Allow me to share with my take on the latest chapter of the Jean Richard saga, the recently revamped and reborn JeanRichard brand. In case you didn’t know, Daniel Jean Richard is an iconic figure in Swiss watchmaking lore, having pretty much single-handedly setup the Neuchatel area watchmaking industry back in the 17th century. You can still find a statue of the man standing proudly in the town square of Le Locle. With such a significant heritage, I always found it a shame that the brand never quite lived up to its name.
Here’s the thing about the former (Daniel) Jean Richard brand: while they offered some well-made watches with interesting but (albeit sometimes lacking) designs, they were positioned too closely to big sister brand Girard-Perregaux’s lineup. So ultimately for the potential buyer, there was no point in buying the “b-grade” brand when for a bit more money one could have the real deal.
Today however, I feel like after much trial and error, they’ve finally gotten it right. Under the name “JeanRichard”, the La Chaux de Fonds based brand has completely reinvented it self with a new team, a new vision, a new image, and above all a new product strategy. Looking at the watches and the brand’s current distribution network, it’s clear that JeanRichard have distanced themselves considerably from Kering (ex-PPR) group mate and once parent company Girard-Perregaux.
More than just a marketing gimmick, JeanRichard’s “philosophy of life” slogan pretty much defines who their target customer is: someone who might be outdoorsy with a sense of adventure, without necessarily being a record-breaking athlete. With ambassadors like tightrope walker Nik Wallenda and the heroic pilot Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, you get the idea.
This direction also translates into their collections, which are “sporty” in design without necessarily being sports watches per se. The brand has 4 principal collections, though they all share a common core design.
JeanRichard Collection – Terrascope
The primary collection and the one that caught my eye at Baselworld 2013 is the Terrascope. With a cushion retro-inspired case of generous but not overbearing proportions, the Terrascope is quite the looker while still remaining somewhat discreet. The watch looks simpler than it is, with a multi-component case construction that foregoes any externally visible screws. The mix of vertical satin-brushed and polished surfaces makes it a very versatile piece suited for just about any activity; indoors and out.
The dial is simple but legible and balanced, with faceted rhodium-treated hour markers tipped with Super-Luminova, as well as the brand’s signature arrow and lance hands that really stand out. Unlike the former Daniel Jean Richard brand that equipped its watches with Girard-Perregaux movements, JeanRichard use trusty and sturdy Sellita movements, which is also reflected in the price; around $3’000 USD for the steel Terrascopes on straps.
The Terrascope is available in a plethora of dial colors and strap combinations and I actually picked up the blue Terrascope last summer, which you can find a review of here.
JeanRichard Collection – Aquascope
The next collection from JeanRichard’s lineup is the Aquascope, the brand’s diving watch range. Featuring the same multi-component case, the Aquascope is a different beast altogether. For one thing, it features a more prominent and chunky rotating bezel, done in either anodized aluminum or engraved steel with inked markings (they actually use a machine not unlike a tattoo gun to do this!).
The dial is also slightly narrow and features larger baton markers with more Super-Luminova than the Terrascope, as well as a more pronounced rehaut with minutes/seconds chapter. But this slightly thicker profile isn’t just for cosmetics, as the JeanRichard Aquascope has a higher depth rating of 300 metres (versus 200m on the Terrascope).
JeanRichard Collection – Aeroscope
The third collection is the brand’s chronograph line with an aeronautical influence, aptly dubbed the “Aeroscope”. This collection not only features a tri-compax chronograph (with pretty cool lume-tipped skeleton hands), but also makes the most use of the brand’s multi-component case construction. Aside from just the dial colors, the Aeroscope can be had in different case and bezel combinations like natural and DLC-coated stainless steel.
JeanRichard Collection – 1681
The final collection, which I’m personally finding hard to resist not pulling the trigger on is the 1681. This is JeanRichard’s only collection to use the brand’s entirely in-house manufactured JR1000 automatic movement, which I’m happy to say is NOT just a Girard-Perregaux movement with a JR rotor.
There’s a certain vintage appeal about the 1681, with its predominantly polished cushion case with rounded edges, and several old-school elements like the larger grooved crown and radial sunburst satin-finished dials; which again is available in a variety of colors.
The 1681 actually comes in two configurations: central seconds with applied Arabic numerals, or sub-seconds with baton hour markers. With either version, you’re getting a lot of horological bang for buck. An in-house movement in a beautiful case and dial for $6’400? Yes please!
I sincerely look forward to discovering and sharing with you what JeanRichard have in store for us in 2014. Stay tuned! You can find more resources about JeanRichard Collection on the Official JeanRichard Website.