket-watch made of gold and even its modern interpretation being part of the Grande Seconde collection; a timepiece that is 100% faithful to the original piece!
The Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Deadbeat is easy to recognize among the other watches from the same collection due to its central seconds hand that was moved from its original position, on the automatic versions it is located on the big lower counter, the base of number 8, towards the centre of the dial; exactly in the same position it appeared on the 1785 version. The seconds hand mimics exactly the very same geometry, stretched and ending with a small rounded tip (something typical of the original pocket-watch). From the point of view of the complication, I would like to highlight how Jaquet Droz is one of those very few watch manufacturers that kept up with developing this complication and brought back some interest in a field that other manufacturers have just started to discover, like, for instance, Jaeger-LeCoultre and its Geophysics collection launched two years ago (the name is actually True Seconds but the complication is exactly the same).
The central jumping seconds hand is soft and its sound is virtually inaudible, no ticking sound can be perceived and it is extremely precise too, no single oscillation is present around the stopping position of the seconds. It is the final result of refined technical choices such as a 10-teeth-cam rather than the classic 30-teeth-cam traditionally deployed on this type of complication and the geometry of the anchor. Last but not least the caliber is equipped with a silicon-made balance spring. Placed in the middle, the seconds hand left room, within the big register located at 6 o'clock, to the retrograde calendar. It is an apparently easy-looking watch and it could easily pass for a three-hand watch with a pointer-date while it presents two complications instead.
The black dial is made of enamel using the Grand Feu technique; one of the most traditional processes in decorative art together with the Champlevé, the Finqué and the Cloisonné. The Grand Feu is an enamel-based process entirely hand-made, where the dial made of gold is filled with oxides and then placed in an oven at a temperature of 1000 Centigrade degrees. The final aesthetic result is a fully round and deep colour that is virtually unchangeable. The case of the Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Deadbeat measures 43mm and is 13,79mm thick, the automatic calibre runs at at frequency of 21,600 oscillations per hour, while the barrel receives its charge from a solid gold rotor on which the Jaquet Droz logo has been engraved.
The Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Deadbeat costs 31,600 euro. Only 88 pieces of it were crafted with a red gold case, in the version with the Grand Feu black enamelled dial, it is a watch that follows no fashion trend, aesthetic or technical, but it rather created its own trend and actually leads it. Each Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Deadbeat is hand-assembled, hand-adjusted, and hand-decorated following the rules of a tradition that represents the haute-horlogerie pedigree of this small manufactory company based in La Chaux de Fonds. In my opinion, this is an approach that somehow honours the rich collector who can afford a timepiece like this and also a manufacturer, whose product has so much to communicate that it needs no advertising campaign to back it up. Pity that we couldn't delve any further into the "Deadbeat" complication but the year 2017 has just begun and soon, Horbiter's cameras will be granted full access to the manufacturer's labs.
(Photo credit: Horbiter's proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C @Horbiter