This week we return to one of our favorite reoccuring series: Watch Brands We Know Nothing About. Enjoy!

History of Jaquet Droz

1721-1737

Pierre Jaquet-Droz was born in 1721 La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland – born into a wealthy family and received early training in mathematics and physics. In his early age he began to show an interest in watchmaking and clockworks.

1738-1758

When You Decide To Create Robots To Market Your Watches and Beat MB&F By 200 Years…
He set up a watchmaking workshop in his hometown at the age of 17 in 1738 where he initially worked on pendulum clocks. However over the course of the next twenty years his interest and strong aptitude for clockworks caused him to develop an interest in Automata – a self, driving mechanism that’s specifically focused on imitating human behavior… robots. It’s basically robots.

His watchmaking began to develop alongside his Automata to the point where people’s interest in the Automata are what spurred on the sale of watches. Eventually a confidant encouraged him to take his Automata on the road to present them to different nobles and royal courts. With the goal of using the Automata as display presentations to essentially market his watches. Road show? Road show.

That Time When You Almost Got Killed For Practicing “Witchcraft” in Spain…
One of the more famous events that took place during Pierre Jaquet Droz’s travels occured when he presented his Automata to King Ferdinand VI. During the demonstration of his Automata, the entire court believe Jaquet Droz to be possessed, or at the very least harboring dark magic powers. In order to avoid being branded a witch and killed, he had to show the court (and it’s inquisitor) how the Automata worked and that it was being manipulated by natural means.

After this particular trip to Spain, Pierre Jaquet Droz return home with a considerable amount of money from selling his watches to those in attendance at the court. This sum of money would be routed back into the business in order to help Jaquet Droz grow his business (which it most certainly did).

1758-1790

What Goes Up, Must Come Down…
From 1758 to his death in 1790 Jaquet Droz’s popularity and acclaim grew immensely – people traveled from all over Europe to his hometown to see the Automata. Pierre Jaquet Droz also continued to conduct displays of the Automata on his travels while also using the opportunity to sell his watches and other technial works.

He also opened additional workshops in London and Geneva while acclaim and success was lauded on his work from as far as China.

It was during this peak of Jaquet Droz’s work where three of his most famous (and still remaining) pieces were created: “The Writer,” “The Draughtsman” and “The Musician.” Due to bad business dealings between China, the French revolution, and the Napoleonic wars, Jaquet Droz’s worldwide business ended in unfortunate ruin upon his death 1790.

1790 – 1999


  ad spot

When You’re Gone Sometimes What You Leave Behind Remains (Even If It’s in Limbo For 100 Years)
The three above reference Automata continued to circulate in Europe – Spain in 1787, Paris in 1812, a tour around Europe from 1830 to 1904, until finally arriving at their final location of the Museum of Art and History in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

Jaquet Droz as a watch brand appropriately linked to the work of its namesake, died in 1790 with Pierre. This is evidence from the fact that the current Jaquet Droz history on their official website goes from 1788 to 2000… conveniently omitting 200 years. But as Monochrome Watches Frank Geelen points out, you can’t really blame them.

In the mid 1900s (60s/70s) a group of individuals (a case maker, a dial maker, and a movement supplier) endeavored to join together to try and revitalize the Jaqueet Drox brand name. However these watches have no historical, technical, or familial ties to the original Jaquet Droz whatsoever. None at all. In fact, the reported quality of the watches they were putting out wasn’t that great anyway.

2000 – Present
Thus Jaquet Droz remained in limbo until fatefully being purchased by the Swatch Group in 2000 where huge strides were made to create modern Jaquet Droz timepieces worthy of bearing that famous watch maker’s name. Modern Jaquet Droz pieces are often propelled by the combination of technical problem solving and charming whimsy.

Show Notes:

Kaz Mirza( Co-Founder )

Kaz has been collecting watches since 2015, but he’s been fascinated by product design, the Collector’s psychology, and brand marketing his whole life. While sharing the same strong fondness for all things horologically-affordable as Mike (his TBWS partner in crime), Kaz’s collection niche is also focused on vintage Soviet watches as well as watches that feature a unique, but well-designed quirk or visual hook.


Check Out The TBWS Podcast

Wrist Watch Podcast