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Review: Jaquet Droz the Bird Repeater

by Chester Lau on August 14, 2015

Jaquet Droz is well known for its enamel dials and automaton watches. While the brand has returned to the watch scene only recently, it has in fact a longstanding history. In 1784, Pierre Jaquet-Droz opened the first clockmaking manufacture in Geneva, and was a pioneer who introduced the production of timepieces featuring grand complications. And on this note, we have chosen to review the Bird Repeater, an automaton minute repeater with a Atelier’s d’Art dial, highly representative of Jaquet-Droz and what it stands for.

Featured in this year’s Baselworld releases are three updates to the Bird Repeater line. They are namely the Alps View, Lucerne and Geneve editions. The different model names are representative of the different dial backgrounds of different places in Switzerland.

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The Jaquet Droz Bird Repeater Alps View is brought to life with the snow-capped pine trees and a contrasting blue lake.

The Bird Repeater models are sized at 47mm and cased in either white gold or rose gold. They are limited to 8 pieces worldwide except for the Lucerne which is a piece unique. The Bird Repeater is as its name suggests a minute repeater. But on top of that, it is an automata, which boasts 8 animations, minuscule yet spectacular – the birds feeding their fledglings, the spreading wings, the flowing water, the hatching egg -a worthy tribute to the humanoid automata created by Pierre Jaquet-Droz and his son in the 18th century.

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The Jaquet Droz Bird Repeater Lucerne recreates the Lucerne bridge and tower, handcrafted on a gold dial.

While we love the animations, we are also truly impressed by the quality of the dials on these masterpieces. Each dial is the painstaking work of a master craftsman, painter and enameller. The meticulously rendered details, the vivacity of the colors, the attention paid as much to the eyes as to each wisp of straw, is a testament to the illustrative talent of the La Chaux-de-Fonds artisans.

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The Jaquet Droz Bird Repeater Geneve edition features handpainted motifs of the city on a white mother-of-pearl dial.

The Bird Repeater Geneva, unites the symbols of the Swiss city on a white mother-of-pearl dial. It creates a miniature Lake Geneva, and captures an image of the famous Jet d’Eau fountain and lighthouse – Le Phare des Pâquis – as well as the silhouette of the Salève, the pre-Alpine peak considered the city’s “balcony.”  At the center of the dial, a pair of goldfinches have nested right in the heart of Île Rousseau, the island paradise for birds located precisely at the entrance to the lake. Their plumage is brightly colored as a Fauvist canvas, hand-sculpted in gold.

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The Jaquet Droz Bird Repeater OpenWork houses a special skeleton movement with a row of baguette cut sapphires on the inner case lining.

The Bird Repeater uses a single-barrel manual winding movement that holds a 48 hour power reserve. It beats at 18, 000 v.p.h. Notwithstanding, the movement also powers an impressive automata with 8 animations and a minute repeater with cathedral gongs.

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Note the impeccable quality of finish and craftsmanship on the bird motif. We can also catch a glimpse of the shine of the enamel dial in the background.

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Handcrafted side case decorations are fitting for this art collection piece.

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Transparent caseback shows off the impressive movement. Note the gongs surrounding the movement. They are a distinct feature of Cathedral gong minute repeaters.

The finishing of the movement is impeccable, with hand finished cotes-de-geneve, and polished angling on all plates. Even the less visible spots like the screw housing and regulater parts on the balance wheel are all nicely polished. The quality of the movement finish is equally matched with the attention to detail on the case engraving (for the Alps View edition).

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From left to right, Bird repeater Lucerne, Openwork and Geneve editions respectively.

The watches are priced at an exclusive price point to match its limited numbers. The Geneva is priced at S$752,000, the Lucerne at S$1,019,000, the Alps View at S$835,000 and the Openwork at S $752,000. At this price point there will be debate over the value of the watch, especially since there are a plethora of competing brands who offer serious timepieces at competitive prices; for instance, the big players Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin both offer an impressive art dial collection. Then of course, with regards to the quality of craftsmanship and the super cool automata animations, this Jaquet Droz Bird Repeater has fared exceedingly well to impress us.

 

MOVEMENT Jaquet Droz RMA88, minute repeater hand-winding mechanical movement, single barrel
INDICATIONS Off-centered hours and minutes
JEWELLING 69 jewels
POWER RESERVE 48 hours
FREQUENCY 18,000 v.p.h
CASE 18-carat red gold case Height 18.70 mm Individual limited serial number engraved on the case-back
DIAMETER 47 mm
WATER RESISTANCE No
DIAL 18-carat red gold dial Hand-engraved and hand-painted gold dial, black onyx subdial. Hand-engraved and hand-painted birds
HANDS 18-carat red gold
STRAP Rolled-edge hand-made black alligator leather
BUCKLE 18-carat red gold folding clasp
NUMERUS CLAUSUS 8
COMPLICATIONS Automata
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