Once upon a time, on the outskirts of the watchmaking town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, there was a manufacture like few others… If the brand Jaquet Droz is renowned for its emblematic Grande Seconde collection, the creations that best capture the spirit of the great clockmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz are without a doubt the automata. One of the most talented watchmakers and craftsmen in history, Pierre Jaquet-Droz made a name for himself creating automata that fascinated the whole of Europe and China in the 18th century.
Today, the brand perpetuates this legacy with automata we can wear on our wrists. These exceptional creations associate mechanical prowess with artful craftsmanship to transform each dial into a fantastic, captivating spectacle. The Jaquet Droz automata are miniature pieces of art manufactured in a dedicated workshop of the manufacture. Just next door, in the métiers d’art atelier, each part is patiently crafted by masters of miniature art: gem-setters, enamellers, engravers and painters.
Presented this spring, the Jaquet Droz Magic Lotus is the latest automaton created by the brand. It portrays the eternal cycle of life with flowers representing the different seasons surrounded by a stream of flowing water. Its exceptionally long animation depicts four stages of the flower: a lotus bud, a lotus flower in full blossom, a lotus flower fallen in the water and the seed pod of the aquatic plant that will foster new lotus flowers the following spring. The circular animation is made of three sections. Under the gold-framed off-centred black onyx dial is a fixed crescent-shaped disc decorated with Grand Feu enamel lotus leaves on a gold base.
Below the fixed disc with the lotus leaves, a stream of water flows around the periphery of the dial enlivened with enchanting animations. A miniature koi fish moves its tail surfacing and diving beneath the lotus leaves in the flowing water while a floating white lotus flower magically changes the colour of its centre each time it floats under the dial or under the lotus leaves. The heart of the lotus flower changes colour four times each rotation – from white to blue sapphire and from yellow sapphire to ruby. The other animated element on the dial is a delightful hand-carved and hand-painted dragonfly that flies downwards to indicate the status of the 4-minute power reserve.
The following animation helps illustrate the animation of this poetic automaton.
One of the most captivating aspects of the Magic Lotus Automaton is the skill and technique required to craft the exquisite dial and its enchanting animation. The dial is simply the most complex dial ever produced at Jaquet Droz. It requires a rare combination of artistic crafts such as of engraving, miniature painting, enamelling and gem-setting. Countless hours of meticulous work performed in-house by expert craftsmen have made Jaquet Droz a reference in horological decorative arts. For example, the lotus leaves are engraved from 18k gold and enamelled by hand. Each of the petals is sculpted from mother-of-pearl before being hand-engraved. The centre of the flower is a prong-set yellow sapphire. The coy carp is also engraved and painted by hand.
The Jaquet Droz Magic Lotus automaton is brought to life by the automatic calibre JD 2653 AT2. This high-grade calibre operates at 28,800 vibrations per hour and its two barrels deliver 68 hours of power reserve when fully wound. Its regulator features a silicon hairspring and silicon pallet horns. The components of the movement are richly hand-engraved at Jaquet Droz.
The exclusive automaton module is also powered by its own two barrels, providing around 4 minutes of power reserve (8 rotations of 30 seconds). The crown winds the base movement in one direction and the automaton in the other direction. The pusher integrated into the crown is used to start and stop the automaton on demand via a column wheel – just like the mechanism found in a chronograph. Last, a stop-work with a finger piece blocks the mechanism before the power reserve is exhausted, thereby ensuring the automaton always gets enough torque to run smoothly.
Each of the different animations required the development of specific solutions as did the integration of the miniature mechanisms into the movement. For instance, to animate the koi fish, a feeler-spindle gets the tail to flap and racks allow the fish to bob up and down in the water. The changing colours of the heart of the floating lotus flower are also driven by racks triggering rotations of the gem-set piece. All in all, the development of the automaton has four patents-pending, and the entire movement is comprised of no fewer than 506 parts!
The Magic Lotus automaton comes in a 43mm case available in a choice of red or white gold, in limited editions of 28 pieces each. The watch is presented on a dark green rolled-edge alligator leather strap and secured to the wrist with a gold folding buckle. Price is set at CHF 216,000. For more information, visit www.jaquet-droz.com.