Petite Heure Minute Smalta Clara: the art of plique-à-jour enamel
April 11, 2018
From its first designs almost three centuries ago to its most recent developments, the legacy inherited from Pierre Jaquet-Droz has stayed true to the core values of the brand's founder: a pared-down aesthetic, audacity of style, and creativity in the mechanisms.
The Petite Heure Minute Smalta Clara presented on the occasion of the brand’s 280th anniversary is no exception. The rightful inheritor of a legacy that dates back centuries, it nonetheless brings an original touch: the brand’s first use of plique-à-jour enamel, or “smalta clara” in Latin. While historically Jaquet Droz has been renowned for its mastery of Grand Feu enamel, plique-à-jour enamel is an even more demanding technique. First developed 1500 years ago, it requires a rare level of skill to prevent the enamel from cracking in the kiln. The risk of cracking becomes more pronounced with every firing of the piece.
The composition is not formed of a single piece of enamel; rather it is made up of cells of different colors and shapes. These cells are separated by gold wire cloisons. With no metal backing, the composition is a standalone piece similar to a stained glass window. As such, the Petite Heure Smalta Clara has no case back. Light shines through the enamel, illuminating every color and hue.
When the composition is bathed in light, the complete motif suddenly comes to life: a tiger, designed exclusively by Jaquet Droz for this piece. The creature is depicted in vivid, contemporary strokes, amplifying the tender quality of a feminine piece with a strong personality. Each dial features no less than seven colors to produce a most lifelike tiger. The powerful effect is heightened by a bezel set with 100 diamonds that illuminate the slightest details. Such a perfect rendering is possible only with the purity of the enamel used by Jaquet Droz, through which the light is fully diffused, unobstructed and undistorted. It takes the enamel artist four full days to produce a single dial.
The Petite Heure Minute Smalta Clara is one of the very few Jaquet Droz pieces to have an off-centered hour display at 2 o’clock. The dimensions of the dial are reduced to a minimum, leaving the tiger space to express itself to the fullest. The mother-of-pearl dial features two blued hands in true Fine Watchmaking tradition. The winding crown is also placed at 2 o’clock in such a way as to make the winding-shaft as discreet as possible through the enamel. With discretion in mind, Jaquet Droz borrowed the smallest mechanical movement in its collections from the Lady 8 Flower watch.
The Petite Heure Smalta Clara is available in two versions. Each issued in Numerus Clausus limited series of 28 pieces, both versions measure 35 mm and are set with diamonds on the lugs and bezel. A white gold version features a tiger gleaming in hues of blue, while a red gold version depicts the creature in gold and brown tones. Both versions are paired with a hand-finished wraparound satin strap that is color-coordinated with the dial. Together these two pieces open a new chapter in the long tradition of the Ateliers d’Art at Jaquet Droz.