Jaquet Droz has this uncanny dicotomy between the watchmaker and the watch: the artist and l’oeuvre (French for artwork). We sat, earlier this year, with Christian Lattmann, CEO of Jaquet Droz and discovered the principle of storytelling behind the Jaquet Droz watches. We reviewed the fabulous Jaquet Droz Petite Heure Minute Paillonnée to share the magic of the world of Métiers d’Art watches. The Grande Seconde Moon, released this year at Baselworld, is an excellent example of the brand’s capabilities to make extraordinary timepieces for a daily user, review available here. On the other hand, we had a lot of fun at the enamel painting workshop, organised by Jaquet Droz to offer a glimpse of the work’s complexity behind Novelties of Atelier d’Art Collection of 2017. This brings us closer to today’s novelty, the Jaquet Droz Tropical Bird Repeater – a timepiece that combines harmoniously watchmaking, sculpting and painting.
Jaquet Droz Tropical Bird Repeater
Tropical Bird Repeater is one of the five high complexity pieces of Jaquet Droz Automata Collection. Automata Collection is a series of Automaton watches.
Miriam Webster defines automaton as “a machine or control mechanism designed to follow automatically a predetermined sequence of operations or respond to encoded instructions”. These complex mechanical machines were used since antiquity, mostly to amuse, but also as religious idols and tools. Maybe the most known is the Writer, an android automata made by Jaquet Droz.
The merit of Jaquet Droz and their Automata Collection is to take the automata principle to a new, unprecedented level and ennoble it with art. It is in their heritage: Pierre Jaquet-Droz was famous for his mechanical singing birds and automata machines.
A moving painting singing time?
As wrong and oxymoronic the heading’s title might sound, the Jaquet Droz Tropical Bird Repeater represents it perfectly. In essence, it is a telling timepiece: audio – by the minute repeater and visual – by hours and minutes hands. In the same time, an entire spectacle is ably supported the Métiers d’Art level of wonderfully painted elements which move in a gentle, live-like manner by the automaton mechanism. A kind of haute horlogerie watch work of art.
The Bird Tropical Repeater wristwatch has a case of 18k red gold magnificently decorated with fine engravings. The case itself is heavily embellished and requires a painstaking amount of work and time. The engravings are stretched along the case’s side and lugs, including a fine filigree on the back side. The beautiful case is a continuation of the scenery depicted by the miniature painting on the dial.
The time display is realised using an onyx sub-dial on top of which sit gold minute and hour hands. This black-gold contrast offers an excellent legibility, especially considering the nature scenery around.
The dial reveals a Garden of Eden scenery: a waterfall as a source of life for the blooming tropical flora and fauna. The show offers: a hand-carved and engraved hummingbird enjoying flower nectar with wings beating a stunning 40 times per second; a proud peacock displaying, in a show of opening and closing, its rich coloured tail; a toucan bird emerging from the palm leaves; three dragonflies with SuperLuminova®-coated wings enjoy the freedom of the nature over the moving waterfall.
In total there are seven animations, playing up to four different scenarios. Each activation may exceed twelve seconds. The automaton animation is activated simultaneously with the activation of the minute repeater.
To sing or not to sing? A movement with a voice
The minute repeater itself is a marvel. To create an even more spectacular show, the Jaquet Droz team incorporated a new rack spring and virtual silent wheel regulator to extend the pause between the quarter hours, striking at major thirds in four semitones, and minutes. The cathedral gongs and the new timing for the striking increase the dramatism of the sound completed by the full of life scene.
The entire show is powered by the mighty Jaquet Droz Calibre RMA89. The manual wound movement offers an impressive power reserve of 60 hours, regulated by a 3Hz balance wheel. For a smooth operation, RMA89 uses 86 jewels.
The movement, taking into consideration the high complexity, is offering a balanced visual look. The decorations are nicely done, offering a spectacle by themselves.
The bridges are decorated on top with a sun-rayed guilloché with the centre on the balance wheel. Under the bridges is visible a multiple perlage with different sizes. The polished bevelling is exceptionally realized, the acute angles being attacked in an even, flawless finish. The hammers are polished and chamfered (bevelled), striking visible on the big cathedral gongs anchored on the gold case. In our opinion, the Calibre RMA89 is pleading equally the owners focus and attention to the details as the dial.
It’s a kind of magic
Jaquet Droz Tropical Bird Repeater is a magnificent piece of combined art. Watchmakers and artisans worked for this little wonder: carving, engraving, painting and movement finishing to offer magic. Despite the fact that we know the tremendous amount of skills and work necessary to bring to “life” this Tropical Bird Repeater, we cannot stop and wonder about it. But their magic dust is just talent, passion and painstaking work.
Jaquet Droz Tropical Bird Repeater Specification and price
Produced in a limited series of 8 pieces, Tropical bird Ref. J033033200 has the price on request.
Calibre: Jaquet Droz RMA89
Type: Hand-winding mechanical movement
Dimensions: Ø 31.5mm, height 7.6mm (incl. module)
Power reserve: 60 hours
Frequency: 3Hz / 21’600 vph
Functions: Hours, minutes, automaton animation with peacock, tropical leaves, hummingbird, toucan, dragonflies and waterfall.
Material: Hand-engraved 18-karat red gold case and applied ring
Dimensions of the case: Ø 47mm; height 18.95mm
Crystal: Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
Crown: 18-carat gold
Caseback: See-through sapphire crystal
Material: Rolled-edge hand-made dark green alligator strap
Buckle: Luxury folding clasp in 18-karat red gold