Christian Lattman, took over as the CEO of Jaquet Droz in 2016 but has been with the Swatch Group since 1995 with stints at Omega and Breguet before his current assignment. Jaquet Droz celebrates its 280th anniversary this year and judging by the feedback the brand has had at Baselworld, 2018 could be a memorable one for the brand. Lattman was in town to open Jaquet Droz’s first boutique in the region, at The Dubai Mall, and we sat down with the soft-spoken CEO for a quick chat.

Lattman took over as CEO in 2016

Jaquet Droz has had a good start to the year. What do you think has driven this growth?

Christian Lattman: Improving market conditions have been the primary driver. Our new products and Baselworld novelties have been received well. We also have a new team in place around the world. We have staff now with a lot of experience and passion to take the brand forward, something that we need to take the brand forward.

Grande Seconde with the black enamel dial was a big hit

How would you sum up the brand’s participation at Baselworld 2018?

CL: Everybody was excited to be at Basel this year. We knew we had a unique collection and it was well received. In the Grande Seconde line, we added a new version of the successful Grande Seconde Moon. The new model has a black enamel dial and a rose gold case. Some said it is among the most elegant watches they saw at the fair this year. We also presented the Tropical Bird automaton with a white gold case. And finally, the one-off Parrot Minute Repeater pocketwatch.

Tell us a bit more about the Parrot Minute Repeater.

The one-off Parrot Minute Repeater pocketwatch

CL: To celebrate the 280th year, we wanted a timepiece that showcased the entirety of our skills. From paillonné enameling to engraving, painting to gem setting, this unique piece has it all. This project gave us an opportunity to get our eight artists to work together. We had no plans to sell this pocket watch, but by the end of Baselworld, there was so much demand that we had to open it to the market.

This is an important piece to show to our clients. It has become a talking point – a halo product that represents the best of what we have to offer as a company. The big challenge on this project was to find the artists who can translate the ideas of the creative team into reality. 

Miniature painting on the dial of the pocketwatch

Is the expansion of the automata line going to be a focus area going forward for Jaquet Droz?

CL: We are different from the other watch brands primarily because of our automata. Not many brands have the history or the know-how to create automata like Jaquet Droz. We are building a modern collection of automata starting with the Tropical Bird at the top, down to more accessible ones like the Loving Butterfly Automaton, which at about $125,000 is the price of a tourbillon.

The Loving Butterfly and Tropical Bird automata

So we try to focus on automata to differentiate us from what the others do. Expanding our Automata line is important because of our heritage. The target is to go even lower than $125,000 for our entry-level automata, but it’s not easy.

Creating an automaton is a complicated process. If you look at the Loving Butterfly – it has an optical illusion, a great level of craftsmanship - we have suspended trees on the dial. All these elements contribute towards making this watch a luxury product. We cannot cut corners here to bring down cost because we want to offer the best to our clients. Having said that, we are working on launching a new automaton between $100,000-200,000 now.

What is Jaquet Droz doing to preserve the rare skills you have at the manufacture?

CL: It’s a challenge to find the right people. Luckily, we are based in La Chaux-de-Fonds and there is a famous art school based there, so we take students from there and train them. We have master craftsmen who can teach them skills like pailloné enameling and so on.  We are able to offer these artists a good atmosphere to work – they work on limited editions (eight or 20 pieces), which is good for them because they don’t like to do repetitive work. The artists are part of the creative process, so it is a great opportunity for them. We foster the right environment for them to grow.

The new Petite Lady 8 line has plenty of potential

How to do you plan to expand your product line?

CL: The Grande Seconde is a commercially viable range for us, so this will always be an area of focus for us. Lady 8 Petite has a lot of potential. The original Lady 8 model was a success but it is too big. The Lady 8 Petite is 25 mm, small watches for ladies is now a trend. The feedback has been amazing, so we will grow this line. We need to focus on the Sports line a little more, but that is for later. Right now, we focus on Grande Seconde, Automata and Lady 8 Petite.

This is an abridged version of the interview that appeared in our Summer 2018 print issue.