Quick Take

Interestingly enough, Jaquet Droz has never had a chronograph complication in the Grande Seconde family of watches, which in retrospect seems a bit of an odd omission; the Grande Seconde layout, with its very large seconds subdial, seems a natural platform for a chronograph. At the Swatch Group's Time To Move event, which filled in for Baselworld as the launch platform for new timepieces from the Group's luxury brands, Jaquet Droz showed four new automatic chronograph watches – one 88 piece limited edition watch in red gold, with a grand feu enamel dial, and three additional pieces which will become part of the permanent collection.
The 88-piece limited edition Grande Seconde Chronograph.
The basic figure 8 Grande Seconde layout has been retained; in the limited edition, the chronograph hands are blued steel while the hour and minute hands are in red gold, and the date hand has a red tip, the better to distinguish it from the chronograph seconds hand (there is no running seconds hand, in a departure from Jaquet Droz's usual practice with the Grande Seconde watches). The date display uses a retrograde date hand – easy to miss at first glance until you look closely at the arrangement of numerals on the date track.*
The three steel models have an eccentric arrangement of the sub-dials, with the crown relocated to 4:00 as well.
The three permanent collection models are all cased in stainless steel, and in these watches the movement has been rotated clockwise, 30 degrees, in the case; this literal twist on the Grande Seconde figure eight dial design is present in other watches in the Grande Seconde collection as well. This shifts the crown to 4:00, and puts the dials at a different angle as well, giving the steel watches a slightly more contemporary and visually dynamic feel than the limited edition. The steel models are offered with a silver, blue, or taupe grey dial. All three use a movement that's new for Jaquet Droz – this is the caliber 26M5R, which is based on the venerable F. Piguet/Manufacture Blancpain caliber 1185.
This is a column wheel controlled, vertical clutch movement (in 2002, Walt Odets, who essentially invented the online in-depth technical watch review, described the column wheel arrangement of the 1185 as "a classic, very high-quality design"). In this version, there are several technical updates, including a silicon balance spring , free-sprung adjustable mass balance, and silicon lever, all of which should give this version of the 1185 even better accuracy and rate stability than the original. Instead of the customary parallel Geneva stripes, the movement is finished with radiating sunburst-pattern stripes, centered on the axis of the balance, and to allow the owner to better appreciate the visuals, the winding rotor has been rather radically skeletonized (I wouldn't be surprised if this is about as crazy as you can get in terms of improving the view outside of going with a peripheral rotor – which would be an interesting thing for someone to try to reverse-engineer into the movement, at some point). Power reserve is standard for this caliber, at about 40 hours, running at 21,600 vph.
Initial Thoughts

Jaquet Droz has a history of making some very beautiful complications. It can and does make highly complicated watches that are way over on the baroque side of the design spectrum, like the Charming Bird automaton watch, which has a tiny bird that flits under the dial while chirping a song; it also has a history going right back to the founding of the modern brand, of making some of the finest and most interesting enamel dial, high-art watches in the business.
However, I've always felt that taken from a certain perspective – one of appreciation for balance, restraint, and especially, the compositional value of negative space, the company does some of its best work when it adopts a less is more approach. The Deadbeat Seconds, Twelve Cities with Jump Hour, Grande Heure GMT, and even the slightly busier (but by no means busy) Perpetual Calendar Éclipse, all represent a deliberately measured approach to constructing a complication. That sort of willingness to slow down and let the various dial elements really breathe, is quite rare under any circumstances and I think at any time in the history of watchmaking, inasmuch as it is a deliberate design choice. Generally speaking, when you find this sort of look and feel in pre-quartz era watches, it's not so much a result of design per se, as it is a natural consequence of the need to make something that was for the most part expected to be a practical part of daily life, reasonably uncluttered and legible.
It can easily happen with functionality that it produces design choices which then go on to be appreciated as design choices, and as representations of certain values, rather than for their functionality per se (the austerity of Mark series pilot's watches; the blunt pragmatism of dive watch bezels). In the case of the Grande Seconde Chronograph, there is an elevation of simplicity and clarity to the status of representatives of the values of simplicity and clarity, rather than as aids to the measurement of time intervals, as such.
And it works (I think it does, anyhow). These four watches all have in common a certain placidity – after spending the last six months looking at busier and busier new watches from 2019 introductions, looking at these is rather like finding yourself at the oceanside after a particularly hectic year and realizing just how relaxing some long, uninterrupted horizontal lines can be. Watch designers nowadays have a tendency to add, so often, that one extra thing no one asked for and that the watch did not call for (and often, more than one) because this is after all a fraught time for high end watchmaking, and the pressure to traffic in attention-getting novelty instead of enduring good design (which is always a harder sell) is very high. But it's nice occasionally to see a watch that resists this impulse and shows how much can be done by slowing down a bit, and actually looking at, and thinking about, what you're doing.
The Basics

Brand: Jaquet Droz
Model: Grande Seconde Chronograph
Diameter: 43mm
Thickness: 14.83mm
Case Material: 18k red gold (limited edition) or stainless steel
Dial Color: grand feu enamel (limited edition) or taupe, silver, or blue (steel models)
Lume: none
Water Resistance: 30 meters
Strap/Bracelet: handmade alligator with 18k red gold or steel buckle
The Movement

Caliber: Jaquet Droz caliber 26MR, monopusher, column wheel chronograph with vertical clutch
Functions: time, retrograde date display in large subdial, 30 minute chronograph
Power Reserve: 40 hours
Winding: automatic
Frequency: 21,600 vph
Jewels: 34 jewels
Additional Details: silicon balance spring and pallet horns; freesprung, adjustable mass balance; openworked 18k gold oscillating mass (on all models, including steel)
Pricing & Availability

Price: Red gold limited edition of 88 pieces, $31,000; all steel models $19,400
Availability: Expect the limited edition in October; steel models will roll out in September
Limited Edition: Red gold model only; 88 pieces world wide; steel models are in the permanent collection
See the new Grande Seconde Chronographs at Jaquet-Droz.com.


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