Naked Desire: Going Hands-on With The New Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Ceramic Green
Editor’s Note: Jaquet Droz is a sleeper hit kind of a brand, one whose products need to be seen and tried in person to truly appreciate the excellence. Here’s our honest, unsponsored, hands-on review of the relatively new Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Ceramic Green. For our other detailed hands-on reviews, please head to our dedicated reviews section here. We took these photos at the J Farren-Price Sydney boutique where you can find exceptional Swiss & Japanese timepieces.
In A State Of Nature
Shed all pretensions, and what is left is the brutal honesty of the naked soul. Humans are born disrobed, and that’s their natural, purest form. This au naturel ideology in the world of watchmaking can be interpreted in the form of skeletonised dials. Stripped off everything but the essentials.
The new Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Green revels in its transpicuous nature, baring stark its heart for the world to marvel.
Skeleton dial watches can be a hit or miss. Since the heart of the watch is exposed, you either like them immensely for the intricate beauty they shower or hate them for being too complicated and illegible to look at. In the case of the Jaquet Droz option, the execution is simply impressive: the fully suspended gear train is attached to the movement’s skeletonized bridges raised by an open-worked oscillating weight that lets light shine clearly through.
It’s this dance of light and time that speaks the most to me.
But no matter which side of the fence you are on, it’s hard to deny the fact that they are a watchmaking marvel and it takes confidence from a brand to expose itself to the world. The way I like to refer to them is by calling skeleton dial watches a hot mess.
The new Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Ceramic Green doesn’t completely avoid the illegibility trap, but it’s such a beauty of a timepiece, one that is more an artwork than a conventional timepiece, so it can be forgiven.
It does feature a black ceramic base with applied numerals that under most lighting we tried out depicted time without a hassle. And at some angles the green of the hands almost has a neon effect to them, making them scream legibility.
But more than anything else, I think it’s an excellent conversation starter or the perfect companion at an evening soiree if you are flying solo.
The new Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Green is released as part of a set of 3 models to mark the brand’s 2021 releases and 3 years of Grande Seconde collection’s skeletonisation.
It sits alongside 7 other variations, mostly distinguished by the materials of the case and the hour circle — and slight case dimensions — used: white gold ref. J003524240 and red gold ref. J003523241 are both in precious materials and slightly smaller than the rest, coming in at 41×12.30mm. The rest of the variations are either in plasma ceramic tone-on-tone, plasma ceramic yellow, blue and green, ceramic two-tone or plasma ceramic with gold hour circle.
I like how the overall collection reveals two faces: the red and white gold being a nod to the charm of yesteryears and the plasma ceramic versions being an ode to the technological advancements of the modern age.
They all share similar characteristics: figure-8 layout, sapphire dial, indexes and hands in 18K gold suspended above a brushed hours and minutes ring, a case diameter of 41mm or 41.5mm, a 20mm lug interhorn spacing that makes it easy to find alternate straps, and the automatic skeleton mechanical calibre 2663 SQ.
The movement used is a self-winding, double-barrel skeleton mechanical movement with black treatment. It beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’800 A/h), comprises of 30 jewels, features a silicon balance spring and pallet horns and double barrel for that very good 68-hour power reserve. The movement also features an 18-karat white gold oscillating weight with an individual limited edition serial number 21/28 engraved on it.
Dial off, Hands-On
“Naked is the best disguise,” said the British novelist Jeanette Winterson. True to this sentiment, the latest version of the JD Grande Seconde Skelet-One comes as a revelation; despite the dial being completely skeletonised, it acts as a disguise that showcases the brand’s horological prowess.
The Seconde Skelet-One Green ref. J003525545 that we are looking at today is perhaps my favourite of the lot, mostly because it goes with this year’s theme of green watches. It is also available only in very limited numbers of 28, and while I usually don’t dance in the rain on the news of limited runs, I feel its presence here makes it delightfully rare.
Calling it green is a stretch though, considering the colour is only present in vague accents on the 18-karat gold hands that are green varnished. Technically it’s also present on the railway tracks surrounding the two discs, but the green there is a faint recollection of the memory of what green used to be. If the timepiece didn’t come on the (rather comfortable) rolled-edge hand-made green fabric strap, distinguishing this with its other family members would be the work of someone with powerful glasses.
But it’s not really about the colours here; Jaquet Droz has the entire Automata and the Les Ateliers d’Art collections to showcase the vivid use of colours. The new Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Green is all about introducing an ethereal quality to timepieces. And in that, it scores; big time.
A couple of aspects that I loved on having spent some time with the watch are — and am sure the watch purists will appreciate as well — that not only each of the screws on the dial side are ‘indexed’, meaning they are turned towards the centre of the respective sub-dials, but to ensure total transparency, the 18K white gold oscillating weight has been entirely skeletonized to avoid masking the slightest detail of the movement. Another subtle aspect I admire is the polished and slightly oversized crown that stands out for all the right reasons.
And even though the watch is targeted towards the male purveyors of the brand’s catalogue, the transparency lends a somewhat unisex vibe to the watch. This is one of those watches that need to be held close, worn on the wrist, spent some time with, to fully appreciate its beauty.
The use of modern material and the ‘casual vibe brought on by its use gets a warm reception; plasma ceramic is forged in a high-temperature oven up to temperatures of 20’000°C, and the case is embellished with a metallic glow, avoiding the addition of any metal particles. The end result: lightweight and scratch-resistant surface.
On my wrist size of nearly 16cm, the 41.5mm x 12.48mm watch thanks to its only 49.5mm lug-to-lug spacing sat quite nicely, and the weight of only 65g is more than welcome. I usually find that skeletonised watches can be more gimmicky (for the lack of a better word) and in turn less wearable, but the presence of the new Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Ceramic Green is subtle yet eye-catching.
Personally, I could wear it even every day if I had to. It’s light, sexy, different, and as a package has a wholesome feel to it despite ironically the absence of most of the dial. Given the transparency, and this could be just me, the visibility of my wrist hair somehow added an interesting layer to the novelty of the timepiece. It felt like I had more of a physical and visual connection to the timepiece.
The gossamery appearance is further complemented by the floating appearance of the discs, and there is enough three-dimensional play of elements to keep even an attention deficit toddler interested in the intricacies of the dial. The Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One collection as a whole is something that one can enjoy for hours on end, amusing themselves by simply watching time weave its magic by cavorting on your wrist.
That’s All Folks!
One of the most remarkable aspects of this collection as a whole is the brand’s ability to marry the past to the present: the Grande Seconde architecture was conceived over two and half centuries ago, but despite the ageing of time itself, every facet of the bygone era has been evolved, reinventing details and finishes to suit modern needs. It’s got a style of its own that is both classic yet contemporary.
The English poet William Blake once wrote: “Art can never exist without naked beauty displayed”.
To look at the new Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Green is to immerse oneself in the artistic glory of naked horological art.
To find out more about the new Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Green and their other timepieces, please head to their website here or visit their authorised retailer J Farren-Price Sydney at 80 Castlereagh St, Sydney (02 9231 3299). All images unless otherwise stated are ©WatchYaGonnaDoAboutIt.