As I wear this watch a smile comes to my face. I smirk knowing that this watch is not something that would have been designed today. This sport version of the iconic Grande Seconde watch by Jaquet Droz is a curious item that has a lot of merit but isn't something I ever saw coming from the brand. I first wrote about it back in 2008 when it was still called the Jaquet Droz SUW (yes, "Sport Utility Watch"). Today, the name has been "clarified" a bit, and I am glad to see that it still has a happy home in the house of Jaquet Droz.
It is very difficult to describe what this watch is all about. It isn't quite what I would call a true sport watch, but it's certainly sport themed from a visual perspective. It embodies the popular figure eight dial layout of the Grande Seconde collection from the brand. While historically not a cornerstone of original Jaquet Droz history, the modern version of the brand adopted this attractive figure eight layout as a way of differentiating their pieces from other high-end timepiece makers. The Grande Seconde family has been very popular, and someone probably wanted to do a sporty version of it. If you think about it, there are very few high-end "dressy" watch brands that don't have a sport watch in the collection. Piaget has the Polo for example. Breguet has the Type XX, XXI, XXII as well as the Marine. Blancpain has their dive and racing watches, and even Vacheron Constantin has the Overseas. Even Patek Philippe has the Nautilus and Aquanaut watches. Jaquet Droz probably felt that it needed something of its own along those lines.
According to a few people at Jaquet Droz, the Grande Seconde has always been a controversial piece for them. Some people love it, and others don't. One issue some people have had is that it doesn't necessarily fit into the brand's current DNA. There is nothing wrong with that. Some of the coolest watches around don't necessarily fit in the aesthetic DNA set forth by their brand siblings.
I recall that when I first learned about the SW watch I was excited to try one on. I always felt that the Grande Seconde dial design was elegant, and a youthful sport version of it really captured my curiosity. As you can tell, the dial captures the figure eight dial layout perfectly. A smaller dial is placed at the top which has hour and minute hands, while a larger dial for the subsidiary seconds is placed below. While reading the time is not necessarily as easy as on watches that use the entire dial, Jaquet Droz designed the look to be as legible as possible - as well as attractive. The rest of the dial is used for decorative and design purposes. I do feel that is a pretty cool thing.
The Grande Seconde SW case is a complex mishmash of design elements that do end up working well together in relative harmony. The design grows on you because it of balance and attention to detail. Though alone, elements of the watch can appear highly industrial and seemingly out of place. Skeletonized bezel claws on a Jaquet Droz? Not something I would have predicted to work, but they do. On the wrist you get an experiment in design, that doesn't fail to be comfortable or attractive. The SW is masculine, but extremely European in its graceful composure. It is artistic, while suggesting a sport theme. I guess that is the best way of describing it.
Over the years there have been a few versions of the Grande Seconde SW watch. That even includes a chronograph model. This particular version (ref. J029030440) is the newest one as of this review's writing. It is also my favorite. I should also mention that a metal bracelet option is now available as well. The case is 45mm wide in steel (though there have been 18k gold versions of the SW as well). On this version, Jaquet Droz opted for a black ceramic bezel. It matches the glossy black lacquer dial and adds a degree of durability (via scratch resistance).
The dial is very deliberate in its design. It mixes the simplicity of the Grande Seconde with the more architectural look of the SW case. There is a sort of screwed-down brushed metal bar that extends from claw to claw, while a raised and angled border lines the two overlapping dials. This version of the SW watch opts for a blue trim on the hands and indicators, while the original SW watch used orange. There is also a version with red trim. As I mentioned before, the dial is really about art. Tool watch purists will complain that too much space on the dial is being wasted, but I don't know why those people are looking at Jaquet Droz to begin with. This is an emotion rich high-end brand that waves a lace-ended sleeve at such silly notions.
Even as an art watch, Jaquet Droz put a lot of attention into comfort and use. For example there is a rubber section on the screw-down crown which helps to unscrew and operate it. The deployant clasp locks tightly and has a security bar to ensure your sizing doesn't undo itself. Plus, despite all the sharp angles on this watch, none of them are placed in a way that caused me to snag the watch on anything or scratch myself. I never take any of that for granted, as I've worn too many watches with terrible design woes. Honestly, most of those are lower-end pieces, but it does help my enthusiasm for high-end pieces that have a degree of thought and attention put into their design and production.
Inside the Grande Seconde SW watch is what Jaquet Droz calls their caliber 2663A-S automatic movement. They don't make it themselves, but it is make exclusively for them by Manufacture Blancpain. It was previously called Frederic Piguet, but lots of people in the Swatch Group still call it that. Frederic Piguet is like the high-end more exclusive ETA. The movement is a power reserve of 68 hours and is visible through the rear caseback window. It has an attractive level of decoration fitting a watch at this price point. The automatic rotor is further done in 18k white gold.
Unique and comfortable, the Grande Second SW watch is a good watch. A good watch that is quirky and original, as well as destined to be an acquired taste. Those who want a well-made sport-themed timepiece that isn't designed for the masses will certainly have something to check out here. I for one did quite enjoy its time on my wrist. Price for this version of the Jaquet Droz Grande Second SW watch is $15,400.