The fascinating history of Jaquet Droz

Luxos meets Jacquet Droz: King of intricacies

by 07 July 2014

Like King of France Louis XVI fascinated by Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz's automata presentation in 1775, there we were, mesmerized by the beautiful contemporary choreography by the Béjart Ballet Lausanne performing in the Versailles' Orangerie gardens under a fading pastel blue sky.

Among the three automata designed by Pierre Jaquet-Droz, Henri-Louis' father, The Writer stood out. It was a self-powered writing machine in the vivid and uncanny form of a boy with quill pen and paper.

The mechanism was hidden inside his body. With every movement of the cams and letters in the wheel, his eyes and arms would move and write effortlessly with a fluidity that would astonish any spectator today. His penmanship went far beyond calligraphy – much like dance is not just mere choreography – to create an artform. As the components can be programmed to write anything desired, Pierre Jaquet-Droz's automaton is penning a true legacy in innovative mechanism.

Similar to the modern-day Bird Repeater that comes to life when set in motion, this beautiful Jaquet Droz watch houses hand-engraved and hand-patinated birds within its 18-carat red gold case. The manual winding mechanical movement RMA88 powers a rotating seconds disk depicting a flowing river; a minute repeater function which sets seven elements on the dial in motion; as well as an off-centered black onyx subdial displaying the hour and minute at 12 o'clock.

When the minute strikes on demand, the female bird lowers her head to feed two eager chicks while the egg cracks open and reveal the new life inside. The male bird on the right of the dial stretches its wings happily, showcasing its colourful plumage. Imagine all this created in painstaking craftsmanship of engraving, enamelling, goldsmithery and much more in this complicated movement.

In addition to hand-engraved bridges, there is a single barrel that powers the watch for two days. Jaquet Droz's signature by hand engraved on the dial is a stunning detail that recalls the accomplishment of the 18th century automaton.

Then and now, every Jaquet Droz creation is the embodiment of art, movement and ultimately, self-expression. Through its support of the Béjart Ballet Lausanne, it aims to revive a prestigious history rooted in innovation, surprise with its decorative art craftsmanship, and above all, pursues unprecedented excellence in the footsteps of Pierre Jaquet-Droz.