Book Review: ‘The Worlds Of Jaquet Droz’
One of the youngest brands to join the Swatch Group lineup has one of the oldest watch brand names: Jaquet Droz. And in 2021 the brand celebrates the 300th anniversary of the birth of its founder, Pierre Jaquet-Droz, who was born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland in 1721.
Although at the beginning Jaquet Droz was not intended to compete with the group’s top-shelf brands – Breguet, Blancpain, and more recently Glashütte Original and Harry Winston – the young marque quietly entered the running without trying. Its limited and relatively rare timepieces are created using all of the combined knowledge and technical firepower the Swatch Group has at its disposal with a generous helping of artistic wizardry. And that appeals.
What particularly appeals to me is that within the Swatch Group’s 190 separate companies, including 18 brands, Jaquet Droz operates very much like an independent watchmaker. And its artful timepieces reflect this.
To celebrate Jaquet Droz’s milestone year, the brand commissioned a big, beautiful book written by Swiss historian Dr. Sandrine Girardier, whose 2018 doctorate thesis in modern history was dedicated to watchmakers Pierre Jaquet-Droz and Jean-Frédéric Leschot.
As the current museum curator of the Musée d’art et d’histoire in La Neuveville, Girardier devotes herself to the management of collections and the creation of temporary exhibitions. In her work as a freelance historian, she practices cultural and educational mediation in addition to her research and publication activities.
The Worlds Of Jaquet Droz: structure
The Worlds Of Jaquet Droz is broken down into nine main chapters (discounting the forewords and appendices as chapters). The way these are structured seem very academic to me, even going to so far as to explain sources – including the difficulty of getting them for the years between 1747 and 1774.
The chapters contain much information on Pierre Jaquet-Droz’s beginnings, the famous automatons, the international nature of Pierre Jaquet-Droz’s business, the commercial distribution of his company’s treasures, its technical highlights, what came after Pierre Jaquet-Droz’s death, and a beautifully illustrated “catalogue” of nine classic pieces from the time of the master.
In all, the chapters are easily identifiable and digestible as well as beautifully illustrated.
The Worlds Of Jaquet Droz: content
The focus of this book is definitely on the antique era of this famous horological name, back before it was a brand, even though Part VIII (chapter 8) is entirely devoted to “What Came Next: The Jaquet-Droz in Watchmaking History,” which explains what came after the death of the eponymous founder, his associates, and his family. It also contains a section on 20 years of patents, all of which are from the modern era.
A justifiably large chapter is devoted to the world-renowned androids, the lifelike automatons that became the claim to fame of Pierre Jaquet-Droz (1721-1790). The particularly famous trio of realistic-looking androids bearing the names the Writer, the Draughtsman, and the Musician have been at home in Neuchâtel’s Museum of Art and History since 1909. These were begun in 1774 by Pierre Jaquet-Droz and completed by his son. (If you’re ever in the area, it’s worthwhile to stop in and see them; normally the truly lifelike objects are activated every first Sunday of the month at 2:00, 3:00, and 4:00 pm so that visitors may see them in action.)
The Worlds Of Jaquet Droz: quality
In all, this book contains engaging, well-written text that has been very obviously carefully translated and copyedited. It also boasts great paper quality; good, clear, pleasing-to-the-eye design; super photography; and an appealing subject matter.
I have not seen the French edition of this book, but seeing how detailed it is in a historic sense I can only imagine this was not an easy one for Susan Jaquet to translate. Nonetheless, the English is masterful; the expert translator continuously spoils the watch world with the excellent quality of her work.
The appendices include detailed sources, an extensive bibliography, and plenty of endnotes, making this book a true reference work. The Worlds Of Jaquet Droz is not only beautiful, it is informative, scientifically structured, and easy to use either as leisure reading or as a reference book.
I would highly recommend The Worlds Of Jaquet Droz to anyone interested in the early days of high watchmaking and/or Jaquet-Droz’s greatest gift to micro mechanics: the androids.
Quick Facts The Worlds Of Jaquet Droz
Pages: 248 pages
Language: English (French version also available)
Price: CHF 85 / $95
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