Interview : Christian Lattmann, CEO JAQUET DROZ

How important have the Ateliers d’Art become for Jaquet Droz in recent years ?

The Ateliers d’Art are definitely one of our priorities and are extremely important in that they represent one of the brand pillars along with the Grande Seconde and the Automata. The Atelier d’Art not only benefit from Jaquet Droz’ historical expertise in this field, but also from all the creativity displayed in recently undertaken developments. Demand for these creations is becoming increasingly strong, as our clients are looking for this artistic and artisan-style dimension expressed by our our seven artists, who create limited series only. This year, we have introduced a certificate that they sign so as to infuse their works with an additional dimension and to provide complete transparency for clients who appreciate this relationship with the artist who has created their model.

Are you reviving certain forgotten techniques ?

That does sometimes happen, notably through paillonné enameling, which is a very ancient and little-used technique that Jaquet Droz is the only brand to exercise at the moment. Every year, we offer an eight-piece limited series staging paillons (precious metal spangles), which we create in-house with a blend of historical and new paillons depending on the desired motifs, while mastering their enameling. This craft is particularly rich, both aesthetically and in terms of the human touch, since each spangle is applied by hand. No industrialization could possibly be used, the process is never guaranteed and the result may vary according to the atmospheric conditions prevailing in the workshop as well as the temperature of the oven. Its visual appearance is truly extraordinary. As far as we are concerned, luxury is based on authenticity and artisanship.

Do you allow yourself the freedom to respond to requests for one-of-a-kind creations based on artistic crafts ?

More and more so. They correspond to the concept we call “The philosophy of the unique”. Our clients regularly commission customized and often extraordinary models, based on various themes and hand-crafted by our in-house artisans. We indeed also offer some spontaneously, as it is sometimes impossible to recreate the same picture twice. Even our limited series are by nature unique, since their hand-made nature means they are never strictly identical.

In another register, for whom is the Grande Seconde Tourbillon Mother-of-Pearl intended ?

Generally speaking, the men and women composing our clientele love beauty and style, while being keen to find something different. We are a niche brand with a strong identity ; it’s easy to recognize a Jaquet Droz. So the woman who purchases a Grande Seconde Tourbillon Mother-of-Pearl is an extremely refined individual looking for an extraordinary watch.

Are clients aware of and impressed by the 80 operations required in creating your watch cases ?

Some are, but not all. This often requires explanation and such work must be accomplished by training sales advisors, an area that represents a challenge for the watch industry as a whole. Our values and the operations behind each watch need to be explained in order for clients to grasp their true nature. Whether for the case or other elements, clients trust our brand because we are regarded as guarantors of certain working methods. For example, our movements are assembled and finished by hand. We have also introduced a silicon escapement in the tourbillon this year.

Of which 2017 new model are you proudest ?

I’m honestly proud of all models in this year’s vintage ; we’re at a level of competition within the watch industry that leaves no room for being ‘almost good enough.’ Clients demand perfection, from the movement to the pin buckle as well as the dial. Our strength also consists in being able to deliver what we present rapidly, because it’s what our customers expect of us. That being said, one of the products that called for the lengthiest development period is the Loving Butterfly Automaton, and presenting it in Baselworld represented a culmination that filled us with pride and was a true honor. The original design is relatively naïve and so the stylistic exercise had to avoid any clichés and to display refinement in order to achieve a subtle work of art through cooperation between the designer, the watchmaker and the artisans. They succeeded in creating depth effects with these levitating trees, along with hand-engraved details on the cherub, while preserving a sense of purity. There is almost an optical illusion giving the impression that the butterfly is about to flutter off : one of the wings beats up and down and the other sideways ; some spokes of the chariot wheel move, while others remain motionless ; the sapphire crystal is cambered with an anti-glare treatment – you get the feeling it is about to burst out of the dial ! This direction we are taking offers a great deal of artistic development potential. In parallel, the Grande Seconde Moon is also very important for us, because the large seconds display symbolizes our identity. It was no easy to task to endow it with a horological complication without perturbing its restrained aesthetic. This success is all the more satisfactory in that the astronomical moon is in itself an interesting additional difficulty. These two watches have been warmly received by clients.

Over the past three years, has one particular product asserted itself as a best-seller ?

When it comes to volume, that would definitely be the Grande Seconde collection, but two products stand out in terms of value : the Bird Repeater and the Charming Bird. The first remains extraordinary and there is still plenty of demand, since it continues to carry a strong emotional charge. Pierre Jaquet-Droz and Henri Louis wished to enthrall and dazzle, and that is the spirit we continue to cultivate : remembering our childhood wonderment, sparking authentic personal emotions. We are proud of perpetuating it, especially since very few competitors on the market have this expertise. The Charming Bird and the Bird Repeater provide a fabulous playground for interpreting this theme with various decorative motifs that are still much sought-after.

Are you planning to explore other territories in addition to bird-related ones ?

Definitely ; even though birds will remain the core of Jaquet Droz creations, we have added the butterfly this year, with an allegory of love and of Nature. We regard incorporating such natural elements as crucial. Next year, you will see us introducing other interesting interpretations, based on an exciting program on which we are working, driven by a long-term vision.

More on Jaquet Droz watch brand

Brice Lechevalier is editor-in-chief of GMT and Skippers, which he co-founded in 2000 and 2001 respectively. He has also been CEO of WorldTempus since it joined the GMT Publishing stable, of which he is director and joint shareholder. In 2012 he created the Geneva Watch Tour, and he has been an advisor to the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève since 2011. Also closely involved in sailing, he has published the magazine of the Société Nautique de Genève since 2003, and was one of the founders of the SUI Sailing Awards in 2009 and the Concours d’Elégance for motor boats at the Cannes Yachting Festival in 2015.

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