4′33″ Of Pure Bliss – Going Hands-On With The Jaquet Droz Magic Lotus Automaton
Editor’s note: This is a Mind (stats), Body (design features) & Soul (what’s special) review where we go Hands-On with the Jaquet Droz Magic Lotus Automaton watch. For our detailed reviews, please head to our dedicated review section here. Today’s watch is brought with the grateful assistance of J Farren-Price Sydney.
“Four Seasons fill the measure of the year; There are four seasons in the mind of man,” said John Keats, one of the greatest English Romantic poets. As we review this watch, you will see how this emotion comes alive in the workings of the Jaquet Droz Magic Lotus Automaton.
What is it: The Jaquet Droz Magic Lotus Automaton ref. J032633270 in a 43mm diameter 18-karat red gold case. It offers a 68-hour power reserve, features the in-house calibre 2653 AT2, and retails for CHF 216’000.
Why: Because poetry and Haute Horlogerie can sometimes meet to create unique timepieces. There is also huge market gap for these kind of automated mechanical timepieces in the watchmaking industry and who better to tackle it than a company that is deep-rooted in the legacy established by Pierre Jaquet-Droz more than 280 years ago
When released: June last year
Where: Global release in limited numbers of 28-pieces only, and the timepiece can currently be seen at the Jaquet Droz exhibition held at the J Farren-Price boutique in Sydney at 80 Castlereagh Street
Who is it for: For the gentleman who has everything, yet has room for a piece of ‘breathing’ horological art for his wrists. Or for a millionaire who is constantly stressed by his hectic lifestyle and wants momentary zen of about 4 minutes in the middle of his day to calm down and reboot.
How does it do: The Jaquet Droz Magic Lotus Automaton allows one to forget themselves, and entices you to lose yourself in the mesmerising world of naturalist fresco found inside a zen garden. Inspired by the grace and serene beauty of the latter, this horological gem took over three years in the development phase alone and more impressively for the brand was designed and assembled in house. The most remarkable feature is not the automaton detailing as one would imagine on first look, but the fact that this automaton features an exceptionally long animation that runs to more than four minutes symbolising the eternal cycle of life. My favourite bit, the ‘breathing’ koi. Watch the video below to see what we mean.
Missing: The dragonfly used as a power reserve indicator should have been in a different colour as it blends with the blue of the dial. Also, a slightly higher water resistance of at least 50m and a stainless steel version without the diamonds and rubies but the sheer poetry of motion would be highly appreciated. As much as I love these horological wonders from Jaquet Droz, I can’t help but think how wonderful would it be if they retained the same principle of automatons but without the bells and whistles and released them at a slightly more affordable price that is within five and not six digits. The timepiece itself, Jaquet Droz Magic Lotus Automaton has nothing much that I can complain about – it’s a beauty that leaves you beholden. It’s such a good animation that Disney can learn a thing or two (perhaps a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea).
The Jaquet Droz Magic Lotus Automaton reference J032633270 features the in-house calibre 2653 AT2 that is comprised of the base movement and the automaton module on top. The base is a self-winding mechanical movement with a silicon balance spring and pallet horns, double barrel, hand-engraved flat bridges, and a hand-engraved 18-karat red gold oscillating weight. The automaton part is a hand-wound mechanical movement with the push-button at 3’o clock inside the crown triggering the mechanism that animates the pond, carp and lotus flower.
The movement overall comprises of a whopping 506 components and 56 jewels, beats at the frequency of 4Hz, and features four barrels, split half and half between the base and the top module, with former boasting of an impressive 68-hour power reserve and the latter with a little over four minutes of power.
The movement is encased inside a 43mm diameter and 16.96mm thick 18-karat red gold case with a water-resistance of only 30m (3 ATM) and an individual limited serial number engraved on the display case-back. This display case-back shows the highly decorated movement which is a work of art in itself, with the bridges and oscillating weight are hand-engraved with exclusive naturalist motifs. Even the non-engraved elements on the movement are also decorated with circular graining, drawn strokes and chamfered by hand.
