David-Henri GrandJean (1772-1846)

David-Henri GrandJean belonged to the most talented watchmakers of his time. Son of Isaac Henri GrandJean Perrenoud-Comtesse and Marie Magdalaine Othenin-Girard, David-Henri GrandJean was born on December 27, 1772 in Entre-deux-Monts (near Le Locle) in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel. He got married in Le Locle in 1798 to Suzanne Marie Lenoir.

As a watchmaker mastering one of the main complications of mechanical watchmaking, the Minute Repeater, he acquired a reputation of Excellence for his pocket watches. To date, he is known for having been the first watchmaker in Neuchâtel to design a minute repeater pocket watch that was able to play a music tune. His works are also characterised by their connection with the automata universe and his “singing birds” are among the most legendary pieces of the Swiss watchmaking history.

His main credentials as a watchmaker were acquired by making improvements to the complicated mechanical calibers he crafted. Some purists even credit him with the invention of the Rounding Machine, a legendary tool still used by generations of watchmakers after him. Above all, he is praised for his altruistic spirit, preferring to share his discoveries – as did his contemporary JeanRichard – rather than claim any authorship.

He opened watchmaking comptoirs in South America, in Chile, in Peru and in Bolivia. At his passing in Le Locle at the age of 73 on April 7, 1846, he left behind two children, Henri Gustave and Henri, both of whom were also watchmakers in Le Locle.

In the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel, the small village of La Côte-aux-Fées is the birthplace of the Piagets and Grandjeans. The Val de Travers and the La Sagne Valley are also where so many other illustrious names in the history of watchmaking came from: Abraham Louis Breguet, Louis Moinet, Ferdinand Berthoud, Pierre Jaquet-Droz.

Joël A. Grandjean