Further thoughts and commentary: MB&F Kelys and Chirp

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We have always been fascinated by the extraordinary creativity out of the house of MB&F. It doesn’t matter if there are Horological Machines, Legacy Machines or robots, or music machines. We released the information on the new Kelys and Chirp at embargo lifting. Here is our further thoughts and commentary of the release.

MB&F’s creativity is not limited to watches. In the field of clocks, they have made clocks cool again. For example, the work done with L’Epée, like the Sherman table clock, Melchior or Balthasar and the Octopod. But MB&F  have also featured some absolute fantastic non-horological pieces worked together with Caran d’Ache for Astrograph. Another example is Reuge – the renowned musical box manufacturer. These dynamic duo of MB&F and Reuge have realised together an entire collection of musical machines: Musicmachine 1, Musicmachine 2 and Music Machine 3 inspired by SciFi themes. A new collaboration between them was announced Monday, 11th of December: Kelys and Chirp – an automaton.


MB&F presents “Kelys & Chirp”: a co-creation by Reuge and Nicolas Court

MB&F presents “Kelys & Chirp”: a co-creation by Reuge and Nicolas Court


MB&F, Reuge and Nicolas Court present “Kelys & Chirp”

Kelys and Chirp is a joyful celebration of friendship: two unusual friends having a happy life together. Even more unlikely when the protagonists are a tortoise and a bird: Kelys and Chirp. Perhaps like MB&F and Reuge.

To make this possible, friends worked together to create and to bring to life this example of mechanical art. But let’s meet the friends.


MB&F presents “Kelys & Chirp”: a co-creation by Reuge and Nicolas Court

Kelys and Chirp in the blue version. Chirp, the singing bird, shows itself in the shell of Kelys the tortoise.


The big boys and their friendship

Maximilian Büsser is one of those naughty kids that makes the world a nicer place. In 2005, he left his position at Harry Winston to fulfil his dream – his own company which he will use to work with the most amazing people he respects and appreciate – MB&F. His collaborations with the biggest name in the world of horology, with the finest creators and artists, brought an immense and incontestable value to the entire world. His creativity and openness to ideas and talented people made possible pieces like Kelys & Chirp.


MB&F presents “Kelys & Chirp”

Kelys and Chip is a two parts automaton: the Singing Bird, which is a complete movement itself, and the turtle automaton module, which is powered by the Singing Bird movement


Reuge is the premier manufacturer of music boxes. In 1865, Charles Reuge establishes a musical pocket watch workshop in Sainte-Croix, Switzerland. Charles’ son, Albert Reuge converted the family’s atelier into a small factory in 1886, bringing the musical movements in cigarette lighters or powder compacts. In the 20th century, the brand expanded, taking over the manufacture and marketing of mechanical singing birds from Bontems and Eschle. After 152 years of continuous activity, the Swiss brand is the biggest expert in music boxes and singing birds, being able to replicate any melody.


MB&F presents “Kelys & Chirp”: a co-creation by Reuge and Nicolas Court

Chirp, the singing bird, is a singing automaton that powers also the Kelys’ movement.


Nicolas Court is a passionate micromechanical artisan with an impressive experience in horology. He restored historic automaton pieces, worked for Breguet and had worked before with Reuge for the Chiff Chaff singing bird and the Escalado Horse Race automaton. It is no surprise that Nicolas took the design and engineering for the Kelys and Chirp.


MB&F presents “Kelys & Chirp”: a co-creation by Reuge and Nicolas Court

Kelis and Chirp in the yellow variant. Here with the open shell and Chirp in action.


Kelys and Chirp

Kelys, from the Greek chelone or chelys for a tortoise, is a moving turtle with a realistic gait. With a great naturalness, the head has a slow side-to-side movement. Chirp springs from its nest, under protective turtle’s shell, sings, flaps its wings and wag its tail in synchronous but a natural way with Kelys.


MB&F presents “Kelys and Chirp”

Chirp enjoy its freedom and safety singing joyfully for Kelys, its tortoise protector.


Conventional mythology pitches turtles as a representation of wisdom. Its creators made sure that Kelys honours its name and integrated a mechanical sensor that will ensure that Kelys doesn’t walk off table or desktops. The movement is smooth and natural thanks to an unconventional gears and cams system.


