History of Jaquet Droz

written by YWH team 1 January 2016
History of Jaquet Droz

Founded: 1738
Founding place: La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
Founded by: Pierre Jaquet-Droz
Current headquarters: La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
Owned by: Swatch Group
Official name: Montres Jaquet Droz S.A.

The history of Jacquet Droz, a Swiss watchmaking company, starts in the 18th century. The brand is known for its exquisite craftsmanship and artistic timepieces. It all begins in 1738 when the company is founded by Pierre Jaquet-Droz (1721–1790), in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.

Pierre was a self-taught watchmaker and an accomplished automaton craftsman. He gained recognition for creating complex mechanical dolls and automata, which attracted the attention of European royalty and aristocracy. According to their website his first years after opening his workshop looked like this: “From 1738 to 1747, Pierre Jaquet-Droz devoted himself entirely to clock making. He produced a series of longcase (or “grandfather”) clocks whose increasingly sophisticated movements outclassed anything that had been produced earlier.”

Jaquet-Droz specializes in automata

It is not clear if there is evidence of the founding of his brand. But his (mechanical) skills leads him to add music and automata to his movements. He becomes famous for his intricate automata, technical marvels displaying a high level of artistry.

Between 1768 and 1774 he produces more than 10,000 animated dolls together with his son Henri-Louis (1752-1791), and Jean-Frédéric Leschot (1746-1824), the son of his neighbour he kind of adopted. The creations of Jaquet-Droz were and are highly sought after, and they were displayed in several European courts.

New era under the wings of the Swatch Group

After Pierre his dead the Jaquet-Droz family wants to continue the watchmaking tradition but Pierre’s son Henri-Louis dies only a year after his father. Pierre’s adopted son and business partner takes over the business around 1791. The company is named Jaquet-Droz & Leschot, although this could have happened earlier as well. The French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars and financial crisis tempered the consumer’s interest in high-priced watches, snuffboxes and singing birds, Jaquet-Droz’ main business at the time. It leads to the end of the company around 1806.

In 2000, the Swatch Group, a leading Swiss watchmaking conglomerate, acquires Jaquet Droz. This acquisition provides the brand with the resources and support to continue its tradition of creating exceptional timepieces. As under the ownership of the Swatch Group, Jaquet Droz experiences a revival. The brand focuses on preserving its heritage while introducing new and innovative designs. Including automata.

History of Jaquet Droz

1721 – Pierre Jaquet-Droz is born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
1738 – Not even 18 years old he opens a clockmaking workshop
1768-1774 – builds more than 10,000 automata
1774 – Start of a workshop in London
1790 – Pierre Jaquet-Droz dies
1791 – Pierre’s son Henri-Louis dies
1791 – Business partner Jean-Frédéric Leschot leads the company, then called Jaquet-Droz & Leschot
1806 – End of the company due to French Revolution and following wars and financial crisis
2000 – Swatch Group buys the name of the brand and revives it

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