If you are already a fan of the Grande Seconde, or were a fan but intimidated by the 43mm case sizes of some of the models, the latest 41mm iterations of this timepiece will be music to your ears. The Goldilocks conundrum about hitting on the right bowl of porridge that is not too hot, not too cold but just right could be applied to this new intermediate size. The new case size of 41mm, which complements but does not replace the existing 43 and 39mm models, comes with a dose of bold colour schemes all the while respecting the distinctive off-centred time indications. Seven models join the Grande Seconde family, four in red gold with Grand Feu enamel dials and three in stainless steel with modern sandblasted dials. How have these design choices affected the purity and minimalism we associate with the model? Let’s take a closer look at the new Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Quantième 41mm.
the Grande Seconde
Without delving into the fabulous history of Jaquet Droz (established 1738) or looking at its magical automata and striking clocks that enchanted royal courts all the way to China, India and Japan, suffice it to say that the brand died a natural death in 1791, was revived in the 1990s and acquired by Swatch Group in 2000.
Those of you familiar with Jaquet Droz will immediately recognise these Grande Seconde models as the descendants of a pocket watch made 235 years ago. Attributed to Pierre Jaquet Droz, the 1785 pocket watch was a grande seconde model with the emphasis placed on the large seconds counter at 6 o’clock. With its intertwined sub-dials forming a graceful figure eight, this pocket watch was the essence of purity and minimalism. Revived in 2002, the Grande Seconde is the pillar of Jaquet Droz today and lends itself to countless adaptations.
Like the original 1785 gold pocket watch, the design of the Grande Seconde is composed of a graceful figure eight (a lucky number in Asia) formed by two overlapping circles; the larger sub-dial at the bottom indicates the seconds and the smaller counter at the top is for the hours and minutes.
Artistic crafts are alive and well at Jaquet Droz and a team of contemporary artisans dedicated to enamelling, engraving, sculpting and miniature painting recreate the magic and splendour of the brand’s famous historic pieces. Grand Feu enamelling is an in-house speciality and ensures a unique graining and gloss, as well as a colour that will not alter over time. The four red gold models in the new 41mm cases are graced with double level Grand Feu enamel dials, ranging from the classic ivory enamel we have seen in past editions to rich tonalities of blue, burgundy and anthracite. If you look at the applied red gold date ring, you’ll see how the dial dips ever so slightly explaining the ‘double-level’ of enamel.
Sticking to the classic codes of most of the Grande Seconde family (with exceptions, like the radical minimalism of the High-Tech Skelet-One), the design elements are identical to the existing 43mm Grande Seconde Quantième model. Obviously, the case is smaller and has been slimmed down to 12.10mm, but the combination of rich enamel colour and red gold add immense warmth to the watch.
In all four models, the red gold metal is echoed on the dial with 18k red gold details like the hands and the date ring. The Roman numerals in the hour counter and the seconds are white and the tip of the pointer date and the number 31 are picked out in red. The classic enamel versions in red gold come with alligator straps that match the colour of the dial with red gold ardillon buckle.
Steel and sandblasted surfaces
The three steel models in this Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Quantième 41mm collection break away from some of the more classic codes of the family and embrace a more contemporary design language. The elegant figure-eight layout has been respected but the finishes and substitution of the Roman numerals in the hour and minutes counter give the watch a fresher, more versatile presence. Compared to a blue-on-blue model released last year and reviewed here, the newcomers play with texture and contrasts offering a more dynamic and consequently more legible watch.
Perhaps the most remarkable of the three steel models is the titanium grey with electric blue features on the dial. The Roman numerals for the hours are replaced here with applied blue markers and the chapter ring reduced to just one external track for the minutes. A similar exercise in style has been adopted for the larger seconds counter that has ditched the Arabic numerals for applied markers and uses a blue ring for the pointer date. The vibrant blued hands, applied markers and date ring add a dynamic touch. I love the gritty, sandy texture of sandblasted surfaces which are so efficient at absorbing reflections and avoiding unwanted glare. Another graceful design detail is the way the 6 o’clock hour marker on the top counter is spliced to accommodate the date ring and appears again above the red number 31 as the marker corresponding to 60 seconds.
For sheer elegance, the black version wins hands down with its light-absorbing matte black sandblasted dial and 18k white gold indices. There is also a more demure silver sandblasted dial with grey features. All three steel models are presented on velvety smooth rolled edge calfskin straps with stainless steel folding clasps.
In-house Calibre JD 2660Q2
All seven models are equipped with an in-house automatic movement. Thanks to the double barrels, the power reserve is a comfortable 68 hours (almost 3 days). The escapement is anti-magnetic with its silicon balance spring and pallet horns. The finishing is very neat and visually elegant, with Geneva stripes radiating from balance and polished bevels on the bridges. Visible through the exhibition caseback, the openwork oscillating weight comes in either gold or in heavy metal for the steel versions.
Whichever models you look at, be it the classic 18k red gold iterations with rich enamel dials or the trendier steel sandblasted versions, they are all unmistakably Grande Seconde offspring. It’s not often you come across a design (especially one this old!) capable of weathering so many transformations without losing an iota of its original elegance: a testament to the power, solidity and endurance of good design. If I could, I’d choose two models: the titanium grey sandblasted with blue for everyday fun and the more classic ivory enamel for dressier occasions. Two very different Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Quantième 41mm, but watches that are so close at the same time.
The price for these new Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Quantième 41mm is set at CHF 9,750 for the stainless steel versions and CHF 20,550 for the 18k red gold versions. More details at www.jaquet-droz.com.
Technical specifications – Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Quantième 41mm
41mm diameter x 12.10mm height – stainless steel or 18k red gold case, polished – sapphire crystals front and caseback – water-resistant to 30m
steel versions with matte black, sandblasted titanium grey or sandblasted silver dial
gold versions with Grand Feu enamel dial in ivory, blue, burgundy or anthracite
calibre JD 2660Q2, in-house – automatic – 30 jewels – 28,800 vibrations/hour – 68 hours power reserve with two barrels – silicon hairspring and silicon pallets – off-centred hours and minutes, oversized off-centred second and pointer-type date display
rolled-edge alligator with gold pin buckle for gold models – velvet calfskin leather straps with steel folding buckle for steel models
J007020349 steel, matte black dial
J007020350 steel, titanium grey dial
J007020351 steel, silver dial
J007023200 red gold, ivory enamel dial
J007023201 red gold, blue enamel dial
J007023202 red gold, burgundy enamel dial
J007023203 red gold, anthracite enamel dial
CHF 9,750 steel
CHF 20,550 red gold