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Time with a story

Christian Lattmann talks about the importance of Jaquet Droz’s 281-year-old legacy as he shapes the future of a brand that combines art, precision and innovative movements

To truly appreciate a Jaquet Droz creation, it is important to get up close and study it in detail. It almost feels like time stands still while admiring the impressive feat that is a Jaquet Droz timepiece. Perhaps, that’s exactly what the watchmaker was going for. Take, for example, the newly introduced Magic Lotus Automaton. As CEO Christian Lattmann puts it: “It’s the most complicated dial we have ever created.”

And even by Jaquet Droz’s exceptional standards, this timepiece is a mechanical marvel. Like many of its earlier creations, nature serves as the primary source of inspiration for the new Magic Lotus Automaton. The hand-painted white mother-of-pearl dial depicts a zen garden featuring lotus blooms floating seamlessly above the water and a Koi carp swimming through it. Emerging through this tapestry of fauna and flora is an onyx subdial reminding the wearer that this is indeed a watch.

“But one look at the movement and the timepiece is not just a watch anymore, it becomes a visual masterpiece, a precious piece of art that tells a story,” says Lattmann. The complicated dial movement resides on a peripheral disc which has been beautifully painted to resemble a lake. When you engage the pusher, the disc begins to rotate, mimicking the gentle flow of water. The carp then dips in and out of the lake and under the lotus leaves with its tail swishing back and forth. But perhaps the most impressive of all is the manner in which the circle of life is represented by the lotus flower during the four-minute automaton process.

Depicting the change in seasons, from spring to summer, autumn and winter, the flower changes colour each time it passes below a lotus leaf while floating along the lake. As the flower begins its journey around the dial at nine o’clock, the yellow sapphire at its heart evokes spring. As it moves beyond 12 o’clock, the gemstone is replaced by a blue sapphire and then a ruby at around six o’clock, before it finally emerges once again from beneath the lotus leaf with a yellow sapphire, just in time for spring. 

“It takes 699 components in this watch to narrate a poetic tale about the stages of life. But the world knows Jaquet Droz for complications such as these. Of course, we offer high precision instruments with movements manufactured in-house, but it’s more important for our complications to be poetic and evoke emotion. It should be pleasing to the eyes and that’s what we strive for. All the painting, engraving, enamelling and detailing is done by hand. This adds a sense of emotion to the process. “It’s our way of expressing art and we like to call it the art of astonishment. As a child, when you discover something amazing, it’s difficult to control your emotions of awe and wonder. Expressing astonishment for something that truly amazes you comes naturally, it’s not something you can control.

“Sometimes, what you see might be really simple but what goes on beneath the surface is very complicated. It’s almost magical. Today, we’re recognised as one of the world’s best timepiece brands mastering astonishing automaton complications. That is our success story.” Boasting a legacy that spans 281 years, Jaquet Droz is one of the oldest Swiss watch brands. Throughout his prolific career, founder Pierre Jaquet- Droz was always creating something new. He surrounded himself with artists and together they created scores of clocks, watches and music boxes with ornamental finishings which were exceptional for their day. Droz loved nature and drew inspiration from everything in his surroundings from the birds and butterflies to flowers. “This remains a source of inspiration for our creations even today,” explains Lattmann.

“What we take from the past is this passion for nature and the core values of our brand. But it’s also important not to keep looking back and to focus on the future. 281 years is nothing compared to the evolution of world cultures which spans centuries. But there’s a long road ahead of us. And it’s this mix between our traditional values and the drive to keep up with the times by delivering contemporary styles that will guarantee success for years to come. “Our expression of creativity, inspired by the past, differentiates our brand from our competitors. But at the same time, the technical innovations that we pioneer allow us to bring these artistic creations to life.

Of course, it all begins with the human touch. Before we begin developing every new line, we put together a team consisting of a designer, technician and artist. They brainstorm as a unit and come up with something unique. “The designer’s role is to push the artist to come up with something creative, the artist will illustrate unique ideas, while the technician might feel it’s impossible. But each player pushes the other to do better. “We are working with limited space because we are talking about a watch that’s only 43mm in diameter. Within this space, there are very small components. Also, the timepiece has to be shock resistant, waterproof and something that will last for generations. So while the team strives to push the levels of creativity and come up with something brilliant, we still have to respect these technical limitations.”

The Magic Lotus Automaton certainly bears testimony to the intricate craftsmanship and teamwork that goes on behind the scenes. But this horological masterpiece was not the only one to make its debut last month. At an exclusive event in Dubai, the brand also raised the curtain on a few prototypes that will hit the market in October. The new line-up will include a Grand Seconde Chronograph with a new monopusher and a blue version of the Grande Seconde Skelet-one Ceramic, which was first unveiled in 2018. Lattmann points out that Dubai was strategically chosen as the location for the launch because the Middle Eastern market is of great significance to Jaquet Droz.

“Here in Dubai, art holds a special place in the local culture. In fact, while touring the city, I found that there is artistic inspiration everywhere you look, be it in the street art painted on the buildings in the old neighbourhoods or the stunning architectural wonders dominating the skyline. “But Dubai is also a hub for luxury products. People here know what luxury is and expect only the exceptional. That’s why it’s important for us to be present here and showcase our novelties. And it’s not only the locals we’re here for, it’s also the tourist we cater to. With more and more Chinese and Russian visitors flocking to Dubai to shop for luxury items, our presence in the GCC holds immense value as a gateway to connect with the rest of the world.”

With every new product line comes a great deal of marketing effort to ensure the spotlight shines brightly on each stellar creation. But Lattmann says: “For Jaquet Droz, it’s more about letting our pieces do the talking, which is why we do not necessarily invest huge sums in marketing. In fact, the majority of our investment is dedicated to product development. We create, create and create a lot more and are constantly innovating; that’s what you need to survive in the industry today. “When I first took on the role of CEO at Jaquet Droz three years ago, Nicolas Hayek, the founder of the Swatch Group, gave me a piece of advice which I believe has seen us through the decades. He told me that if you have the best product at the end of the day, everything else is easy.” 

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