It was only a year ago, in 2018, that the Jaquet Droz Ateliers d’Art were demonstrating a new display of creativity. By bringing the ancient technique of plique-à-jour enamel into the present, they breathed life into watchmaking creations evoking the era of cathedrals, when the foundations of plique-à-jour enamel – some 1,500 years ago – were formed. These foundations involve creating an enamel composition made, not from a single piece, but from multiple joined pieces, separated by a thread of gold. The technique, reminiscent of stained glass, requires a rare dexterity when firing the enamels, as each passage in the oven risks altering the the color as well the integrity of the enameled sections. Ultimately, plique-à-jour enamel (or smalta clara in Latin) allows for the creation of partitioned decorations in infinite color variations, which are literally bathed in light. Applied to watchmaking, this demanding technique gives Jaquet Droz the freedom to design timepieces entirely void of case backs, illuminating the movement in soft, radiant light.
The Petite Heure Minute “Smalta Clara Hummingbird” uses the smallest Jaquet Droz movement, a descendant of the Charming Bird. The size of this caliber, reduced to the extreme, frees up the maximum amount of space on the dial, perfect for carrying out the plique-à-jour enamel work on as large a surface as possible. Two colorful birds were created by the Jaquet Droz Ateliers d’Art to bring the composition to life. In the first, pink and light blue tones echo a mother-of-pearl dial within a red gold case set with 100 diamonds (0.89 carat). In the second, the hummingbird is adorned with green and turquoise feathers over a shaded blue background. The mother-of-pearl dial, displaying two hands in blue steel, is housed within a white gold case that is also set with 100 diamonds.