Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Chronograph: A Passion For The Watch
Passion can be a divisive topic. I say this because the motivation behind our passion may not be as straightforward as some may assume, and therefore, what we ought to do about our passions can vary. Ask ten people for their opinion on the phrase “follow your passion” and you will probably get at least as many different answers.
For some, the desire to engage in a passion is specifically relative to one’s vocation. This is why the oft-parroted advice is to find something you are passionate about and then figure out how to get paid to do it.
When I think about my passion for watches and watchmaking, I realized that the specific entity that is “a watch” is not the center of my passion or interest. It is only a small piece of the passion that keeps me yearning to know more every day. My passion stems from micromechanics, and how they appear to the uninitiated as magic yet are fully understandable with observation and study.
Tiny machines are so incredibly fascinating to me that I would love to be surrounded by them and stare into their inner workings for hours, but this seems like a waste of time. So finding a way to appreciate complex micromechanical systems practically led me to become passionate about watches and their technology. This is why I say that I am first and foremost a watchmaking fan and a watch fan as a result.
I often overlook design issues, wearability, or the most critical function of a watch – legibility – if the mechanism tickles my brain. I do value design, wearability, and readability when considering a good watch, but at the end of the day, they all aren’t dealbreakers for my absolute love of a watch.
That is why when I love the design, wearability, and readability of a watch before focusing on the mechanics, I know that it is almost separate from my passion for watchmaking. In that sense I fall for the object and its function, and this is where I may share more in common with people who debate proper subdial layouts and typography. I love the watch for its ability to be a watch.
I would say this happens to me with maybe five percent of watches, and a brand that always is on the top of that list is Jaquet Droz. This brand’s aesthetic, proportions, and overall vibe hit my sweet spot.
That is why when I first saw that Jaquet Droz had released a new Grande Seconde Chronograph, the first chronograph in my favorite line from this brand, I took notice.
Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Chronograph
From the first time I saw a Grande Seconde watch by Jaquet Droz, I was hooked on the collection. To my eyes the Grande Seconde combined the perfect amount of restraint with a flair for contemporary design, yet still felt classic. When Jaquet Droz launched an ultra-clean version of the Grande Seconde Off-Centered with onyx dial in 2016 I knew that it was one of my favorite watches for the sheer look of it.
Then in 2019, at the Swatch Group’s new Basel-replacement Time To Move event, Jaquet Droz released a whole handful of new Grande Seconde pieces, with the Grande Seconde Chronograph Ivory Enamel the highlight of the bunch for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I also love the Grande Seconde Off-Center Chronograph and the Grande Seconde Dual Time, but the Chronograph Ivory Enamel is the perfect blend of modern proportions with a classic slant.
Given that the Grande Seconde already has a quasi-regulator-style layout, it wasn’t clear that a chronograph could be added to this collection without losing the essence of the design. But a bit of clever dissection of that design helped make it clear that a chronograph could be added, if one feature was lost.
And that feature is the name of the collection: the Grande Seconde subdial. Now, the subdial isn’t gone, but the outsize display of running seconds is.
In its place is the 30-minute chronograph counter nestled concentrically within a pointer-style date ring. These two complications visually replace the large running seconds for a much more functional display.
Further, the Grande Seconde Chronograph is only the second watch in the collection to feature an indication around the outer edge of the dial (the first being the Grande Seconde Deadbeat) with the chronograph seconds. The upper and lower dials are visually separated by the vibrant heat blued center chronograph seconds hand, which helps to keep them distinct as the upper time dial has grown in size.
This dial growth also highlights a feature common to many of the Grande Seconde models: the differentiation between Roman numerals and Arabic numerals. Within the circumference of what would be the Grande Seconde subdial, all of the indications are displayed with Arabic numerals, including the 5, 6, and 7 of the hour and minute dial.
The rest of the numerals on the upper dial are displayed with Roman numerals, a typical format for the generally classic style of Jaquet Droz. The chronograph seconds ring is again in Arabic numerals, a modern style detail that adds to the visual interplay seen on the dial.
Details make this watch sing
The details that make this watch sing. The understated multilayer dial in ivory-colored grand feu enamel feels like the perfect fit for the layout. The gold “matchstick” hand used for the 30-minute counter is a fantastic contrast to the two adjacent blued-steel chronograph hands and a balance for the matching the hour and minute hand.
The blue pad-printed minute counter ring is an extremely fine detail visually tying the chronograph seconds ring on the outside edge of the dial together with the smallest subdial ring.
