Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Tourbillon: Clean Design, Subtle Finishing, And Exquisite Restraint
The human body is a wonder – or a nightmare, depending on your perspective. Our bodies are a complex biological system with trillions of cells working together to keep us healthy, all thanks to millions of years of evolution. We can turn simple chemicals in our environments (through our food and by breathing) into energy, which allows us to lift heavy weights, run long distances, and think deeply about incredibly complex topics.
From another perspective, the human beings is meat suit wrapped around a machine made of bones controlled by a three-pound ball of jelly in our heads that is hallucinating every minute of every day. This entire body is made of up inanimate chemicals, nothing is itself alive, yet from it emerges what we call life, consciousness, and a sense of self for reasons we still do not know. Life can most easily be defined as an emergent property of chemistry; every other way we try to define life falls apart in any fundamental way.
The human body, and by extension, all life, is a strange, self-perpetuating complex chain of chemical interactions that began over 3.5 billion years ago and just kept going, without fail, until the present day. Even more strangely, those chemicals incorporate minerals in the reactions leading to the development of living rocks with us (the calcium-based bones that make up our skeletons) so that we became the real-life version of a sci-fi bio-mech suit.
Our skeleton is incredibly vital to the survival of our body (it’s where our blood cells are made at a rate of two million per second), and each bone is more than just rigid scaffolding: they’re organs. We couldn’t live without our bones, and I think this is why humans are so fascinated with the skeleton. It forms the literal core of our being and makes our movement possible.
Much of the same can be said for a skeletonized watch: the movement is built on a skeleton structure. While that skeleton doesn’t make blood, it does make for some incredible artistry and engineering to produce a fantastic timepiece.
Jaquet Droz released a perfect example in the Grande Seconde Skelet-One Tourbillon, a more complicated version of the original Grande Seconde Skelet-One. Inverting the dials and streamlining the skeleton architecture has made for an even more impressive watch that has also spawned a one-off piece for the 2021 Only Watch charity auction.
Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Tourbillon
The Grande Seconde Skelet-One Tourbillon is on paper a fairly straightforward watch. It has a one-minute tourbillon driving the subdial for seconds, a fully open movement, automatic winding, and an off-center time display toward 6 o’clock.
That description fails to fully convey the masterful mix of clean design, subtle finishing, and exquisite restraint coming together to create an aesthetically titillating display.
It all begins with the dials, which are fully translucent sapphire crystal with applied markers and printing. The dials are as minimal as possible to allow full view of the skeletonized movement below.
The hours and minutes are on the larger dial at 6 o’clock, which also employs a full railroad track pad-printed in gold for individual minutes and 12 applied gold hour markers. The Jaquet Droz logo and words “Manufacturé en Suisse” are the only other things on the dial, making sure no part of the movement is covered.
The dial at 12 o’clock showcases the seconds thanks to the tourbillon escapement underneath, machined in the shape of an asterisk (or three overlapping lines), creating a six-tipped tourbillon cage. This might sound like an unusual choice, but in context with the skeletonized movement it makes the most sense of nearly every tourbillon I’ve ever seen. It fits perfectly with the design, and that is no small detail.
The movement is constructed in a sort of overlapping grid pattern, with lines crisscrossing at acute (less than 90-degree) angles horizontally. This angled relationship makes it feel very geometric but also very active, the lines creating visual movement around the watch. While the rear of the movement loses a little of this thanks to the winding mechanism and rotor, it is still evident and even continues to the rotor.
The rotor is completely open with only a single small beam crossing the pivot point and then a heavy (but visually thin) arch where most of the mass resides. But from the front, most of the mechanism and the rotor aren’t visible and the style is maintained. The skeleton movement also matches the typical figure eight of the Grande Seconde model dials to create a supremely cohesive look.
A skeleton is architecture
The translucent dial showcasing the movement is actually two layers, the top one being the aforementioned clear sapphire crystal with applied markers, while a second layer of smoky quartz is placed behind to provide a hint of the figure eight with its subtly less transparent appearance. The difference between the two is not much, but for a brand like Jaquet Droz finesse and subtle adjustments often play huge roles in its style.
Take the tourbillon cage, for instance, which matches the crisscrossing line pattern of the skeleton movement. It is designed to align perfectly with the movement architecture, but only once a minute as the center of the pivot is not perfectly centered on the junction of the three lines. This slightly offset pivot and misalignment allows for the momentary joy of completion when it finally aligns perfectly for one second then continues on its way.
