In late 2020, Jaquet Droz teamed up with John Howe, artistic designer for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, to create a series of dragon-themed watches. In 2021, Jaquet Droz announced the Petite Heure Minute Dragon collection as a result of the collaboration. Available with either a red or white gold case, this series of watches featured hand-painted dragon dials designed by Howe.
The following year, Jaquet Droz announced the second style of watch designed in concert with Howe, the Dragon Automaton. This watch series roared onto the scene and turned the dragon design of the previous model into a beautiful three-dimensional one that now functions as an automaton. When the activator is pushed, the dial comes to life with a complex series of movements, all controlled and powered by the mechanics of the watch. This version was offered in any gold case the customer desired and allowed for lots of client customization regarding the dial material, what material the orb the dragon holds is made of, etc. A few versions were made as piece uniques, but it seems that Jaquet Droz should still be taking orders for custom pieces. Jaquet Droz is well known for their extensive history and technical expertise regarding automata, going all the way back to the 1700’s. This new model just further puts on display what Jaquet Droz is capable of doing when they combine their art and engineering prowesses.
Now, for the third consecutive year, Jaquet Droz has released another collaborative watch with John Howe. This time, taking the form of a piece unique, is the Dragon Automaton Sapphire with a lapis lazuli dial. This single watch takes 2022’s formula and ups things a bit with the case, dial, and orb.
Starting with the case, this one is made entirely of sapphire. The case doesn’t use a single screw as all case pieces are crafted within such precise tolerances that all the sapphire pieces fit together without anything additional needed to secure them together. Turning to sizes, instead of the 43mm diameter of the gold-cased versions, this one has a 45mm case with a height of 18mm. The case also has a splash-resistance of 30 meters. At the four o’clock position of the case is the activator for the automaton function of the watch, while the crown to wind the watch and set the time is near the ten o’clock. Sapphire is a very strong material, but sapphire cases definitely always scare me a bit compared to their metal counterparts, nevertheless they can be really beautiful and give us an unobstructed view of the interior of a watch like no metal can.
Turning towards the dial, this one varies greatly from previous versions of the watch. For starters, the dial is made of a single solid piece of lapis lazuli less than a millimeter thick. The dial is carved out in specific areas to give a partial openworked effect where some of the movement is visible from the dial side. The dragon itself is first crafted out of 18kt white gold and is then applied in stages to the dial. The dragon has a hand-painted steel eye and tongue, and the orb its hand surrounds is made of labradorite, a very neat iridescent gemstone that displays a phenomenon aptly named “labradorescence”, where lots of iridescent blue and brown tones appear when light is shown on it.
Next we come to the features of the dragon itself. Quoting Jaquet Droz, the automaton features “9 different animated elements of the dragon: the crest moves, the mouth opens, the tongue comes out, the eye opens and closes, the dorsal section and tail undulate, the dragon’s foot moves up and down towards the ball, the ball spins on itself.” With the full animation lasting for 10-15 seconds, this makes for a really neat party trick. The ball they’re referring to really should be called an orb. In short, this dragon gets it when all you want to do is stay in and ponder your orb.
The movement used here is Jaquet Droz’s Cal. 6150, an automatic movement, with a silicon balance spring, that beats at 3 Hz. This caliber has a power reserve of 38 hours and features 78 jewels for the automaton portion and 29 jewels for the time-telling portion of the movement. The automatic nature of the movement comes from a micro-rotor with a blackened white gold oscillating weight. Displayed on the weight is John Howe’s signature, very much in the Lord of the Rings style. There’s something very “The One Ring”-like about a circular opening at the top of the movement with rays, formed by the bridges below, extending out of it. Well, it’s either that or it’s the Eye of Sauron with the center screw being the pupil, the weight being the direction it’s looking, and the rays being light cast down from its flames atop Barad-dûr.
This version of the Dragon Automaton Sapphire goes more modern in its strap choice by employing a blue silicon one. Attached to the strap is a 18kt white gold folding clasp. It’s definitely unusual for this style of watch to have a silicon strap, but it does fit the idea of a sapphire case a bit. Still, especially to try and tie in to the scales of the dragon, I could see this going on a blue alligator, python, or lizard strap to complete the look. Overall, this watch is very impressive and is a dream watch for any Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, or Game of Thrones fan.
The Jaquet Droz Dragon Automaton Sapphire with lapis lazuli dial is a piece unique. The price is TBA. If some of the other Dragon Automaton models are any indicator, this watch will be easily north of 400,000 USD