Who knows what induced Pierre Jaquet-Droz, back in 1784, to design the Grande Seconde pocket watch? It has a fascinating blend of simplicity and complexity: a large dial, with a figure-of-eight design formed of an hours and minutes subdial above, interlocking with a large seconds dial below. The more I look at this piece, the more I become convinced of the man’s genius: its modernity is remarkable. Just look at the upper dial, with Roman numerals, which become Arabic in the intersection. These numerals, 5, 6 and 7, are so beautifully treated that they have the same sort of weight as the Roman numerals above, and you don’t really notice the metamorphosis.
Look also at the difference in the hands, gold and ornate for hours and minutes, and absolute simplicity for the seconds. Pierre was also working with the symbolism of the figure eight, created by the two subdials. Eight was his favourite number, and, well-travelled as he was, he knew that it was venerated by the Chinese as bringing happiness and good fortune. He may also have known of the work of Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler (born 1707 Basel, died 1783), who used an open, horizontal version of the figure eight to signify infinity.
Today, the design of Pierre’s Grande Seconde lives on in the like-named series by Jaquet Droz, and the latest variant is the Grande Seconde Quantième Ivory Enamel, in which the seconds subdial includes another hand indicating the date. This new function is accompanied by major new features in the Jaquet Droz 2660Q2.P movement, such as a silicon balance spring that provides benefits due to its anti-magnetic properties. In addition, the dial is double-enamelled using the grand feu technique, and this adds depth to the timepiece, with the date ring on a lower level with respect to the time indications.
It is this that really determines the look of the watch. The markings on the dial are not simply printed, but are also enamel-fired, so that they will remain a deep black, providing a sharp contrast with the white of the dial, over the years. The detailing is superb and very satisfying to look at.
The beauty continues on the reverse, with a sapphire caseback revealing an oscillating weight that is in part skeletonized to reveal more of the movement, with fanned Côtes de Genève decoration on the bridges. In addition, plates are circular-grained above and below, the wheels are chamfered, shaped and circular-grained, the steel parts are chamfered and softened, and there are patterns of straight lines and hand-polished angles. The contrast between front and reverse is rather striking: the dial side reveals a very beautiful, very traditional watch, while the movement, and in particular the oscillating weight, looks very modern through the caseback. Also on the back is the individual serial number.
The double mainspring barrels provide an excellent 68-hour power reserve. Each piece has the serial number engraved on the caseback. Jaquet Droz makes the Grande Seconde Quantième Ivory Enamel in two size variants, 39 and 43 millimetres in diameter, and in two case materials, white and red gold. The case is mounted on a hand-made alligator strap with rolled edges and a gold ardillon buckle.
The 43 mm versions of the watch cost CHF 20,550, the 39 mm versions CHF 20,000. View and purchase this watch and others by Jaquet Droz at the brand’s boutiques and retailers worldwide. See www.luxos.com/store-locator or www.jaquet-droz.com for further details.