October 29, 2012
by Ariel Adams
The Grande Seconde dial made the modern Jaquet Droz watch brand famous. Taken from an interesting 18th century pocket watch with a lovely figure eight style dial, the Grande Seconde wristwatch dial was not only visually appealing, but also resonated well with the Chinese consumer who has a penchant for the number “8.” Today, the Grande Seconde dial is basically synonymous with the aged brand – even though the figure eight style dial was not a big part of the brand’s true history.
To be honest, making modern Jaquet Droz watches that are visually and thematically similar to the exploits of the man himself would be next to impossible given today’s tastes and budgets. With Mr. Droz himself having a fondness for the extremely ornate and complex (see the original Jaquet Droz “The Writer” automaton here), it would not make a ton of sense today to put a hand-painted and engraved watch with automatons into any type of volume production. While Jaquet Droz can do stuff like that once in a while, the modern brand has the difficult task of recalling the past while creating a modern DNA.
For most of its just over ten year lifespan, the Grande Seconde watch was a rather decadent, high-end luxury item available exclusively in precious metals. This Grande Seconde Quantieme is the first family of pieces in the Grande Seconde collection to be available in a “more” modestly priced steel case. That, and you get the date (indicated by the fancy sounding French word for calender, “quantieme.”)
The resulting Grande Seconde Quantieme is more than just another model, but is a strategic product designed to help expand the Jaquet Droz market in times when people are less likely to shell out for gold-cased watches. Instead of reducing prices or quality, Jaquet Droz – the “most” boutique of the Swatch Group brands – decided to go with the “steel strategy.” One major aim they have is the United States, and expanding their market here.
At 43mm wide the Grande Seconde Quantieme is sized for American formal watch tastes. I would never call it an “ultra-thin” watch, but not being that thick it could easily go with a tie given the overall theme of the watch. The steel case is polished all over and pleasantly simple in design. Smooth elegant lines typify the Grande Seconde collection which always tend to look fantastic in cleaned-up marketing images. Of course, this “simple” concept is in direct contrast to the Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde SW watch’s complex design concept (reviewed here). At least the brand knows how to play around with their own DNA.
Literally, the most complex element of the case is the crown, which is nicely designed with the double star logo of the brand. I believe that the watch has three dial options, with this one being the black “technical dial.” There is also an “all black technical dial” as well as a more classic looking silvery dial. The latter being my favorite, but this technical dial is interesting. It actually costs a couple hundred dollars more than the silver dial. What is a technical dial? Here is how Jaquet Droz describes it:
“[The technical dial] process involves crafting all of the dial components from solid metal, then dipping them in a chemical bath to obtain a perfect black coating. This extremely painstaking operation brings out the beauty of the indicators, which can have a fine-brushed finish, creating a unique interplay of light and textures.”
Under close inspection the technical dial is interesting and certainly unique. It however can make the dial harder to read than some of the other more legible Grande Seconde dials. This is of course amplified by the fact that the subdial with the hour and minute hands is rather small. I personally prefer a bit more contrast when trying to read a dial such as this. The dial also uses a raised sapphire crystal that does have some AR coating, but given the nature of the crystal’s shape, gives a fair amount of glare. Let me actually say right now that you are lucky if you never need to photograph this watch because getting a decent dial picture is very difficult.
As the name of the watch implies, the lower, larger subsdial is for the seconds. It is sort of cool having that dial be larger with the always sweeping subsidiary seconds hand. Integrated into that dial is also a date dial and hand. The date hand is made to be visually separate by having a red tip, and the dial, which although small, does have a full scale of either numerals or points to indicate the date. This feature is actually rather controversial. Some people say “we like the basic Grande Seconde dial without the date so much better,” while others appreciate the addition of the useful complication. Personally I sit in the middle – having an appreciation for the original clean Grande Seconde dial look, but always feeling better with a watch that has the date.
Attached to the case is a very attractive looking black alligator strap. It is however thick and needs to be worn-in for it to sit properly without being stiff. The folding and locking deployant clasp is of a higher quality and complexity than you might expect. Inside the Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Quantieme watch is their caliber 2660Q2 automatic movement with an almost three day power reserve. It is actually a base Frederic Piguet caliber 1150 (produced by the Swatch Group as well), which is at the heart of most all Jaquet Droz timepieces. You can see the movement visible through the sapphire exhibition caseback. It is not only a good movement but it is also well-finished.
Is this steel Jaquet Droz less expensive than its precious metal siblings? Yes, but it is still a pricy timepiece hovering around $10,000. Those intent on wearing the design will enjoy this option, as well as people like me who have an extreme fascination with the brand’s history. They make some very quirky stuff, but that is not something you can say about many “group” watch brands. What I would like to see next are most of the Grande Seconde watches in steel and observe how the market responds. Retail price for the Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Quantieme reference J007030241 watch is $9,300. jaquet-droz.com