The History of Jaquet Droz

Born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, in 1721, Pierre Jaquet Droz was a mechanical genius and a pioneer in the art of the Haute Horlogerie jewelry watch – a veritable living legend.

Today, the brand is still inspired by his dreams, his extraordinary horological masterpieces, his exceptional automatons, which include the androids entitled «The Lady Musician», «The Writer» and «The Draughtsman», and his quest for innovation, progress and excellence. Operating in the Haute Horlogerie segment, Montres Jaquet Droz SA excels in the art of one-off and very limited-edition items. The brand has revived traditional crafts that were disappearing: outstanding illustrations of this include its spangled dials and those of black «Grand Feu» enamel.

One of Jaquet Droz’s strengths is its ability to create custom dial designs to meet its enthusiastic clients’ requirements. Its leading model, La Grande Seconde, which draws its inspiration directly from an 18th century timepiece, can just as easily be made to measure with a dial set with precious and semi-precious stones as with a dial base decorated with prestigious minerals, dried seaweed or other specific materials. The brand’s character and refinement mark out a very special place for it in the world of prestige and luxury watchmaking.

1721 - Founding


Pierre Jaquet-Droz was born in 1721 on a small farm (La Ferme de Sur le Pont) in La Chaux-de-Fonds. He began to take a serious interest in clockmaking and precision mechanics under the tutelage of older relatives from the Brandt-di-Grieurin, Sandoz and Robert families. It proved to be a true revelation for him.

1738 - The first workshop


From 1738 to 1747, Pierre Jaquet-Droz devoted himself entirely to clockmaking. He produced a series of longcase (or "grandfather") clocks whose increasingly sophisticated movements outclassed anything that had been produced earlier. His manual dexterity, meticulous nature and serious approach to his craft, as well as the reasoned application of mechanical principles, led him to add music and automata to his movements, which came rapidly to the attention of a wealthy and demanding clientele.

1758 - The journey to Spain


Firmly established in his profession, he married Marianne Sandoz in 1750. Soon after the birth of his two children, Julie in 1751 and Henri-Louis in 1752, Pierre Jaquet-Droz lost his wife and then his daughter in 1755. He never remarried, devoting himself entirely to clockmaking.

In an encounter that would change the course of his life and prove decisive to his international career, he met George Keith, Lord Marischal, Governor of the principality of Neuchâtel, who advised him to present his creations abroad, especially in Spain where he could help introduce him to the court. With this support, Pierre Jaquet-Droz, his father-in-law and a young hired hand named Jaques Gevril, built a special carriage designed to carry six clocks and left for Spain in 1758.

1773 - Automata


Upon his return to La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1759, the large sum of money brought back from Spain enabled Pierre Jaquet-Droz to concentrate exclusively on making watches, clocks and automata destined to become famous. He set to work, assisted by his son Henri-Louis and a neighbor's son, Jean-Frédéric Leschot, whom he took in after the boy's mother died and thought of as his own. This was the beginning of a close and fruitful partnership.

1774 - London and China


In 1774, Pierre Jaquet-Droz decided to set up a workshop in London, a hub for industry and trade, under the management of his son Henri-Louis. Obliged to travel extensively, the latter was compelled to delegate some of his duties and entrusted management of the London operation to Jean-Frédéric Leschot. One of Leschot's responsibilities was to oversee the business relationship with the prominent trading company James Cox London, whose agents in Canton opened up the Far Eastern market for the Jaquet Droz Company and for many years represented it in China, India and Japan. In the heart of 18th-century Beijing, the emperor himself and the Mandarins at the Imperial Court collected masterpieces by Pierre Jaquet-Droz. Qianlong, the fifth emperor of the Qing Dinasty, was engrossed by his interest in European mechanical clocks and automata. He set up his own national office with hundreds of employees to import and trade these watches and automata from Europe

1784 - Geneva


For some ten years, the company continued to expand. It sold clocks, automata, watches and singing birds all over the world, especially in China. But the harsh climate of La Chaux-de-Fonds and the insidious London fog was detrimental to Henri-Louis' precarious state of health.

