Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Off-Centered: A Paragon Of Tranquility
Some days the world just gets too noisy, too full of stress and complication.
Heck, depending on what the news has to say about the latest violence or torrid political scandal, I think to myself that there should be more moments when things are just simple for a while.
If we’re lucky, we can find a peaceful place of recovery or a few seconds of quiet to recharge the mental batteries.
This is why the idea of minimalism is now, and probably will always be, a strong movement in developed countries. Once basic survival isn’t an issue, more subtly complex and yet still mentally taxing problems take its place, creating constant mental static. Minimalism seeks to reduce or eliminate causes of stress, burdens of clutter, and existential crises by simplifying surroundings and streamlining life.
Environment design plays a big role in creating a clean and peaceful world in one’s surroundings, and it relies on the design of objects to accomplish its goals. Modern design is a favored tool for creating calming spaces with simple lines, basic colors, and elimination of the superfluous. It is another side of the infamous “keep it simple, stupid” ideology that I have spoken about before (see In The Face Of Complexity, Simplicity Rules: The Konstantin Chaykin Genius Temporis).
It is also an ideology that sometimes I am at war with simply because I love the incredible complexity of mechanisms and machinery, especially that which is found in many amazing horological creations. That should come as no surprise to anyone who reads me regularly, but what many may not realize is that I can absolutely lust after perfectly simple and pure designs that exemplify minimalism and restraint.
I can hardly think of any brand that better creates simple and pure design while enticing my horological desires as much as Jaquet Droz.
More than a few shining examples
Many watches that have come from Jaquet Droz can be incredibly complicated. Just consider the tourbillons, perpetual calendars, minute repeaters, or the watches that include automata such as the Lady 8 Flower, the Charming Bird, or the Bird Repeater. They all stand out as exceptional watchmaking and are coveted by many, but I feel that the genius behind Jaquet Droz is its take on simplicity.
Jaquet Droz is pretty well known for creating ultra-clean, minimal watch designs utilizing things like single-hand 24-hour displays, onyx and enamel dials, and small offset subdials. And there is a specific collection in the brand’s arsenal demonstrating minimalism to perfection: the Grande Seconde collection.
And within that collection a new frontrunner has emerged to compete for the title of my favorite Jaquet Droz timepiece: the Grande Seconde Off-Centered.
This watch builds upon the success of the previous Grande Seconde models with two off-centered dials showing the hours and minutes and a much larger subsidiary seconds dial beneath it.
The twist for the Grande Seconde Off-Centered is that the movement (a Caliber 2663 variant used in a variety of Grande Seconde models) is rotated 30 degrees clockwise so the dials are aligned off-center (hence the name).
The two subdials are kept rather minimal even though a combination of Arabic and Roman numerals have been utilized inside the subdials ringed by railroad track scales. The way this is accomplished is through-and-through typical of Jaquet Droz’s design utilizing very thin line weights.
Line weight is something we hardly realize plays a huge role in how a dial looks and feels. If you take the exact same watch and simply change line weights, you can change it from a bold sporty look with thick and heavy line weights and spacing to a vintage style with medium line weights and close spacing all the way to a very classic feel with thin line weights and ample spacing.
That is the power of thickness in lines.
Keeping to a minimum
It isn’t just the line weights that play into the feel of the Grand Seconde Off-Centered, it’s the lack of any other superfluous markings or decoration on the dial aside from the logo and the words “Manufacturé en Suisse” at the very edge of the dial. The rest of the dial is completely unadorned, allowing the empty space to help the subdials almost float on the face of the watch.
The white space fills up a large amount of the dial, likely at least half of the total real estate, which makes the amount of printing on the dial seem even less pronounced. The case and the crown follow suit as well, staying as straightforward as possible. Given the aesthetics of the timepiece, most would say it is rather minimal.
Allure of the dark side
But then those people wouldn’t have seen the latest update to the Grande Seconde Off-Centered launched at Baselworld 2016 because that piece blows its siblings right out of the minimalism game. The next step in reducing everything to the most minimal features possible emerges in the Grande Seconde Off-Centered Onyx.
Seriously, the shift from opaline or ivory enamel to the bottomless black of onyx is only where this undercover creature starts.
And, boy, does it start something. The onyx dial is now the overwhelming owner of the visual appeal and has led to the almost complete loss of printing on the dial. Gone are the Roman and Arabic numerals around the seconds rings, gone are the railroad tracks surrounding both subdials. But what has been added makes up for the loss.