MB&F presents “Kelys & Chirp”: a co-creation by Reuge and Nicolas Court

The green version of Kelys & Chirp


Chirp is endowed with a magical voice. His birdsong was realised using Pierre Jaquet-Droz’s 230 years old invention. He developed in 1785 a compact movement with just one bellow of variable pitch. His invention reproduced a realistic birdsong that astonishes its listeners.


MB&F presents “Kelys & Chirp”: a co-creation by Reuge and Nicolas Court

The ochre version of Kelys and Chirp


Kelys can also be enjoyed walking, without Chirp singing by pushing its tail up. The turtle’s movements are synchronised with the bird’s own movements and singing. Moreover, the security system to keep Kelys from falling off the table is doubled by a safety mechanism the for Chirp. In case the accidental push of the bird, a lever system pivots the bird and it returns to the nest.


MB&F presents “Kelys & Chirp”: a co-creation by Reuge and Nicolas Court

The Kelis and Chirp movement is a complex machinery with 480 components and a total weight of 1.4kg.


The Kelys and Chirp’s movement is highly complicated. 480 parts are used to build the 1.4kg heavy automaton. Kelys is built using rhodium plated brass and stainless steel. The scales are manufactured from handmade leathering with calfskin in four colours: blue, green, yellow or ochre.


MB&F presents “Kelys & Chirp”: a co-creation by Reuge and Nicolas Court

The blue version of Kelys, resting with its closed shell and hiding the marvellous Chirp inside.


Chirp is manufactured from 18-carat polished white gold with sapphires as eyes. The bird itself needs 30 parts, while the movement uses another 90 components. The finishes are spectacular.


MB&F presents “Kelys & Chirp”: a co-creation by Reuge and Nicolas Court

Chirp sings on the back of the green version Kelys.


The handwork is executed flawlessly. The automaton’s details are amazing. The technicality behind is even more spectacular. The singing bird is designed and built like a complete movement. Via a set of gears, the bird’s mainspring powers the turtle’s motion automaton. To move the almost 1.4kg automaton using the small mainspring are use an optimal low ratio gearing to set into motion the cams dictating the tortoise’s natural gesture. An extraordinary achievement.



Kelys & Chirp: technical specifications and price

Kelys & Chirp is available in 4 limited editions of 18 pieces each in blue, green, yellow or ochre for a price of CHF 49,000 plus taxes.


MB&F presents “Kelys & Chirp”: a co-creation by Reuge and Nicolas Court

Kelys and Chrip in blue



The tortoise walks, the bird opens from back, moves and sings.

For 10-12 seconds, the bird flaps its wings, moves its tail, opens its beak in time to the bird song, then as if magically disappears.

The tortoise moves its legs in a realistically intermittent gait, its head moves.

Average tortoise speed: 0.03 m/s (0.06 mph).


MB&F presents “Kelys & Chirp”: a co-creation by Reuge and Nicolas Court

Kelys in yellow



Generally rhodium plated brass, stainless steel and 18K white gold for the bird.

Tortoise scales: handmade leathering with coloured calfskin.



Number of components: 480

100% hand assembled


MB&F presents “Kelys & Chirp”: a co-creation by Reuge and Nicolas Court

Kelys in blue


Chirp the singing bird:

Materials: 18K polished white gold, eyes in sapphire

Number of components (bird alone): 30

Number of components (bellows): 90

Mainspring: twin-cam spring barrel

Power reserve: 3 cycles of turtle walking and bird singing

Bellows: double bellows system (bi-directional air pushing)

Security mechanism: if the bird or cover are pushed down while the bird is singing, the bird automatically retreats


MB&F presents “Kelys & Chirp”: a co-creation by Reuge and Nicolas Court

Kelys in ochre


Kelys the automaton tortoise:

Material: grained, satin and polish finishing, rhodium-plated brass, eyes in black onyx gems

Shell: 12 leather scales with individual polished edges

Mechanism for turtle automaton is driven by the Singing Bird movement

Number of components: 100, all rhodium or satin finished

Gear train: elliptical gearing with max/min 1.3/0.8 ratio enables the turtle to advance with a realistically non-regular gait.

Table/desk edge detector: turtle automatically stops when reaching the edge of the surface.

Tail switch: world first tail indication; with the turtle’s tail up it rests in place while the bird sings; with the turtle’s tail down it walks and the bird sings.

Security friction clutch

Circular stainless steel winding key located on tortoise’s belly.


Dimensions and weight:

Weight: approx. 1.4 kg

Dimensions: 24 cm (length) x 16 cm (width) x 8 cm (high without bird open)



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