The rather understated and simply polished case with downward lug arches and the sloping side profile fits my 16.5cm wrist rather snuggly. For a big-ish watch it doesn’t sit too awkwardly which is something of a definite plus.
The case houses the hand-engraved and hand-painted white mother-of-pearl dial which in itself is three layers and we will be discussing these in more detail a bit later. But overall though, this mesmerising dial features the following bling:
- hand-engraved and hand-painted applied decoration in white mother-of-pearl
- 18-karat red and yellow gold lotus leaves engraved and enamelled by hand
- Winter lotus set with 7 diamonds (0.005 carat), spring lotus set with a yellow sapphire (0.03 carat), autumn lotus set with a red briolette ruby (0.30 carat), a blue briolette sapphire (0.30 carat) and a yellow briolette sapphire (0.30 carat)
The overall look is completed by the rolled-edge hand-made dark green alligator strap and an 18-karat red gold folding clasp.
The Jaquet Droz Magic Lotus Automaton is a tale of four seasons, three dials, two animations and one 4′33″ of pure blissful elongated moment.
The Four Seasons
Let’s talk about the four seasons first. Sun Tzu, the famed Chinese strategist once said: “Like the sun and moon, they end but to begin anew; like the four seasons, they pass away to return once more”. In essence, the Jaquet Droz Magic Lotus Automaton represents just that sentiment.
The four seasons are represented by the four flowers on the dial, each an iteration of a lotus’s life cycle interpreted through seasons. The idea is to embody the concepts of birth to re-birth of a lotus. The four seasons are shown as below, and we will be using John Keats poem to establish them as we mentioned in our intro earlier.
- “He (man) has his lusty Spring, when fancy clear Takes in all beauty with an easy span.” In the Magic Lotus Automaton, a mother-of-pearl with a corolla of gold petals at 3’o clock symbolises the unopened Lotus bud that’s about to come to life in the season of spring.
- “He has his Summer, when luxuriously Spring’s honey’d cud of youthful thought he loves To ruminate, and by such dreaming high Is nearest unto heaven”. To the left of the 3’o clock bud, above a leaf and caressing the main dial is another lotus flower with its mother-of-pearl petals finished with a thin coat of translucent paint are rejoicing life in full bloom, symbolising summer. But that’s not all; Jaquet Droz’s immersive attention to detail sees its artisans place at its heart a yellow sapphire with gold prongs that represents the pistil and stamens, to provide for a more realistic appeal.
- “Quiet coves His soul has in its Autumn, when his wings He furleth close; contented so to look On mists in idleness—to let fair things Pass by unheeded as a threshold brook”. Next up is the season of fall or autumn, and that’s represented by a fallen lotus flower that appears to be carried away by the current.
- “He has his Winter too of pale misfeature, Or else he would forego his mortal nature”. Last but not the least is the last season, winter, depicted in all its glory at 6’o clock by the sinking seed pod of the aquatic plant that appears to be naturally buried and waiting to come to life again. Again the high attention to detail sees Jaquet Droz setting the pod with seven diamonds that represent the seeds as visible symbols of the life glittering within.
Arthur Rubinstein, one of the greatest American-Polish classical pianist once said: “The seasons are what a symphony ought to be: four perfect movements in harmony with each other”.
The Jaquet Droz Magic Lotus Automaton imbibes this spirit; it is a horological wonder that depicts this dance of four seasons in perfect harmony.
The Three Layers
Next up is the three dials part.
Being a watch critic, I am lucky enough to be surrounded by a number of watches in some form or the other on a daily basis. And I gotta admit, as far as multi-layered dials go, the Jaquet Droz Magic Lotus Automaton has got to be one of the most three-dimensional and inter-layered ones I have come across in recent times.
The first layer of the dial is the stationary black onyx watch dial with gold hour and minute hands at 12’o clock. In true design language of Jaquet Droz’s use of the figure ‘8’, this sub-dial is beautifully framed by an 18-karat red gold applied ring e and it helps in depicting the time very clearly. Often I find myself shaking my head in disapproval over complicated watches that while may be horological wonders refuse to depict the time legibly at a glance. The Magic Lotus Automaton avoids that trap, and as a fundamental piece of time-telling equipment, functions.
