Jacob & Co. Creates A Retro Timepiece Inspired by Jean Bugatti

A classic appearance. A unique set of complications. Finishings of the highest level. A rare presence. With its 46-mm case, the Jean Bugatti is a new design direction, and its extremely sophisticated nature is on par with previous achievements by Jacob & Co. Inspired by the gifted designer and engineer Jean Bugatti, this new timepiece brings retro design to a new level thanks to a singularly advanced movement.

Calibre JCFM09 features a pair of one-minute flying tourbillons. A high frequency, double retrograde chronograph with split hands and digital jumping 30-minute counter. Peripheral hands. Smooth pushers coordinated by a column wheel system linked to a separate barrel and regulating organ.

The Jean Bugatti features an elegant dial with extensive rose gold appliques and the overall appearance of a 1930’s Bugatti roadster grille. This groundbreaking mechanical accomplishment is available with a rose gold case and cream-white dial, or a white gold case with blue dial, both of which are limited to 57 pieces.

Jacob & Co. takes on a new challenge. In terms of design, complication, of historical grounding, the Jean Bugatti is one of the most sophisticated timepieces to be released in recent years. Among those, it just might be the most complex chronograph. And in a design territory that Jacob & Co. hadn’t delved into yet. The Jean Bugatti presents itself in the guise of a classical, elegant, refined timepiece with a pronounced retro feel. This is the latest offspring of the fruitful partnership between Jacob & Co. and Bugatti Automobiles.

It has a round case, a round bezel, short and elaborate lugs, a traditional architecture. Mushroom pushers, full-polished rose or white gold case, elegant cursive applied numerals, blued hands, blue or cream-white dial, the 46-mm Jean Bugatti would almost look tame if it weren’t for its unique layout. The Jean Bugatti feels like the dashboard of a collectible Bugatti car. The openings at the bottom of the dial feel like the grille and headlights of a 1930’s coupé from Molsheim.

A legacy of excellence

The Jean Bugatti is grounded in the rich history of the Bugatti automotive brand. Jean was the eldest son of founder Ettore Bugatti. Born in 1909, the same year when Ettore set up his new company in Molsheim, Alsace, in north-eastern France. As a child, Jean loved to watch his father and the draftsmen designing and developing. He often secretly ran through the production facilities watching the drawings come to life. Young, curious and experimental as he was, the post-war French “Années Folles” (crazy years) had a huge influence on him. He would visit his grandfather Carlo – who was a member of the Académie des Beaux Arts in Paris since 1875 – as often as he could in the French capital. Carlo Bugatti loved mixing materials, cultures and styles in his furniture and decorative artefacts, inspiring Jean to do the same in his automotive designs.

This led to such masterpieces as the duotone Type 50 series, the Type 41 Royale with the longest wheelbase ever and the Type 57SC Atlantic, the most expensive collector’s car in the world. The Atlantic had an extremely long bonnet and an oval-shaped rear end extending almost to the ground, from which six thin tailpipes protrude. The outstanding design feature was the Atlantic’s raised seam which ran vertically from the hinge in the split bonnet to the tail. Proportions unknown in the automotive world at the time. The Jean Bugatti is a tribute to this extraordinary innovator and his avant-garde and artistic automotive interpretations.

A unique layout

Just as Jean Bugatti’s sense of automotive design was definitely outside the box, so is the appearance of the eponymous timepiece. It may look classical, but as was to be expected from Jacob & Co., it really isn’t. What are these two large openings at 5 and 7 o’clock under discs of smoked sapphire? Why are the hands pointing in a direction that makes no apparent sense? And is that a vertical large date at 6 o’clock? At first glance, the Jean Bugatti is puzzling. As it turns out, there is good reason to be surprised, and subsequently impressed. The two openings on the dial harbour a pair of one-minute tourbillons. Their cage design is topped by the Bugatti EB logo, manufactured in perfectly polished steel. And since they’re held only by their underpinnings, they’re both flying tourbillons.

The pair of short, blued hands anchored in the middle of the dial are really the chronograph hands. The first, longer one stands for the chronograph’s second’s units. The other, shorter and laid out just underneath, is in charge of the chronograph’s second’s tens.

