Key dates in the extraordinary 275-year history of Jaquet Droz and the Art of Amazement

Jun 07, 2013,20:57 PM

1738 Pierre Jaquet-Droz sets up his first workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds. He produces a whole series of long-case clocks with increasingly sophisticated movements that surpass anything before seen. His manual dexterity, meticulous nature and serious approach to his craft, as well as the reasoned application of the mechanical principles, led him to add music and automata to his movements, which came rapidly to the attention of a wealthy and demanding clientele.

1758 Pierre Jaquet-Droz, together with his father-in-law, Abraham Louis Sandoz and a young hired hand named Jacques Gevril, plan a journey from La Chaux-de-Fonds to the Spanish Royal court. They build a special carriage equipped to carry 6 clocks.  49 days after leaving Switzerland, they are received in Madrid by a Spanish nobleman. After a wait of several months, Pierre presents his clocks to King Ferdinand VI. The presentation was a triumph; the monarch and his court are left speechless by his creations and purchase the complete set for a large sum of money. Upon his return to La Chaux-de-Fonds, he devotes himself exclusively to making watches, clocks and his famous automata.

1773 Pierre Jaquet-Droz and his son, Henri-Louis, present their famous humanoid automata, The Writer, The Draughtsman and The Musician, in La Chaux-de-Fonds, then all over Europe. Their extensive research into picturesque mechanics and the artificial reproduction of life and movement give their creations a level of realism that astonishes and amuses all the Royal courts of Europe. But beyond their entertainment value, they provide excellent opportunities for Jaquet-Droz to show his watchmaking skills and sell his pieces. The automata really are an excellent promotional tool.

1774 Pierre Jaquet-Droz decides to set up a workshop in London, a hub for industry and trade. He gives his son, Henri-Louis, the responsibility over the management of the workshop, with a particular focus on managing relations with the Cox company, whose agents in Canton will provide access to the Far East market. For many years, they will represent the brand in China, the East Indies and Japan. 1779 With more than 600 pieces exported to China in 10 years, the Jaquet-Droz father and son have captivated the Qianlong Emperor himself. He and the mandarins of the Imperial court have developed a passionate interest in European mechanical watches and automatons, and Jaquet Droz becomes the first watch brand imported into the Forbidden City. Several automata and pocket watches are still carefully preserved in the Imperial Palace museum today. 

1784 The Jaquet-Droz family opens the first watchmaking manufacture in Geneva, specializing in making and exporting fine luxury watches with automatons, music and other complications, while developing the production of singing birds.  They also contribute to founding a factory-school in the city, producing dials for repeater watches, and go on to develop a host of projects related to watchmaking technology and the support of crafts connected with watchmaking. Their efforts help a whole generation of craftsmen to earn their living.  Cases enameled with spangles, painting on enamel, as well as the skills of carving and engraving contribute significantly to the success and reputation of Jaquet-Droz creations: pocket watches, urns, snuff boxes, bird cages ...all these masterpieces are decorated.

1790-1791 Pierre and Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz die just one year apart. The French revolution and the troubles that followed it, as well as the Napoleonic wars, bring an end to a period of creativity and prosperity for the company.

2000 Montres Jaquet Droz is acquired by the Swatch Group and joins its prestige and luxury range. The Swatch Group enables the brand to recapture the success it enjoyed during the Age of Enlightenment, and preserve the exceptional heritage of its founder. The Swatch Group makes its expertise, technical resources and its famous production system available to Jaquet Droz, as well as its international distribution network.

2002 Launch of the Grande Seconde, a piece inspired by a pocket watch created in the 18th century. The dial of this ageless icon of the company is a refined demonstration of the art of Grand Feu enameling, with the hour and minute display at 12 o’clock overlapping the seconds counter at 6 o’clock.

2008 Launch of the Pocket Watch, the legendary timepiece that was made for centuries. This model, created in 1785, has survived and become the inspiration for the brand’s flagship, the Grande Seconde Enamel, honoring a philosophy that has remained unchanged since the Enlightenment.

2009 Nicolas G. Hayek takes the reins at Jaquet Droz, assisted by a steering committee.

2010 Marc A. Hayek takes over at Jaquet Droz, with the firm intention of cultivating the spirit of excellence and innovation while continuing to respect the emotional and poetic values created in the 18th century.

2010 Montres Jaquet Droz SA moves into its Fine Watchmaking workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds. This 2,500 m2 site gives the brand a new energy, with the intention of becoming, like its watches, a synthesis of horological expertise and craftsmanship with a distinctive personality that enables it to meet the strong demand from the market and its customers.

2010 The Launch of The Eclipse: an exceptional timepiece displaying 8 stars (a lucky number for Jaquet Droz) and an engraved moon that continuously evolves, changing with each new dawn. This 18th century inspired design evokes both the origins of the brand and its passion for  the decorative arts that dates back to the Century of Light.

2011 One of the most recognizable Jaquet Droz models, the Grande Seconde, is combined with a masterpiece of high-precision watchmaking: the tourbillon. Sapphire and Grand Feu enamel, innovation and tradition... many creative possibilities are opened up. The master dial makers finally decide to place the tourbillon right at the heart of the seconds counter, repositioned at 12 o’clock. 2011 Jaquet Droz moves its Ateliers d’Art workshop into its Fine Watchmaking workshop to integrate and preserve the centuries of special expertise that have created the brand’s identity. The meticulous work involved in miniature painting, carving, engraving and paillonné enamel is highlighted in some exceptional pieces in the Jaquet Droz collection.

2012 With the support of the Musée d’art et d’histoire de Neuchâtel, the famous humanoid automaton, The Writer, is taken to Beijing as part of an extraordinary exhibition “Automates & Merveilles”. In partnership with Montres Jaquet Droz, it introduces the genius of Jaquet Droz and Leschot to a new public. An incredible amount of information is assembled for the first time in the three museums in the canton of Neuchâtel: the Musée d’art et d’histoire de Neuchâtel, the Musée d’horlogerie de Locle and the Musée international d’horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

2012 A new automaton, The Bird Repeater, is presented in November. This exceptional piece that involves all the decorative arts has been created in-house, demonstrating the history, expertise and imagination of Jaquet Droz craftsmen.

2013 Jaquet Droz celebrates its 275th anniversary, maintaining the avant-garde spirit and refined taste that distinguished its founder. After almost 300 years, the link between the Age of Enlightenment and the third Millennium remains intact.

Press Release

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Charlie: the newest addition to Jaquet Droz’s family tree of automata

 By: Kong : June 7th, 2013-19:07
In honor of Baselworld 2013, Jaquet Droz presents Charlie, its latest automaton. Nearly 250 years since it brought out its first humanoid automata, the tradition is intact, along with the emotion. They are a unique family of a special sort. A family of ar...  

Key dates in the extraordinary 275-year history of Jaquet Droz and the Art of Amazement

 By: Kong : June 7th, 2013-20:57
1738 Pierre Jaquet-Droz sets up his first workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds. He produces a whole series of long-case clocks with increasingly sophisticated movements that surpass anything before seen. His manual dexterity, meticulous nature and serious approa...