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June 3, 2019
The art of luxury decoration has been one of the pillars of the Jaquet Droz‘s philosophy since the 18th century. In fact, the Jaquet-Droz family has been responsible for supporting the work of craftsmen for generations when pocket watches, snuffboxes, mechanical singing bird cages, and even urns were adorned in elaborate ornamentation that was truly one-of-a-kind.
Jaquet Droz CEO Christian Lattmann shares with Whitewall the rich history of the watchmaker’s “Philosophy of the Unique.”
WHITEWALL: What does Jaquet Droz’s
Philosophy of the Unique represent?
CHRISTIAN LATTMANN: Customizing a Jaquet Droz timepiece is the ultimate luxury and we want to offer this experience to our clients.
For nearly three centuries, Jaquet Droz has placed time under the banner of astonishment, excellence and constantly renewed creativity. Jaquet Droz has also added a sense of exclusivity to this unique philosophy. In the 18th century, the Jaquet-Droz family were pioneers in the art of luxury decoration. Through their work, they supported an entire generation of craftsmen. Enameled cases embellished with paillons, painting on enamel and sculpted and engraved ornamentation contributed enormously to their success and their fame. Pocket watches, urns, snuffboxes and cages for mechanical singing birds—all these masterpieces were decorated. And to this day, the brand offers discerning clients the opportunity to customize their timepiece to suit their taste and pay tribute to the tradition upheld by the Jaquet Droz Ateliers d’Art.
When a customer has a special request, our artists have to push the boundaries of their know-how.Christian Lattmann, Jaquet Droz CEO
WW: With a history of nearly three centuries, what were some of the most impressive early custom pieces?
CL: Pierre Jaquet-Droz was a genius and has built unique clocks, mechanical music, automatons and singing birds for the Emperor Quian Long. These custom pieces are still today displayed at the Forbidden City in Beijing.
WW: How has this custom program offered to customers helped support craftsman over the centuries, and keep the tradition of the ateliers d’arts alive?
CL: To customize a Jaquet Droz timepiece we need to have the best craftsmen. Painters, engravers, enamelers, etc. And when a customer has a special request, our artists have to push the boundaries of their know-how. It is definitely very motivating and it helps to keep alive this tradition.
Jaquet Droz continues to offer customization upon request. Collaborating with master craftsmen and artisans, personalized details can be made up to the most minute specification. Whether it be enameling, miniature painting, ornamental paillonné, 3D sculpting, engraving, or the incorporation of fine minerals, a one-of-a-kind Jaquet Droz timepiece is truly something to behold.
WHITEWALL: What makes the Grand Feu enameling process so special to Jaquet Droz? How is it being used today in more contemporary pieces and designs?
CHRISTIAN LATTMANN: Today, the techniques required to make a thin watch dial of impeccable design have no more secrets for our master craftsmen. Relying on the subtle interaction of ultra-fine powders and precision kilns, our dial-makers are the sole guardians of the formula that yields these magnificent dials, whose color and graining are absolutely unique. Once a piece is finished, it is inalterable. The enamel will retain its beauty and gloss for centuries, withstanding the ravages of time indefinitely. A distinctive signature of Jaquet Droz timepieces since the 18th century, Grand Feu enameling has been reinterpreted by the brand in its contemporary collections.
WW: How does the tradition of painting on the dial uphold the traditions of Jaquet Droz’s founder?
CL: Jaquet Droz wishes to honor the Art of Painting on enamel in the 21st century and uphold the traditions of its founder: this painstaking decorative technique is applied to a few remarkable pieces in its collection.
These creations are a technical triumph, an enticement to roam free, and poetry made real.Christian Lattmann, Jaquet Droz CEO
WW: Jaquet Droz is known for creating incredible sculpted pieces featured on the dial. To when does this tradition date back?
CL: The Age of Enlightenment was marked by philosophers and the birth of modern science, but also saw the rediscovery of nature. Pierre Jaquet-Droz was particularly touched by the natural world, as can be seen in his clocks, watches and precious objects that have gone down in the history of decorative arts.
Drawing on a heritage of traditional skills that have been preserved with exceptional care, Jaquet Droz is reviving an ancestral technique to create several new masterpieces of the decorative arts. Motifs, molded then sculpted, create the impression of relief. Also reflecting the trademark excellence of Jaquet Droz are the minutely hand-engraved motifs, painted or unadorned, that occupy the space of the mineral dial.
WW: Paillonné enameling and mineral details uses materials like gold leaf, crystal, rocks, and other natural elements. Has the watchmaker explored incorporating any new natural materials as of late?
CL: We have developed the Art of Mosaic. The idea comes from our artist who discovered the art of eggshell mosaic while travelling in Vietnam. Jaquet Droz translates the oriental art to the world of watchmaking, using it to create miniature masterpieces. With painstaking attention to detail, the brand’s artisans create the design, which adorns the dial of the Petite Heure Minute. Part of the Ateliers d’Art collection, these creations are a technical triumph, an enticement to roam free, and poetry made real.
WW: For your own collection, what customization would you employ?
CL: I like the art of engraving, and a light customization. To engrave the case-back of my watch would really satisfy me.