In a bril­liant showcase of its mas­tery of the métiers d’art, Ja­quet Droz’s set of three limited-edi­tion time­pieces fea­tures the an­cient art of pail­lonné enamel on its di­als.

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of watches pro­pose a con­ser­va­tive colour pal­ette. This is per­haps be­cause the time­piece has to suit nu­mer­ous out­fits, styles and oc­ca­sions. There­fore it makes com­mer­cial sense for brands to craft watches that are as flex­i­ble and ver­sa­tile as pos­si­ble. Nonethe­less, some com­pa­nies fly in the face of this trend.

Take for ex­am­ple Swiss watch­maker Ja­quet Droz, which cre­ates ex­cep­tional dial work show­cas­ing hand-paint­ing and enam­elling. The lat­est trio of watches to be re­leased from its Ate­liers d’Art col­lec­tions il­lus­trates amaz­ingly rich and tex­tured di­als that show off the pail­lonné enamel tech­nique. They al­low the brand to re­con­nect with its il­lus­tri­ous past, where the best of watch­mak­ing unites with the best of the dec­o­ra­tive arts.

The im­por­tant artis­tic craft of pail­lonné enamel is in fact a cen­turies-old tra­di­tion at Ja­quet Droz, which works to per­pet­u­ate the legacy of company founder, Pierre Ja­quet-Droz, who lived in the 18th cen­tury. Born in 1721 in the Swiss Jura, he be­came one of the most sought-after watch­mak­ers of the Age of En­light­en­ment, whose clocks, singing bird watches, ob­jets d’art and in­cred­i­bly-re­al­is­tic hu­manoid au­tomata de­lighted and as­ton­ished the royal courts of Europe. The Ja­quet-Droz fam­ily also con­trib­uted to es­tab­lish­ing a fac­tory-school in Geneva, man­u­fac­tur­ing re­peater watch di­als, de­vel­op­ing horo­log­i­cal tech­nol­ogy and sup­port­ing watch­mak­ing-re­lated crafts, which helped an en­tire gen­er­a­tion of crafts­men to earn a liv­ing. Ja­quet Droz soon de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion for its cases enam­elled with span­gles, paint­ing on enamel, carv­ing and en­grav­ing grac­ing its cre­ations in­clud­ing pocket watches, urns, snuff­boxes and bird­cages, which played a sig­nif­i­cant part in its suc­cess.

At that time, artists and ar­ti­sans of high-end ob­jects fre­quently cov­ered the sur­faces of their works of art with a high con­cen­tra­tion of artis­tic or­na­men­ta­tion in­clud­ing minia­ture paint­ing, en­grav­ing, guil­loché and other forms of dec­o­ra­tion. Time­pieces made dur­ing Ja­quet-Droz’s life-

The great majority

time would of­ten fea­ture cases and di­als adorned with lively de­signs and hand-ap­plied pat­terns. Christian Lattmann, Vice-Pres­i­dent of Ja­quet Droz, says, “Pail­lonné enam­elling is part of the DNA of Ja­quet Droz. It was very common in the 18th cen­tury when watches were used more as pomp.” As a pi­o­neer of lux­ury dec­o­ra­tion, the brand was among the first to work with this tech­nique and el­e­vated it into an art form, which to­day is very rare.

Pail­lonné enam­elling it­self orig­i­nally de­vel­oped in the 18th cen­tury. The com­pli­cated craft con­sists of plac­ing a piece of foil be­tween two lay­ers of enamel, in other words cov­er­ing or­na­men­tal pail­lons (tiny mo­tifs or pail­lettes hand-cut from gold or sil­ver leaf) with translu­cent enamel fon­dant on an enamel base – a dec­o­ra­tive tech­nique that Ja­quet Droz’s crafts­men have per­fected over the past 276 years. Be­cause of the enamel’s trans­parency, the tech­nique adds bril­liance and lu­mi­nos­ity to a dial.

A Rare Art

Since Ja­quet Droz’s re­birth in 2000 thanks to its ac­qui­si­tion by the Swatch Group (which lends its ex­per­tise, tech­ni­cal re­sources, pro­duc­tion sys­tem and in­ter­na­tional dis­tri­bu­tion net­work to the brand), it has con­sis­tently launched var­i­ous limited-edi­tion se­ries of just eight pieces fea­tur­ing high-qual­ity pail­lonné enamel di­als us­ing a tech­nique that com­bines gold set­ting and grand feu enamel to pro­duce an aes­thetic re­sem­bling wall­pa­per, de­liv­er­ing a re­sult that’s at once in­cred­i­bly op­u­lent and im­bued with a sense of depth not seen in stan­dard enamel paint­ing. This year, its set of three mod­els in a strictly limited run of eight pieces each – two wrist­watches and one pocket watch – is no ex­cep­tion, pay­ing trib­ute to an art that has sur­vived over the past three cen­turies and prov­ing that beauty forged by the hu­man hand tran­scends time.

In cre­at­ing the pail­lonné enamel time­pieces for 2014, the brand ex­per­i­mented with new tech­niques in its in-house ate­lier in a long-term quest to re­learn many of the dis­ap­pear­ing dec­o­ra­tive crafts once used abun­dantly by Ja­que­tDroz and his con­tem­po­raries. On th­ese watches, gold pail­lons are baked into the grand feu enamel dial, to great visual artistry. The time­pieces are a re­flec­tion of the

found in the Ja­quet Droz ar­ti­san work­shops. In 2011, it had moved its Ate­liers d’Art work­shop into new 2,500-sqm Fine Watch­mak­ing work­shop in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The aim here is to in­te­grate and safe­guard the cen­turies of knowl­edge and skills that sym­bol­ise the brand’s iden­tity, where minia­ture paint­ing, carv­ing, en­grav­ing and pail­lonné enamel are high­lighted in cer­tain ex­cep­tional pieces. It has even re­vived tra­di­tional crafts that were van­ish­ing, il­lus­trated by its span­gled and black grand feu enamel di­als.

The métiers d’art is a sec­tor that the brand will con­tinue to pro­mote and that is set to be an im­por­tant el­e­ment in its fu­ture growth. Lattmann re­marks, “Our crafts­men have a real mix of dif­fer­ent back­grounds. It’s a very young team with painters, sculp­tors and en­gravers. They are the heart of Ja­quet Droz along with our watch­mak­ers.”

The man­u­fac­tur­ing process be­gins with a solid gold dial ma­chined with a guil­loché pat­tern. Then, to cre­ate the blue enam­elled sur­face, the dial is fired sev­eral times in a fur­nace at tem­per­a­tures that some­times reach 1,000° C. Lattmann dis­closes, “It’s a very long process to get a per­fect blue dial. Once a piece is fin­ished, it is in­al­ter­able. The enamel will re­tain its beauty and gloss for cen­turies, with­stand­ing the rav­ages

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