As a purveyor to royal clients around the globe of the most exquisitely decorated clocks, repeaters and automata, Pierre Jaquet Droz understood the importance of making a spectacular first impression, both mechanically and aesthetically. Moving forward 300 years in time, the brand still places enormous emphasis on artisanal skills and has its very own Ateliers d’Art workshop in the La Chaux-de-Fonds. The latest treats to emerge from the workshop are these his and hers models decorated with Grand Feu enamel and scintillating paillonné motifs: the ‘Fleur de Lys’ Grande Seconde Paillonné and the women’s ‘Fleur de Vie’ Petite Heure Minute Paillonné, both limited to eight pieces.
Since 2011, the Ateliers d’Art have honed ancestral skills and artistic techniques to maintain the spirit of Jaquet Droz alive. Skills such as miniature painting, sculpting, engraving and all disciplines of enamelling (champlevé, Grand Feu cloisonné, plique a jour, grisaille, Geneva technique, paillonné) are used to decorate the diminutive canvases offered by a dial. Despite progress on so many fronts, enamelling is as fickle an art as it always has been. Enamelling, which is the process of fusing layers of ground glass onto metal using a kiln, is closer to alchemy than a science since so many things can go wrong during the multiple firings: cracking, bubbles forming on the surface, shrinking, dust particles ruining the enamel, etc.
The dials of both these models are decorated with delicate floral motifs, the larger model with ‘Fleur de Lys’ (a symbol used to represent French royalty) and the smaller ladies’ model with a ‘Fleur de Vie’ pattern (a sacred geometric symbol of life composed of overlapping circles using the golden ratio). Before proceeding to the art of paillonné enamelling, the first step involves the engraving of a sunray pattern directly on to the gold dial using guillochage. Once the pattern has been hand-engraved, it is covered with layer after layer of blue enamel and then fired at a high temperature in the kiln as the Grand Feu technique dictates. The dial is now ready for the even more demanding art of paillonné enamelling, which involves the application of wafer-thin leaves of gold or silver to create texture and light and sealing them from the elements with translucent enamel.
The word paillonné derives from the tiny metallic paillons – the cut-out metallic bits – that are adhered to the enamel surface to create the motif. In this case, each tiny gold paillon is cut from a thin sheet of gold leaf and applied by hand with the aid of a microscope. To extract the individual shapes from the thin sheet of gold, the artisan relies on a tool with the desired shape at its tip and gently hammers the head of the tool to extract the shape from the gold sheet.
Some artisans admit that they have to hold their breath when applying the tiny shards of metal to steady their hand. Once the design is ready, the surface is treated to another layer of translucent enamel and fired. This translucent coat of enamel protects the dial from damaging light and external elements encapsulating the intense blue colour of the enamel and the sparkle of the gold paillons for centuries to come.
Fleur de Lys Grande Seconde Paillonné
The cornerstone collection at Jaquet Droz, the Grande Seconde gets the royal treatment in this stunning 18k red gold Grand Feu blue enamel and paillonné model decorated with a fleur de lys motif. Characterised by the elegant figure-eight design of this collection, the top dial displays the hours and minutes with Roman numerals while the lower and larger dial at the bottom is dedicated to the (large) seconds. The hallmark off-centred display is set against a silver opaline dial and applied to the dial in a gold frame. The case measures 43mm and is attached to the wrist with a handmade blue alligator strap and an 18k red gold ardillon buckle. A sapphire crystal caseback reveals the automatic movement with its 18k red gold oscillating weight and elegant finishes.
Quick facts: 43mm diameter – 18k red gold, polished – 30m water-resistance – blue Grand Feu and paillonné enamel dial – silver opaline sub-dials – calibre 2663.P, automatic – 28,800vph – 68h power reserve – silicon balance spring and pallet horns – gold rotor – ref. J003033437 – limited to 8 pieces – CHF 43,200
Fleur de Vie Petite Heure Minute Paillonné
This women’s 35mm model is housed in an 18k red gold case with an impressive setting of 232 diamonds on the bezel, lugs and flanks of the case. Like the larger model, the dial has been treated to blue Grand Feu enamel and a fleur de vie pattern made with gold paillonné enamel. The off-centred hours and minutes counter is made from white mother-of-pearl and is placed inside a red gold appliqué and applied to the dial at 12 o’clock. Equipped with an automatic movement with a comfortable 68-hour power reserve, the calibre can be viewed through the sapphire caseback along with its refined finishes and red gold oscillating weight. The watch is presented with a matching blue alligator strap with a red gold ardillon buckle.
Quick facts: 35mm diameter – 18k red gold, polished – 232 diamonds (1.23 carats) – 30m water-resistant – blue Grand Feu and paillonné enamel dial – white mother-of-pearl applied dial for hours and minutes – calibre 2653.P, automatic – 28,800vph – 68h power reserve – silicon balance spring and pallet horns – gold rotor – ref. J005003244 – limited to 8 pieces – CHF 45,900
More details at www.jaquet-droz.com.