The tiny pointed indices that rest just inside this ring at every fifth mark are a very subtle detail that adds a lot of visual depth to the seconds ring. These indices are found on the 30-minute counter as well in an even smaller format, yet everything feels in proportion to the delicate indications.
I also appreciate that the chronograph functions are, at least on this model, visually distinct with blued hands and blue indications. The time, date, and logos are black and gold, keeping them clearly separate as if this was an intentional mashup of two different watches.
When you consider the flirtatious way that the Grande Seconde already plays with typography styles between the dials, it’s clear that Jaquet Droz is focused on how things relate in the modern age of fine watchmaking.
The overarching philosophy of simplicity is also what led to the use of the monopusher chronograph caliber instead of some multi-pusher contraption. The qualities found in the Grande Seconde Chronograph Ivory Enamel are focused and discerning from within the design framework Jaquet Droz is known for.
Limited Edition versus permanent collection
My favorite model is also the limited edition version, appealing to me more than the three models that will be in the permanent collection. So it’s not surprising that the limited edition got it all right.
But how do the “regular” models fare in comparison? Pretty good, but there is a little something missing. Don’t think for a minute that they aren’t all really darn cool, but there is genuinely a little something extra on the limited-edition model.
The enamel dial is gone on the permanent collection pieces and with it the layered dial. It is still a multi-piece dial, but it loses a bit of the visual motion, something that is often a feature of complicated chronograph pieces.
Two of the three versions do not have the color contrast, resorting to the same color and finish for all the hands; the same goes for indications and subdials. One version does maintain some of this contrast, and all versions seek to add motion back into the layout by switching from the standard vertical layout to the slightly rotated off-center layout.
This sees the movement rotated 15 degrees clockwise and adds the most obvious differentiation from the limited-edition model. And the asymmetry is great, it’s one of my favorite aspects of the Grande Second Off-Centered Onyx, so that is definitely a great design decision.
I would have liked to see the layered dial and more contrast, maybe having only one piece go the monochromatic route. Still, the clever use of the large seconds subdial to hold multiple indications (seen before in the Deadbeat, Moon, Dual Time, and Quantième models) is the real winner of the layout.
Overall I love the new additions to the collection, and while I have my favorite piece, adding a monopusher chronograph was the perfect next step toward rounding out the Grande Seconde collection.
This beauty reigns as one of my favorite watch designs on the market. I know the movement is awesome, but unlike a lot of my favorites this one is almost purely aesthetic, and my passion for watches is superseded by my passion for impactful design.
The Grande Seconde Chronograph is indeed a pinnacle of design from this historical brand.
I really wouldn’t ever want to break this watch, but let’s break it down anyway!
- Wowza Factor * 9.4 A very strong wowza factor, especially considering the wow comes straight from the aesthetic design!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 94» 921.825m/s2 Often my lust is driven by mechanics or insane concepts, but this time it is all about lust at first sight!
- M.G.R. * 58 This is a great column wheel chronograph movement with interesting subdial layout. The application and finishing is perfect for the caliber, so it gets a very strong rating from me!
- Added-Functionitis * Moderate Chronograph and date, two extremely useful added functions. Since it is an automatic, a power reserve isn’t needed nearly as much, and it also lacks an hour counter so I would say you’ll need regular-strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for some aesthetically awesome horology!
- Ouch Outline * 10.5 The pain of being wrong! When you try to make the right decision in the face of thousands of possibilities but limited info, it is hard to make the right decision. When you realize your mistake, the only thing you can do is move on and try again. It’s hard, but I’ll happily suffer that scenario if it meant getting the Grande Seconde Chronograph on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * Pretty much immediately! When you already love something and then you add another thing that you love, the chances of you not loving it are pretty low, so it’s not a surprise that when I first saw this piece I had to start picking out china patterns!
- Awesome Total * 952 Take the number of hours of power reserve (40) and multiply by the first caliber number (26), then subtract the number of pieces in the limited edition (88) for a beautifully perfect awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.jaquet-droz.com/en/watches/grande-seconde.
Quick Facts Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Chronograph>
Case: 43 x 14.83 mm, red gold or stainless steel>
Movement: automatic Jaquet Droz Caliber 26M5R, monopusher chronograph with silicon balance spring and pallet fork, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; date, chronograph minutes and seconds
Limitation: 88 pieces in red gold, stainless steel editions unlimited for permanent collection
Price: $31,000 (red gold), $19,400 (stainless steel)