And then some.
New details emerge
Instead of the printed subdials with all the pertinent time information we simply have two very thin, lightly brushed white gold rings appearing to interlock to form a figure 8. To indicate the time graduations, very small engraved hash marks were added to the rings and coated black to match the dial. The rings are slightly chamfered and with just enough thickness to create a sense of depth beyond the deep pool of onyx.
With the elimination of the rest of the printed details, the Jaquet Droz logo and the words “Manufacturé en Suisse” are all that is left. They have been moved to new locations, and this does create a different feeling for the labeling compared to the original models. Even though the white space played a major role in creating floating subdials, the new design direction utilizes some of the empty space and still maintains a fairly minimal layout.
Since the subdials are so trim, it actually ends up making more sense to keep the logo out of the middle, making the subdials the center of the “empty” space.
The loss of the now relatively “thick” printed indications opened up the subdials, but the choice to polish the hands went even further. With the contrast of the previous blued hands, the space inside the two subdials did have a definite feeling of being occupied by the hands and they felt grounded in the space.
The beautifully polished new hands work to maintain a sense of lightness and since they reflect a fair amount of the black onyx, they even seem to float in their respective places. This goes to show that a simple change in materials or finish can actually have a large effect on how something is perceived.
Simplicity gives way to a treat
So with the Grande Seconde Off-Centered, you now have a watch that could possibly help you get those few moments of peaceful recharge while staring into its mesmerizing tranquility.
But what if you want a little fun too? Of course the watch shouldn’t disqualify that desire. This is where the movement comes in.
When you flip the watch over you find decoration meant to inspire excitement starting with the radially emanating Geneva waves centered on the balance wheel. To add to the visual interest, the rotor is also partially skeletonized in a radial pattern and its surface has been machined away to leave a relief of the Jaquet Droz logo.
The understatement of the decoration should be noted because seemingly superfluous details, such as very subtle fluting on the crown and a tiny Jaquet Droz logo engraved behind the rear lug, indicate the restraint and relaxed take on decoration shown by the watchmakers at Jaquet Droz.
These details prove that even when things become simple, they need not be boring.
Of course the original Grande Seconde Off-Centered versions were rather sparse and fit the minimalism desires very well, but the Onyx variation takes it five steps further. There is simply a total lack of complication and unneeded design clutter; visually, the timepiece stands out as a shining and shimmering example of what can be done when you add “less” and inject a healthy portion of “nothingness.”
This watch truly can bring you peace at the end of a hectic week just by staring into its mystically black depths.
Om . . . om . . . om. I feel so relaxed now, let’s break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.2 The complete “nothingness” makes for a very soothing experience that results in a much calmer wooooow.
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 88.8 » 870.830 m/s2 The lusting for this watch takes on a transformative nature as the peace of the universe washes over you for hours.
- M.G.R. * 41.5 A solid automatic movement with 68 hours of power reserve and enough decoration to make sure you still have a pulse after all the relaxing effects of the onyx dial.
- Added-Functionitis * N/A Back to form with a time-only watch, and I’m sure no one is complaining! No need for Gotta-HAVE-That cream, but a good cup of chai tea would be wonderful.
- Ouch Outline * 10.4 Full Body Fatigue From 72 Hours Of Straight Meditation When you are so calm and relaxed that you can meditate for three days straight without moving, your body will experience some side effects – like your muscles not wanting to work! But, still, I would totally take that challenge to get this watch on my wrist. Om . . .
- Mermaid Moment * Into The Trance After hours spent gazing into the calming minimalist design, the trance of lust transforms into something more and you make plans to book a hall and a DJ!
- Awesome Total * ∞ Multiply the number of hours in the power reserve (68) with the diameter of the case (43 mm), then multiply that by the estimated number of atoms on the universe (1082 or one-hundred thousand quadrillion vigintillion)for a fundamentally meaningless and therefore relaxing awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.jaquet-droz.com/en/news/grande-seconde-off-centered-the-essence-black.
Case: 43 x 12.9 mm, stainless steel or red gold
Movement: automatic Caliber Jaquet Droz 2663A.P
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: stainless steel with silver opaline dial $9,100; stainless steel with onyx dial $10,700; red gold with enamel dial $20,000