The second layer is a crescent-shaped fixed disk that attaches the “lotus life cycle” to the piece, with reed stems and three suspended lotus leaves in Grand Feu enamel on a red gold base.
Next up is the third layer, the rotating one. The composition of four seasons as explained above is suspended above this third peripheral disk, which fully rotates. In the words of the press release, “it represents the perpetual movement of the water, the perfection of the circle, and the continuous return to life. Bobbing gold water lilies reveal the eddies of the water”.
The Two Animations
The third, mobile layer above houses the two animations the Jaquet Droz Magic Lotus Automaton proudly boasts of.
The first is a hand carved in gold Koi fish that moves in the water depicted in third layer by not only flapping its tails thereby creating the illusion that it is swimming through the water, but it also moves vertically up and down appearing to move in the flowing river and dive beneath the lotus leaves.
The second animation is of the floating lotus that each time when it passes beneath the dial or plant leaves, it acquires a new stone — alternately blue sapphire, yellow sapphire and ruby — that is surrounded by the beautiful mother-of-pearl petals. The smoothness with which this change in colour occurs leaves one scratching their head, wondering was there an actual change or was it a trick of the eye? It is indeed a mechanical change, subtly and brilliantly executed by the brand with the use of a small rotating gear ball/cage or racks triggering rotations integrated into the river disc.
It is this mixture of animation, the swimming, ‘breathing koi’ and the lotus’ time changes that forms the essence of this timepiece.
There is also one more easter egg, the power reserve indicator between 8 and 9’o clock that is presented in the form of a hand-painted and hand-carved dragonfly in red gold. It moves downward with the power reserve of the animation, which can be fully wound by the crown.
The one 4′33″
We didn’t exactly time the animation sequence but it runs for just over 4 minutes. Now 4′33″ — can be pronounced “four minutes, thirty-three seconds” or just “four thirty-three” — is our reference to American experimental composer John Cage’s famous three-movement music composition from 1952. This music piece is four minutes, thirty-three seconds of pure silence, where the audience is meant to listen to the sounds of nature. This piece of music 4′33″ was a reflection of Zen Buddhism.
In a nut shell, even though the Jaquet Droz Magic Lotus Automaton may not be directly influenced by 4′33″, but in a way symbolic of what that piece of music represents, it allows its wearer to let go of all unnecessary sounds and visuals and simply allows oneself to be immersed in the Zen-like beauty of the animation.
Jaquet Droz usually takes inspiration from nature for its Automata collection. The Magic Lotus Automaton is no different, taking design cues and visual aesthetics from Koi fish and Zen gardens. But to be able to do all that and still fit it on a wrist is simply commendable. If I am not wrong this is the brand’s most extensive automaton. These animation timepieces are essentially pocket sized pieces of art and sculpture, manufactured in a dedicated workshop alongside a métiers d’art atelier.
When I look at timepieces like the Jaquet Droz Magic Lotus Automaton (or even say the Breguet Classique Double Tourbillon Quai de l’Horloge), I forget that both these brands are in-fact owned by the same Swatch Group that produces more commonly found watches such as the likes of Omega. Nothing wrong, Omega happens to be one of my personal favourites, but it is simply astonishing to see how diverse the products from the Swatch Group are, and I am glad to note that in today’s relatively monotonous watch design world, timepieces like the Magic Lotus Automaton are still produced. If ‘normal’ timepieces from Rolex and Omega are the armour for daily wear, these are essentially fuel for the soul.
The Spanish philosopher George Santayana one said: “To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring”.
The Jaquet Droz Magic Lotus Automaton is a prefect reminder of this simple mantra for happiness. It is a true Haute Horlogerie piece for the feast of the senses.
To find out more about the Jaquet Droz Magic Lotus Automaton and other Jaquet Droz timepieces, please head to their website here or visit their authorised retailer J Farren-Price at 80 Castlereagh St, Sydney (02 9231 3299). All images unless otherwise stated are ©WatchYaGonnaDoAboutIt.