Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Dragon John Howe: Sheer Epic Fantasy!
The year was 2001. I was in my junior year of high school and Christmas break was approaching when a few friends and I went to see a new movie in theaters: The Lord Of The Rings.
I was still fairly sheltered in my small town and because I focused more on sports, cars, and my friends, I wasn’t yet a big reader of fiction and had no experience with J.R.R. Tolkien. By the end of the opening sequence, I was transfixed. And by the end of the original three-hour run time, I was a Tolkien convert.
I waited until after the second movie to start reading the books, but by the time I finished them I just kept going, reading The Hobbit then moving on to other less mainstream works like Unfinished Tales, The Histories of Middle Earth, The Children of Hurin, and, most significantly, The Silmarillion, commonly referred to as “the bible of Middle Earth.” I read that incredibly detailed tome nearly three times and absolutely fell in love with the way that Tolkien built worlds.
As the movies came out, followed by extended editions with hours and hours of behind-the-scenes content, I devoured them. I read works on the “science” and philosophy of Middle Earth and bought books showcasing the art and design of the movies throughout the decades. In college I practiced my hand at sketching by copying works from the greatest artists that put pencil to paper to bring Tolkien to life.
I am referring to Alan Lee and John Howe, two incredibly talented artists that have come to define what most people think of when they imagine Middle Earth. Looking over their work helped me fall in love with art and design and made me think about creating beautiful objects that were both functional and imbued with history and culture.
These men and Tolkien helped me become the creative person I am today.
One of those artists, John Howe, has now crossed into another of my realms – watchmaking – with his partnership with Jaquet Droz to create an absolutely stunning work of art to be featured as a miniature painting on the dial of a Petite Heure Minute watch dial.
Since Howe has created many an iconic dragon for Tolkien works over the years, it was appropriate for him to craft something radiating the same energy and history for Jaquet Droz. The result is the new limited edition Petite Heure Minute Dragon, a watch perfectly combining two of my life’s influences in one incredible object.
Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Dragon John Howe
The limited edition Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Dragon began its life as a 41 mm Petite Heure Minute model to give John Howe as much room as possible for his artistic portrayal of a mythical grand beast.
The Petite Heure Minute is a time-only piece with an offset time display that only takes up a third of the dial, providing a lot of real estate for the miniature painting. The bezel is also pretty minimal, offering a larger dial. And Jaquet Droz chose the larger 41 mm case size over the smaller 35 mm size to allow for more “canvas” – avoiding the 43 mm Petite Heure Minute Grande Date model to ensure a more unisex watch able to fit more wrist sizes.
Proportionally speaking, the offset dial is a great size on the 41 mm model, filling in the center but still allowing ample room for decoration. The time display is in the same style as the Grande Date models, with a railroad track encircling the Roman numeral hour markers. The track’s dots signifiy individual minutes with slightly larger five-minute marks.
The Jaquet Droz logo is the only other thing on the offset dial. All these markings are pad-printed in white on the dials of both the white and red gold editions. The miniature painting of the magnificent dragon obscures the hours 6 through 9, bringing the painting forward visually.
The entire dial is deep blue oven-fired enamel offering a truly rich background for the blue- and purple-hued dragon. The dragon theme continues to the movement visible on the rear where the winding rotor has been hand-engraved as a dragon’s tail, though not technically the same tail from the front. Nevertheless, the style is the same and the engraved rotor is a beautiful touch.
Shrinking down a masterpiece
But the real gem is the incredibly detailed miniature painting, which is taken directly from John Howe’s original artwork. The dragon, a creature Howe has depicted numerous times, was first created as a gloriously detailed full-scale painting, at least 50 cm (20 inches) in diameter. The scales, spine, teeth, and everything else were carefully textured and shaded with a keen eye for the light that emanates from the “Dragon Pearl” held in the creature’s claws.
The masterful control of light is a main feature of Howe’s artwork: he set a single light source within the center of the piece radiating out to light the dragon from the glowing orb in the center. The bluish-white light allows the blue and purple dragon to remain generally monochromatic until you get to its mouth. The contrast of bright red from within adds a splash of warmth to the otherwise cool composition and hints at the possibility of a fire-breathing monster without needing to add the flames.
All of this nuance was expertly carried over to the miniature painting on the dial of the Petite Heure Minute Dragon. Some detail was lost in the reduction in scale, things like the delicate separation found between individual scales and some of the hairline highlights of light on the edges of the dragon’s spine. But the subtle play of light is still in effect and makes the scene feel vibrant and alive.
Even when viewed under extreme magnification, the brushwork is incredible and showcases the talented artists working in Jaquet Droz’s artistic crafts department. That talent continues on the rear of the watch with the intricately detailed engraving of the dragon’s tail.
The sculpted scales undulate perfectly creating a sense of volume and movement, a very difficult thing to capture in such a small and flat engraving. The subtle shading is even present in the red gold version, which sees the addition of a touch of paint to darken the grooves, keeping John Howe’s vision present even there.
The visual presentation of the Petite Heure Minute Dragon is really an accomplishment of the work between multiple artisans and watchmakers, taking the source material and creating a gorgeous piece of art for the wrist.
I will always love the style of John Howe thanks to my history with Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings and my passion for epic fantasy. This is a watch that may be niche for some, but it blends two of my own great loves.
The aesthetic shift from the 2020 Petite Heure Minute Relief Dragon may be obvious, but the feeling that the Petite Heure Minute Dragon evokes in me is multiplied threefold.
The Petite Heure Minute Dragon John Howe is presented in two limited-edition models of 18 pieces each in red and white gold, sadly out of my financial reach, but I’m holding out hope that someday I might own an original John Howe artwork, perhaps the exact dragon painting created as the template for this watch! Now I just need to convince Jaquet Droz to part with it somehow . . .
While I puzzle this one out, let’s break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.4 This combines so much of my nerdy geekdom that the wowza factor is pretty dang high!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 94» 921.825m/s2 In my years I have already spent many a late night dreaming about dragons of Middle Earth thanks to John Howe, so getting to spend time fantasizing about a watch with one of his on it is almost effortless!
- M.G.R. * 55 Jaquet Droz is great at making well-finished, capable movements to support the artistic endeavors of the métiers d’art, and this is no exception!
- Added-Functionitis * N/A Who even cares, it has a freaking John Howe dragon on it! But, seriously, like many pieces it is time-only, and that’s all you need so you can skip the Gotta-HAVE-That cream and just enjoy the art!
- Ouch Outline * 11.1 Scraping your fingernails on tile underwater! Anyone who hates the sound of nails on a chalkboard probably also hates to think about the feeling of scratching a chalkboard too. But when I recently took a dip in my apartment’s pool and scraped the tiles underwater with my fingernails, I was instantly reminded of just how much I hate that feeling. Even thinking about it gives me chills down my spine. It’s just one of those things, but I’d gladly do it again if it meant I would be the lucky new owner of this incredible piece!
- Mermaid Moment * Mermaid? More like dragon! It took literally no time at all to fall head over heels for this incredible work of art for the wrist. The only thing left to do is set a date!
- Awesome Total * 920.333 Start with the caliber number (2653) and divide by the water-resistance rating in bar (3), then add in the number of pieces in the two limited editions (36) for a resulting awesome total straight out of your fantasy!
For more information, please visit www.jaquet-droz.com/en/petite-heure-minute-dragon-john-howe-2021.
Quick Facts Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Dragon John Howe
Case: 41 x 12.1 mm, red or white gold
Movement: automatic Caliber Jaquet Droz 2653.Si, 68 hours power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 36 pieces, 18 pieces each in red gold and white gold