In 1784, he decided to move to Geneva, finding its artistic and literary life to his taste. Jean-Frédéric Leschot soon joined him and they decided to open the city's first clockmaking manufacture, one year before Vacheron Constantin set up shop, simultaneously introducing the production of timekeepers with major complications. The talent and interest shown by Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz and Jean-Frédéric Leschot in the civic life of Geneva was quickly noted and approved. The City of Geneva presented both of them with the coveted Bourgeois d'Honneur Award, and welcomed their involvement in municipal activities. Jaquet-Droz was admitted to the newly reinstated Société des Arts, which was very active in the advancement of technical training.

He helped set up a factory-school in Geneva to make cadratures for repeater watches, developed many projects bearing on watchmaking technique and was an advocate for the professions associated with watchmaking. Pierre Jaquet-Droz moved into the house of a clockmaker named Dental, at the corner of rue Molard and rue du Rhône, which housed the workshops and his son's apartment.

1788 - The peak of the Jaquet Droz


In 1784, Pierre and Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz headed three production and profit centers: one in La Chaux-de-Fonds, a second in London as well as a third in Geneva dedicated to low-volume horological production. After moving to Geneva, Jaquet-Droz & Leschot specialized in the manufacture and export of luxury watches featuring automata, musical mechanisms or other complications, in the meantime developing their production of singing birds. Sales were handled by agents in France for the most part, but also in London and Canton.

In 1788, the success and prosperity of Jaquet-Droz & Leschot peaked, but this period was of short duration. In 1790, drafts made on their principal correspondent in China came back unpaid and their principal client in London failed, putting the company in the red. The partnership with Henri Maillardet had to be liquidated

2000 - Never-ending expertise


Since the brand was acquired in 2000 by the Swatch Group, it has returned to its town of origin, La Chaux-de-Fonds and moved into its new Atelier de Haute Horlogerie in the summer of 2010.

The new premises, occupying 2,500 m2, will provide further incentive to grow and succeed. Like Jaquet-Droz timepieces, they reflect consummate expertise and craftsmanship enriched by the distinctive spirit of the house. Today, the brand is well equipped to respond to strong market demand and the aspirations of its clientele.

2002 - Launch of the Grande Seconde


Inspired by a pocket watch created in the 18th century. A Jaquet Droz timeless classic, this timepiece features an elegant demonstration of the art of Grand Feu enameling on its dial, on which the hours and minutes counter off-centered at 12 o’clock embraces the seconds counter positioned at 6 o’clock.

2009 - Nicolas G. Hayek


Nicolas G. Hayek takes over the reins of Montres Jaquet Droz.

2010 - Marc A. Hayek


Marc A. Hayek takes over the management of Montres Jaquet Droz, charged with the mission of cultivating a culture of excellence and innovation while continuing to convey the notions of sentiment and lyricism.

2010 - Launch of the Eclipse


A magnificent timepiece featuring eight stars – the company’s favorite number – and an engraved moon that evolves each day, gradually changing shape with each new dawn. Inspired by the 18th century, the design reflects the company’s heritage as well as its penchant for the decorative arts that dates back to the Enlightenment.

2011 - Jaquet Droz moves production of les Ateliers d'Art collection


Jaquet moves production of les Ateliers d'Art collection to its Haute Horology Workshop (Atelier de Haute Horlogerie) and, in so doing, ensures the preservation of the age-old craftsmanship that is the brand’s hallmark.

A selection of magnificent timepieces in the Jaquet Droz collection showcase the arts of miniature painting, sculpture and engraving, or paillonné enameling, in a tribute to the exacting skill of the watchmaker’s artisans.

2012 - "Automates et Merveilles" Exhibition


Staging of the Exhibition "Automates et Merveilles in collaboration with Montres Jaquet Droz to celebrate the shared genius of the Jaquet-Droz father and son team, and Leschot.

An impressive number of pieces and quantity of information go on display for the first time in three museums in the Neuchâtel region:
The Musée d’art et d’histoire of Neuchâtel, the Musée d’horlogerie of Le Locle and the Musée international d’horlogerie of La Chaux-de-Fonds.

2012 - The Bird Repeater


The Bird Repeater, a product of the imagination of the artisans at Jaquet Droz epitomizing the company’s heritage, prowess and creativity, is unveiled in November 2012. This impressive masterpiece featuring an authentic automaton incorporates the full range of decorative crafts.