Jaquet Droz - the Bird Repeater

A remarkable animation in a minute repeater watch

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19 October 2012

Jaquet Droz has a long history of building automatons, and the company made some remarkable bird automatons in the 1700s. Those pieces often included mechanically-powered whistles that duplicated birdsong. The company's history runs right back to 1738 when Pierre Jaquet Droz set up his first watchmaking workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds, and his first three humanoid automata The Writer, The Draughtsman and The Musician were presented in 1774, rapidly establishing his reputation throughout Europe.

The Bird Repeater is the latest in this heritage. Watch the video below – well worth it, it's very beautiful – to see the birds in action. The complex mechanism that powers these movement is accompanied by another complication, the minute repeater. Pressing the pushbutton makes the watch strike the hours, quarters and minutes, while also activating the animation.

The watch is powered by the Jaquet Droz RMA88 hand-wound mechanical movement, with a single barrel, providing a 48-hour power reserve and providing hour and minute indications on the off-centred black onyx dial. The case is in 18-carat gold, not surprisingly fairly large at 47 mm diameter and 18 mm thickness. The watch is a limited edition, with serial number engraved on the caseback: just 16 pieces, each costing about €361,500 (red gold) or €378,000 (white gold and diamonds). Black alligator strap.

The dial is hand-painted, with a Swiss river scene, and a waterfall effect created by a spinning disc. The bluetits are modelled in relief, together with the nest, chicks and hatching egg. In particular, the nest deserves a special commendation for the illusory perspective, creating an effect of depth in a thickness of just a few millimetres, and by means of the differentiated thickness of the twigs. The animation incorporates eight mechanisms operating in sequence. No mechanical whistles: the only sound is provided by the gongs and hammers that can be seen through the sapphire caseback.
All in all, a remarkable tour de force, comparable to Van Cleef & Arpels' Poetic Wish watches.

Below, detail of the painted part of the dial:

The waterfall is created by a spinning disc:

Hand-decorating the dial:

Detail of the complete dial, at the moment of hatching:

Another historical bird clock made by Jaquet Droz:

More info from the company website

Click below to watch the video

Read more:
A Jaquet Droz pocket watch