Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Relief Dragon: Forged In Fire
Of all the mythological beasts, dragons are one of the only creatures found in stories of nearly every culture. A few cryptozoologists postulate that they must have an actual historical past on earth, though most scientists and language experts more accurately point out that the myths usually are derived from stories of monstrous serpents or scaled, reptile-like creatures found on every continent except Antarctica.
Many dragon myths come from sea creatures, highlighting that the general concept of dragons evolved from natural inspirations along with fantastical oral histories. Interestingly, in most cultures dragons are generally considered evil, destructive beasts. Yet in eastern traditions, dragons can be benevolent and are sometimes revered as gods or noble creatures representing aspirational values.
Regardless of the historical mythological overlay, in modern times the dragon has been wholly adopted and embraced as the pinnacle of fantasy beasts. Whether art, literature, film, or interactive media such as video or role-playing games, the dragon is pretty much synonymous with the fantasy genre. Just as space travel and technology are inherent to sci-fi, dragons are foundational to most versions of fantasy and can be found across countless properties, including Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and the crown jewel Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Jaquet Droz has already given us a few dragon watches and offers another with its latest iteration of the Petite Heure Minute Relief Dragon, a showcase of Jaquet Droz’s magnificent Ateliers d’Art.
Continuing a tradition depicting dragons and released just before the brand announced a partnership with fantasy illustrator John Howe of Lord Of the Rings fame, who is well known for his dragons, this Petite Heure Minute Relief Dragon highlights relief carving on a level rarely seen in the industry but always a sight to behold.
Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Relief Dragon
Built upon the Petite Heure Minute base, the Relief Dragon looks like it could be one of Jaquet Droz’s famous automatons, but its motion is frozen in gold. Featuring the line’s typical offset hour-and-minute subdial, a large portion of the Petite Heure Minute’s dial expanse is open for business and Jaquet Droz fills it in here with three undulating gold relief carvings of an east Asian-inspired dragon (I’ll touch on the aesthetic differences a bit later).
The simplicity of the Petite Heure Minute allows for the exquisite craft of engraving to be the highlight of the show, though it also seeks to showcase stone marquetry with the “Spiderman” jasper stone dial. Combining the dragon with the very earthy stone gives the impression of the dragon coming down out of its mountain lair to bring good luck to the village (remember that eastern dragons were often benevolent).
The offset dial in onyx ties together with the onyx orb held in the dragon’s rear claws, alluding to how dragons often have gold and jewels, which they greedily protect because dragons have attachment issues and are notorious hoarders. I’m not judging, just highlighting some issues they may want to work on.
The dragon relief engraving continues through the movement on the rear, where the body of the dragon is carved in a plate attached to the automatic rotor. Even though its appearance is very three-dimensional, it must be flat due to space constraints; it is more of a visual nod than a true continuation of the dragon body. No matter, the amount of three-dimensionality found in the body segments on the front of the dial are really where we see the artisans’ talent shine.
Show me a dragon and I will show you the world
The relief engraving is fairly dramatic for the dragon and considering the watch is less than 14 mm high, a lot of depth was created in a small space. The detail of the scales, claws, and plates running down the dragon’s spine add a ton of texture that makes it look like it was based on a real-life creature.
The head and open jaws extend over the top of the onyx dial with the hour and minute hands sweeping underneath, just missing being devoured. This creates even more visual depth and stresses just how three dimensional the dragon relief engraving really is.
The jasper dial features a host of reds, browns, and flecks of grey perfectly complementing the yellow gold of the dragon, all set against the more subtle red gold of the case and hands. Each jasper dial is unique, and the variation in the “Spiderman” veining creates a lot of visual motion to support the undulation of the dragon. That undulation is the most impressive aspect of the engraving as it is incredibly dynamic for such a small scale.
The Petite Heure Minute Relief Dragon in red gold with a jasper dial is the third manifestation of this dragon series, the first of which was released in 2012 with a geometrically carved mother-of-pearl dial and a ruby pearl in its claws.
In 2018 another version came out, this time with a brecciated jasper dial across the entire expanse of the outer dial and subdial and featuring a yellow citrine pearl as the dragon’s treasure.
Aside from the material changes, all of these rare watches are iterations of the same design. In 2011 Jaquet Droz released a Petite Heure Minute with an oven-fired enamel dial featuring a miniature painting of two colorful dragons, a spiritual antecedent to the much more involved Relief Dragon models later.
