Jaquet Droz has channeled the spirit of its namesake, the 18th-century inventor renowned for his complicated automatons and musical clockworks — many of them using singing birds — with its new ultra-complicated timepiece, the Bird Repeater.
The Jaquet Droz Bird Repeater, as with many other models from this artisanal watch brand owned by the Swatch Group, takes its inspiration from the creations of Pierre Jaquet-Droz (1721-1790), a Swiss-born watchmaker who is today better known for his pioneering work in animated robotic dolls, or automata, which he used to help sell his timepieces. The most famous of these — called the Musician, the Writer, and the Draftsman — are on display at the Museum of Art and History in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Jaquet-Droz also worked with animatronic birds, including them in many of his famous table clocks, pocketwatches, and music boxes; many of these can be seen today at Jaquet-Droz’s birthplace, the Sur le Pont farm in the watchmaking cradle of La Chaux-de-Fonds.
The wristwatch represents not only Jaquet-Droz’s horological and automaton expertise, but also the decorative arts of the period in which he lived and worked. The dial features tiny automatons of two Blue Tits, a bird native to the Swiss Jura region, perched on the edges of a nest containing two fledglings and an egg. A meticulously rendered image of the Saut du Doubs waterfall in the Swiss Canton of Neuchâtel is in the background, and an off-center subdial near the top records the hours and minutes with two rose-gold hands.
The striking, three-dimensional atmosphere of the dial comes to life when a complex mechanism, operated by a cam system, sets into motion by the push of a button, animates the two birds. One bobs down to give a beakful of food to one of the fledglings, while the other spreads its wings, revealing an array of colored feathers. Simultaneously, the egg in the nest opens up to reveal a chick and the waterfall in the background flows in a continuous cascade. All together, Jaquet Droz has incorporated eight distinct animations that act in synchronization with each other — the movement of the birds’ heads and wings, the movement of the fledglings, the hatching of the egg and the flow of the water. Click on the video below to see the watch in motion.
If the animations aren’t enough for you, the push-button also triggers a minute repeater, which strikes the hours, quarters, and minutes as the birds put on their show. The system uses a cathedral gong whose resonant, mellow tones are generated by two turns around the mechanism. The movement that powers this audio-visual tableau, Jaquet Droz Caliber RMA88, is made up of 508 separate components and has a single-barrel power reserve of 48 hours.
The mother-of-pearl dial and automatons showcase the work of Jaquet Droz’s painters and engravers, most impressively in the yellow, blue, white and deep black hues in the birds’ finely rendered plumage and the detailed work on the waterfall waves and the wisps of grass that make up the nest.
The watch, which required two years of development, is offered in a 47-mm case in 18k rose gold and on a rolled-edge, handmade, black alligator leather strap with a rose-gold folding clasp. Only eight pieces will be made, each with the series number engraved on the caseback, at a price of $472,500. There are also eight in a white-gold case with diamonds, priced at $493,500.
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