The Grande Seconde series of watches by Jaquet Droz is based on a pocket watch that brand founder Pierre Jaquet-Droz completed in 1784, with two intersecting dials, the larger subdial below for the seconds. It was a brilliant and quirky piece of design, and it is not clear why Pierre made the seconds dial so large – perhaps it was something that doctors could find useful, or perhaps he felt that the user should be able to see easily that the watch is running. A superb touch is the way in which the Roman numerals on the top dial switch to Arabic in the intersection with the large seconds subdial.
In the Grande Seconde Deadbeat, Jaquet Droz have created another version of the classic Grande Seconde, using the large subdial below for a retrograde date indicator, and adding another second hand that takes up the entire dial. In this way, full attention is drawn to the seconds hand which doesn’t move in a constant sweep like most mechanical watches, but in one-second jumps. A bit like a quartz watch. What’s the point? you may ask. Surely the beauty of a mechanical watch is the continuous sweep (actually in fourths or fifths of seconds) that sets it apart from quartz?
The deadbeat (or true beat) function appeared in Jaquet Droz’s day, during the late 18th century, when watchmakers were striving for maximum precision, above all in timepieces used for navigation, in which time readings were used to calculate longitude. That was before the invention of the chronograph, and so one method of improving accuracy was considered as having a large second hand that moved once a second, and only when the second had elapsed. Today, about 230 years later, all this has little relevance to contemporary life, but nonetheless the deadbeat complication is appearing more frequently (take a look at this watch by Arnold & Son). In this watch, Jaquet Droz have combined the historical function with a contemporary new calibre, with anti-magnetic silicon balance spring and components made with an unprecedented degree of precision by means of LIGA technology. This process combines lithography, electroplating and moulding (Lithographie, Galvanoformung, Abformung in German, hence the acronym) in a micromachining technique.
With respect to Pierre Jaquet-Droz’s original design, this model retains the sense of space on the dial, and the differentiation in the type of numerals on the upper subdial. The retrograde date function is an intriguing addition, and the retrograde function ensures that the date hand doesn’t have to cross the centre seconds pivot. The seconds chapter ring is logically marked in whole second divisions – personally I would have preferred not having the “Numerus clausus” series number indication there so that the seconds chapter ring could be complete.
The watch is in a 43 mm red gold case, 13.79 mm thick, with an ivory grande feu enamelled dial. The new Jaquet Droz 2695SMR calibre is automatic, with a single barrel, providing a 40-hour power reserve. It is a limited edition of 88 pieces (8 is Jaquet Droz’s lucky number), with serial number on the dial and caseback. Reference J008033200.