Watches of Knightsbridge, London, September 16 2017
Sold for £15,500
Those familiar with the current products of the Swatch group-owned Jaquet Droz will know the brand majors on enamel dials, gem-setting and the use of automaton mechanisms – so it was a surprise to many to see this superb Jaquet Droz dive watch crop up at auction with a £3,000 – £5,000 estimate.
Pierre Jaquet-Droz was one of the 18th century’s most innovative watchmakers and became equally renowned for his truly remarkable automata that he originally designed in order to promote the horological side of his business. But, following his death in 1790, the name Jaquet Droz simply faded into obscurity.
It only came to the fore again with the Swatch Group’s purchase of the right to use it in 2001. But, during the 1960s, a trio of Swiss component manufacturers got together to briefly revive it, the individual firms respectively supplying the cases, dials and movements.
The clue to this tri-partite arrangement could be seen in the logo of the Watches of Knightsbridge offering, which depicts the three-tailed rocket symbol used at the time.
Thought to have been a prototype, the 39mm watch was likely to have been made in conjunction with Spirotechnique, the long-standing manufacture of SCUBA equipment. Powered by an ETA calibre 2472 movement, its case was turned 90 degrees from normal to place the winding crown at six o’clock, and the rotating bezel was made from Bakelite.
Reminiscent of an Omega Seamaster 300, the watch was clearly intended to be highly functional with bold hour markers, a large, arrow-shaped minute hand and plenty of luminous paint which has faded gracefully to produce an even and attractive patina.
Apart from the fact that it was in ‘AAA’ condition and probably unworn, this extreme rarity is important to the past of Jaquet Droz – which is so largely unknown that a book the brand produced on the subject is amusingly described as “a fictionalised history”. The real proof of the significance of the watch, however, lies in the fact that it fetched more than three times what was expected.