All of these watches feature the eastern Asian dragon style, reinforcing the three-century-long relationship that Jaquet Droz has with the Chinese culture.
Dragon styles, more varied than you might think
The aesthetic of the dragon is modeled after the popular east Asian depictions (China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Nepal, Bhutan), which differ dramatically from those of other cultures. The eastern trend sees a dragon with the long, thin body of a lizard, pretty much snake-like, but with strong, short legs two-thirds of the way down the body and another set just behind the head.
This head is almost dog like, often sporting facial hair such as a short beard and a long, thin, curly moustache. There is also usually a set of horns, sometimes resembling antlers. Most interestingly, eastern Asian dragons do not have wings; they instead fly through the sky more like an eel swims through the water. This is a style categorized as a lung dragon.
This depiction is iconic but such a departure from other types, the most recognizable of which is the western European dragon, the variety deemed an original dragon type. That dragon has a shorter and more compact body, resembling more of a four-legged dinosaur with massive wings and a long tail.
Imagine a brontosaurus with scales, horns, wings, huge claws, and the razor-sharp teeth of an alpha predator. These two styles are the most well-known, but there are varieties at every point along the dragon spectrum, from T-Rex like with giant wings featuring claws on the end and two massive legs (referred to as a Wyvern) or a sea-serpent style, which is practically a colossal, fanged eel that can both fly and live under water (from a group called Wyrm).
Some dragons are humungous snakes (again part of the Wyrm group) or cat-like creatures with wings, fur, and scales, technically part of the dragon group. There are Drakes, which are basically dragons minus the wings; Lindwurms or lindworms are dragons with no wings and only two legs; and the Amphiptere is a snake-like dragon with no legs but massive wings. Each of these categories has smaller subgroups as well making up at least 14 distinct groups of dragons with a whole variety of aesthetics.
Thanks to depictions of Wyverns in Game of Thrones and Harry Potter, and the dragons and Drakes of Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings, we are familiar with the destructive aesthetic of European dragons. But the Asian dragons – the lung dragons of China, Japan, and elsewhere – don’t bring chaos and death but instead power, well-being, luck, and prosperity.
It’s no wonder that dragons are so popular in the eastern traditions and why we continue to see stunning examples of them in Jaquet Droz watches.
The latest Petite Heure Minute Relief Dragon is a culmination of centuries of craft from a brand known for the artwork of its Ateliers d’Art collection. While previous versions were limited to 88 pieces and 28 pieces respectively, this version is even more restricted at only 8 pieces, making it a precious trophy for someone seeking a work of art for the wrist. Just be careful that it doesn’t soar away into the night sky.
While we ponder that, let’s break this beauty down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.87 I think we both know why this watch will wow you; it has a darn dragon inside!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 98.7» 967.916m/s2 Staring at a miniature dragon trapped under a tiny sapphire crystal dome could keep anyone up at night. This has some real power to keep you transfixed!
- M.G.R. * 48.2 Solid movement with silicon balance spring. No need to get too fancy when you see what is on the other side of the dial!
- Added-Functionitis * N/A So, I have to be harsh and say that making everyone within a five-mile radius jealous is not technically an added function so you can skip the Gotta-HAVE-That cream. I know, sometimes I have to be a stickler for the rules!
- Ouch Outline * 12.1 Getting singed by that dragon fire (or the burner on your stove)! Since it sounds way more manly to say that you got injured by dragon fire and not a GE quad burner with self-cleaning function, let’s just say that I would play with the dragon again if it meant getting this bad boy on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * Dragon! Whether cheering or screaming out in fear, exclaiming “dragon!” will definitely occur the moment you became infatuated and realize you need to start looking at rings!
- Awesome Total * 1,045.5 First take the diameter of the case in millimeters (41) and multiply by the hours of power reserve (68), then multiply again by the water resistance in atmospheres (3), and finally divide by the number of pieces in the limited edition (8) for a fire breathing awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.jaquet-droz.com/en/watches/ateliers-d-art/petite-heure-minute-relief-dragon.
Quick Facts Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Relief Dragon
Case: 41 x 13.77 mm, red gold
Movement: automatic Caliber 2653.Si with balance spring and pallet fork in silicon, 68 hours power reserve via twin spring barrels, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 8 pieces
Price: 74,550 Swiss francs
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