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Rare Watches: Jaquet Droz Tropical Bird Minute Repeater – high horology meets high art

by Peter Chong on September 20, 2018

As a maison, Jaquet Droz is known for its automata, its Métiers d’Art expertise, and its ability to make spectacular timepieces. Here we come to a close encounter with one of their signature watches – the Tropical Bird Minute Repeater, part of the Singing Bird series within the Jaquet Droz Automata Collection. Here is our account of our close encounter with this amazing timepiece.

 

Pre-requisite reading for the background

Press Release of the Jaquet Droz Tropical Bird Minute Repeater

 

 

Jaquet Droz Tropical Bird Minute Repeater

 

In our hands on, we have the white gold edition, while the press release on the link above depicts the rose gold edition

 

 

The case, dial and hands

The JD Tropical Bird Minute Repeater is a rather large watch, with a case measuring 47mm in diameter and a height 18.95mm. But it is large for a reason. It has to house the intricate automata on the dial as well as the repeater mechanism. A larger case also provides space for the striking works to develop the sonics.

 

 

The case design is rather elegant. The front bezel comprised of steps which make it look a bit smaller. The lugs are highly polished and curved beautifully from its attachment point, soldered to the case middle. The case middle itself has a bombé and is hand engraved with a motif which continues from the picture on the dial.

 

 

The dial itself is highly embellished. The main scene depicts three birds, a hummingbird, a peacock, a toucan and 3 dragonflies in a tropical background with a waterfall and flora. Both birds are able to move when the automata is activated. The humming bird’s wings actually beat at 40 beats a second, like a real hummingbird. Quite amazing. The peacock opens and closes its tail, the toucan emerges from the palm leaves and the dragonflies hover over the waterfall. Quite amazing. View the video in the next section for this.

 

 

Each of these elements are hand made and painted. The detail on the scene and each figure in the scene is amazing. Here is an extreme macro photograph of the hummingbird:

 

 

The time indicator is shown on a sub dial. The hands are javelin styled hands in blued steel, and the sub dial is sunken. A small detail which we find very nice is the mirror polish on the rehaut of the main dial as well as on the time sub dial. Both allows light to bounce off, and provide light into the dial.

 

 

 

The automata and repeater

Let’s see the automata and repeater in action first.

 

 

Seven animations are played out with each activation

  • The waterfall in the background appears to flow.
  • The hummingbird occupying the centre of the dial moves towards the shrub of bright orange birds of paradise near 9 o’clock and beats its wings up to 40 times per second.
  • The peacock at 5 o’clock opens and closes its tail feathers.
  • The toucan near 3 o’clock emerges from the palm leaves and can open and close its beak.
  • Three dragonflies near 9 o’clock flit around and flap tiny Super-Luminova coated wings, which should look particularly attractive in low light.

The animations can exceed 12 seconds, and 4 scenarios are available.

As can be heard, the repeater strikes are clean, clear, with a good attack and beautiful tone. The decay of each note is magnificent, and leaves an emotional moment of thrill with each strike. The volume of each strike, while not the loudest in the market, is sufficient and the notes are clearly heard. The noise of the regulator is present, but hums quietly in the background and is rather unobtrusive.

 

The movement

The movement is a a robust one, with 86 jewels and running at 21,600 bph, with a power reserve of 60 hours. The aquet Droz RMA89 hand-wound minute repeater movement is rather beautiful to look at from the sapphire case back.

 

 

The movement layout is rather typical of the Swiss Jura style as found in many of the traditional minute repeaters from La Chaux de Fonds. The central bridge is particularly of note, with its sinuous shape with sharp inward and outward angles. The countersinks for the jewels are highly polished, and the anglage is beautifully applied across.

The base plate is fully perlaged.

 

 

The fauss côtes are applied in a sunburst manner, emerging from the balance wheel/escapement. The mounting plate for the gongs are engraved with a clef symbol to mark the musical nature of the movement.

The entire movement is a joy to look at.

 

 

Concluding thoughts

We omitted the Competitive Landscape section because the Jaquet Droz Tropical Bird Minute Repeatr is stands in its own category. The only possible competition is possibly the other bird repeater automata offered by the same company. The watch is truly special, and will appeal to those who have the deep pockets who want a nice minute repeater, with automata, with artistic scenery depicted on the dial. The traditional minute repeater aspects are nicely addressed. The sonics are excellent. The automata is highly technical, and the scenery is rather beautiful. The asking price is in excess of S$1 million is by no means a small amount, by any standards. It is perhaps mitigated by the huge amount of work, craftsmanship and expertise needed to produce a watch like this.

Do we like it? Yes. We love it. Would we buy it? We wish we had that kind of money to spare, and if we did, and burning a hole in our bank account, yes. Especially as we consider that most who have the means to afford a watch like this is not only fascinated by high horology, but also in high art.

 

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