It’s akin to watching the old Microsoft Windows screen saver, where the logo would bounce around the screen and only occasionally perfectly hit the corner and come straight back out. The split-second enjoyment was weirdly visceral. The aesthetic of the Grande Seconde Skelet-One Tourbillon engages that deep craving for perfection in geometry and allows our inner geometry nerd to come out and play.
Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Tourbillon Only Watch 2021
Speaking of playing, that is what the Only Watch edition of the Grande Seconde Skelet-One Tourbillon does. It is almost the same watch except for a few key differences, and they all relate to the dial.
On the original Grande Seconde Skelet-One Tourbillon, the dial is made of two layers of sapphire crystal and smoky quartz, but the Only Watch edition did away with the quartz. What did the brand’s artisans replace it with? Plique-à-jour enamel.
Known as one of the hardest and most delicate forms of enamel, the plique-à-jour dial created for this piece is a stunning achievement. Underneath the top sapphire crystal dial is another dial spanning the full case width made of crisscrossing white gold strips.
The whisker-thin strips of gold create a geometric dance of openings that have been selectively filled with red, orange, and yellow enamel that have a visual texture like sugar glass. Each cell of the enamel was very carefully filled and fired multiple times to ensure a perfect thickness and adhesion to the white gold frame.
The entire dial was then flat-polished with ultra-fine diamond polish for a perfectly smooth surface to highlight the texture of the plique-à-jour enamel. The white gold frame has one circular opening for the tourbillon otherwise the rest of the dial is a smattering of symmetrical angled lines.
The delicateness of the dial astonishes, with the translucent enamel hanging gingerly between threads of white gold, the colors symbolizing happiness, passion, and optimism to relate to the Only Watch cause.
If I hadn’t seen the Only Watch edition of the Grande Seconde Skelet-One Tourbillon I would have said it couldn’t get any better, but Jaquet Droz knows how to add its fantastical artistic abilities with unique métiers d’art.
Regardless, any form of the Grande Seconde Skelet-One Tourbillon is awesomazing and tickles all of my horological and aesthetic desires. Thanks to a seven-day power reserve, it can also keep tickling my desires for a week while that tourbillon keeps merrily spinning on its way.
As a thematic follow-up to the Grande Seconde Skelet-One it delivers more than most would ask for, and does so with the intriguing restraint achieved by Jaquet Droz. It’s a brand who knows how to make beautiful pieces without going too far and continues to impress year after year.
But you don’t have to wait to see how I break this watch down!
- Wowza Factor * 8.9 Incredible skeleton watches are rarer than you might think, so being surprised by one like this is always a pretty significant wow factor!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 89» 872.792m/s2 The delicate skeleton frame of the Grande Seconde Skelet-One Tourbillon has kept me up late into the night dreaming about this piece!
- M.G.R. * 64.4 A fine skeleton movement with automatic winding, seven-day power reserve, and one-minute tourbillon is hard to pass up, especially from Jaquet Droz!
- Added-Functionitis * N/A As usual, some of the most incredible watches do nothing more than tell the time, and that’s just fine with me. Still, you can go without the Gotta-HAVE-That cream for this piece!
- Ouch Outline * 11.2 Thinking there is one more step at the bottom of stairs and twisting your ankle! I luckily haven’t done this in a while, but I remember one particularly weird set of stairs where I not only hit the bottom before I thought I would but the switch from carpet to tile, all while carrying a heavy box obscuring my view led to me on the floor with a sore ankle. I’d happily take that risk again if it meant I could finally have the Grande Seconde Skelet-One Tourbillon on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * Once a minute! Waiting every minute for the tourbillon to line up just perfectly with the frame of the movement means that you get to fall head over heels every 60 seconds!
- Awesome Total * 861 Start with the power reserve in days (7) and multiply by the diameter of the case in millimeters (41), then multiply by the water resistance in bar (3) and the result will be a translucently awesome total!
For more information, please visit jaquet-droz.com/en/watches/grande-seconde/grande-seconde-skelet-one-tourbillon.
Quick Facts Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Tourbillon
Case: 41 x 13.36 mm, red gold
Movement: automatic Caliber JD 2625SQ with 60-second tourbillon, seven-day power reserve, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: CHF 156,600