The Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Chronograph is a relatively new watch for the company – the complication was not introduced to the Grande Seconde collection until 2019, which I found notable at the time of the launch as the basic layout of the Grande Seconde dials certainly seems to lend itself to the complication. At launch, the Grande Seconde chronographs came in three steel models, which are a permanent part of the collection, and an 88-piece limited edition in rose gold. The limited edition had the sub-dials in a vertical orientation, forming the signature Grande Seconde figure-8 on the dial, but the steel pieces rotated the dial 30 degrees to the right, which is the configuration Jaquet Droz has chosen for the new onyx-dialed model.
As with the launch models, the movement is the caliber 26M5R, which is in turn based on the F. Piguet/Manufacture Blancpain caliber 1185; it’s a column wheel controlled with a vertical clutch. The 26M5R has received several updates over the original caliber, and it has a silicon lever and balance spring, along with a freesprung, adjustable mass balance. This particular version of the movement has a very openworked rotor, in order to allow a more unobstructed view of the plates and bridges (always a good thing).
Onyx is a form of chalcedony, which has a very long history of use in the applied and decorative arts. It often appears in very distinctive, banded formations; the ancient Egyptians seem to have been there first, with records and archaeology showing use of the stone as early as the beginning of the Second Dynasty (circa 3000 BC). It has a distinctive high gloss and visual depth reminiscent of fired enamel, and here, it makes for a very dramatic version of the Grande Seconde Chronograph, where it joins a long history at Jaquet Droz of making large, ornate dials out of precious minerals, grand feu enamel, and other materials. While the case is steel, there is a bit of precious metal in the mix as well, in the form of a white-gold chapter ring around the sub-dial for the hour and minute hands. The chronograph has a very large center seconds hand and a smaller 30-minute counter, which also contains the hand and scale for the date indication. The date actually jumps from the 31st to the 1st, but in keeping with the clean, minimalist design of the dial, this is not overstated (in fact, it would be easy to miss at first glance). The only splashes of color on the dial are the red number 31 in the date chapter ring, and the red tip of the date hand. Although the deployment of color is sparse, it is, I think, essential to the success of the dial composition.
The Grande Seconde collection, in general, is one of my favorite watches from any of the Swatch Group luxury brands. One thing I have always thought Jaquet Droz does extremely well is take good advantage of the larger size of the dials in order to create compositions and visual effects that make very good use of negative space. The company is rightly famed for its high-craft enamel dials, which often feature rather rare and difficult techniques such as paillonée. But the other side to its design history is the use of more spare designs which often feature novel implementations of various complications (the Douze Villes watch is one of the most aristocratic dual time-zone watches ever made, and not the least for its blithe disregard of 25 out of 37 of the world’s time zones).
The Grande Seconde Chronograph avec cadran onyx is in a similarly aristocratic vein, in a good way. There is something very refreshing about the expansive dial, the monopusher configuration, and the generous disposition of numbers and chapter rings across the available space, and I very much like the fact that it is a 30-minute chronograph without hour totalizer – one feels that as an aristo, one should not be asked to have more than a half-hour attention span under any circumstances. It’s a watch with a subdued but definite feeling of opulence, the steel case notwithstanding – a more relaxed take on telling and keeping track of time, and one which perhaps reminds us, in its understated luxuriousness, that time is a luxury as well.
Brand: Jaquet Droz
Model: Grande Seconde Chronograph
Case Material: Stainless steel
Dial Color: Onyx
Water Resistance: 30 meters
Strap/Bracelet: Handmade alligator with 18k red gold or steel buckle
Caliber: Jaquet Droz caliber 26MR, monopusher, column-wheel chronograph with vertical clutch
Functions: Time, retrograde date display in large sub-dial, 30-minute chronograph
Power Reserve: 40 hours
Frequency: 21,600 vph
Jewels: 34 jewels
Additional Details: Silicon balance spring and pallet horns; freesprung, adjustable mass balance; openworked 18k gold oscillating mass (on all models, including steel)
Pricing & Availability
Price: $ 21,000
Availability: Currently available
Limited Edition: No, regular production