A revolutionary chronograph

When the start/stop pusher is activated, the first hand starts moving from 0 to 10. As it reaches 10, it jumps backwards to 0 and starts its course anew while the other hand has jumped forward, from 00 to 01. As time advances, the first retrograde hand keeps moving up like the rpms on a dashboard counter and back as the gears change. The other one soon reaches 60, at which point it also jumps backwards to 00.

At that point, in the oval medallion at 6 o’clock, a disc with gilded numerals has instantly jumped from 00 to 01. This 30-minute counter is made of sapphire in order not to dim the view on the pair of tourbillons. This separate second with double retrograde hands and a digital jumping minute disc is a completely unique feature.

A delicate energy management

Furthermore, when the chronograph is stopped and reset, the seconds’ hands cannot jump backwards regardless of the position they’ve stopped at. If they haven’t reached the end of their course, the spring that propels them backwards hasn’t gathered sufficient energy. In order to execute the reset, they slowly continue their course to their final position, and only then can they make their final retrograde leap.

To manage this very complex and unique chronograph system, calibre JCFM09 is fitted with a double set of regulating organs. A small balance wheel is located at the back of the movement. It’s dedicated to the chronograph operation, as is a separate barrel. Together, they allow a two-hour power reserve of high accuracy measurement. Coordinated by a column wheel of extremely fine construction, this chronograph has been designed to offer the smoothest running possible and the best haptic return. The strength required to engage the pushers is minimal.

A peripheral vision of time

But then, what of time indication? As the dial’s center is occupied by the chronograph hands, where are the hours and minutes? Pointing inwards, located on the outside rim of the dial, two short, red hands provide that essential indication. They run on the same scale, meaning they must cross paths as the minute pointer catches up with the hour pointer. A difference in elevation allows this smooth passage 24 times a day.

These red hands are directly linked to the movement’s time-operating parts, regulated by a pair of one-minute tourbillons, running at 21’600 vph and operating side by side. Their timing information may differ slightly, as is the purpose of twin tourbillons. A spring-clutch located between them averages out their running and provides the movement with unified, chronometrically enhanced timekeeping. This system is linked to a unique barrel. It endows the Jean Bugatti with a 48-hour power reserve.

A unique challenge

The Jean Bugatti may just be Jacob & Co.’s most demanding watchmaking project ever. Even for the creator of uber-complications such as the Astronomia, Twin Turbo Fast & Furious or Bugatti Chiron, the development and manufacturing of calibre JCFM09 presented a series of intense challenges.

The thinness of many components is so extreme, the pressure they’re under so high and so frequent, the management of forces and energy within the movement so complex, it can at times have felt almost unfeasible. This sophistication is immediately visible as one flips the Jean Bugatti to take a look at the caseback and the movement.

A dual brain

Calibre JCFM09 is made of a total of 470 components. This unusually high number is a direct consequence of the movement’s dual structure. On the same mainplate, two different and interconnected systems co-exist. One is the time-keeping part, with a dedicated barrel, gear train, twin tourbillons, all of which drive the peripheral display. The other is the chronograph part. It possesses its own barrel, stacked on top of the other to share access to hand-winding operated by the crown.

This barrel is linked to a dedicated regulating organ, with a short hairspring, allowing the smooth balance wheel to oscillate at 36’000 beats per hour, or 5 Hz. It sits in between the flying tourbillons. When the elaborate system of clutches are engaged by the pushers and coordinated by the column wheel, the balance wheel immediately reaches its optimal amplitude and frequency to drive the chronograph hands with maximum precision.

An inner beauty

But the complexity of the chronograph operations is even higher than that. A pair of extremely long and thin springs stem from the sides of the balance wheel bridge, which is openworked and three-dimensional. They accumulate the energy needed by each retrograde hand to jump back at the appropriate time. A star-shaped wheel drives the instantaneous jump of the 30-minute counter disc.

Overall, the graphic impression left by calibre JCFM09 is impressive. The openworked components are highly polished and beveled. They stand out against the backdrop of a circular-grained, all blacked-out mainplate. A forest of springs, levers, clutches and impressive mirror-polished bridges create a dense technical environment that draws the eye and arouses the viewer’s curiosity. In that respect, as in many others, the Jean Bugatti is a timepiece to behold.