Dragon Automaton Sapphire - Lapis Lazuli
Two years ago, Jaquet Droz unveiled one of the most complex automatons ever produced for a wristwatch: the Dragon Automaton, featuring sixteen moving parts and nine animations. Now, Jaquet Droz has gone further still in terms of sophistication and difficulty by adding a sapphire crystal case and a lapis lazuli dial – a stunning feat for what is well and truly a unique piece.
When the ‘John Howe’ Dragon Automaton was unveiled, some saw it as the last word on the subject: the piece seemed to mark the final destination of a long creative journey with the famed artistic designer for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Now it’s clear that it was in fact a starting-point. Over the next two years, in the seclusion of its Ateliers d’Art in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Jaquet Droz strove to draw Art and Watchmaking still closer together, revisiting the canons of both to produce a new blend of creative disruption.
The symbol of the Dragon goes back thousands of years, spanning every era, continent, and culture; Jaquet Droz has taken it up here, reproducing the sacred beast in grey gold. Each part of the dragon’s body has been hand-sculpted and then polished and individually engraved to detail scales, claws, and more.
From the depths of the earth, Jaquet Droz has also wrested a dial made from a single piece of lapis lazuli. While this is not an especially rare stone, a piece this large, this uniform and devoid of cracks is – even more so in a sliver less than one millimetre thick that has been worked on without it being chipped or broken. The longstanding experience of Jaquet Droz Artisans in mineral arts thus offers the Dragon a backdrop of a rare intensity – a stage on which it performs for the best part of fifteen seconds.
The audacity of this Dragon Automaton piece resides in the way Jaquet Droz has encapsulated this knowhow and the ancient symbols it depicts in a highly contemporary showcase made entirely of sapphire crystal – a glass box like no other, with a diameter of 45 millimetres. The sapphire crystal case is fully watertight, despite a total absence of screws or inserts. None are needed: Jaquet Droz has used a process of which it alone holds the secret to fit the case together to within the nearest micron.
While the case design required extensive research, a whole new set of technical specifications were needed, too: the original Dragon Automaton was designed to be fully enclosed in a gold case. New tolerances, new finishes, and most importantly new anchor points for the movement had to be devised to suit its new sapphire crystal housing. Unprecedented components were invented and a large number of prototypes developed to ensure nothing would trouble the sheer transparency of the crystal.
To highlight the contemporary nature of the piece, Jaquet Droz suggests mounting its lapis lazuli Dragon Automaton on a blue rubber strap matching the lapis lazuli on the dial. That is just a suggestion, though: ultimately, it will be up to the future owner of the unique piece to decide on its externals and engravings.