Anyone who’s seen the movie Hugo –that love letter both to the history of the cinema, and to the fascination of complicated mechanics –knows what an automaton is. Pierre Jaquet-Droz, the watchmaker whose name is now that of the creator of some of the world’s most beautiful horological works of fine art, was famous not only as a watchmaker, but also as a creator of automata –those eerily lifelike robots, their movements programmed by a series of elaborate cams and levers, who do perform movements that are capable of amazing viewers even today. Able to write, draw, and even play musical instruments, automata such as those made by Jaquet-Droz were the wonder of their day, inspiring awe and, sometimes, even fear (in some cases it was whispered that the motive force behind the automata was not mechanical, but some infernal spirit.)
There is nothing, however, infernal about the celestial music and spectacle of the newest high complication from Jaquet Droz: the watch simply known as The Bird Repeater.
The Bird Repeater begins with that most revered of complications –the minute repeater –and adds to it a remarkable animated scene whose complexity and charm recall the automatons that made Pierre Jaquet-Droz a legend in his time. The watch shows two birds –Blue Tits, a nesting pair, resplendent in their yellow and blue plumage –over a nest in which are nestled two chicks and, most enticingly, an egg about to crack. In the background is a beautiful and elaborately detailed image of the famous “Saut du Doubs” waterfall, one of the most famous and picturesque waterfalls in the Swiss Jura.
Activating the minute repeater chimes sets in motion a scene worthy of Pierre Jaquet-Droz himself. As the chimes ring, the bird on the left bends down to offer a morsel to the chick on the right, which rises to accept it. The bird on the right nods, seemingly in approval. At that moment, the egg hatches and a newborn chick emerges, its mouth open in search of nourishment, while the bird on the right extends its wing in a protective gesture.
As with the original automatons of Pierre Jaquet-Droz, the movements of the automata are controlled by a group of program disks, or cams, which as they rotate move levers that in turn actuate the movements of the figures on the dial. It is a display of extraordinary charm, augmented by the beautiful tone of the cathedral gongs, given ample volume in the 47mm case (which manages also to remain relatively slim, at 18.4 mm.) A rare work of horological art, the Bird Repeater will be presented to the general public at BaselWorld 2013.
The Bird Repeater by Jaquet Droz is available in two versions: grey gold set with diamonds, and red gold. Each is a limited edition of only 8 pieces. Each Bird Repeater consists of 508 hand-finished components, and offers a 48 hour power reserve.