Hiren Kumar Bose is enthralled by the visual poetry of Jaquet Droz’s bird-themed automatons which recently witnessed the launch of its third edition, the Tropical Bird Paradise
I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who heard or what they think.
Jaquet Droz’s bird-themed automatons third iteration, Tropical Bird Repeater, unveiled recently reminds one of Sufi mystic Jalaluddin Rumi’s quote.
The subject of years of development and a dream for the brand which painstakingly searches for novel ways to connect the modern Jaquet Droz with that of the past— a true automaton with technology dating back to the age of enlightenment.
At the heart of the legend created by Pierre Jaquet-Droz in his manufactory in La Chaux-de-Fonds, birds play an enchanting role in these legendary timepieces. Whether purely decorative or conceived as genuine singing automata, they have been part of the brand’s creative adventure for nearly three centuries and now continue to delight each of their admirers.
Pierre Jaquet-Droz (1721–1790) was one of the famous creators of automaton during his time and in order to pay tribute to his ancestor, the brand that holds his name created in 2012 a watch fusing a repeater and an automat—the Bird Repeater. The manually wound 47mm watch contained 508 parts and had a power reserve of 48 hours. It featured the time with hours and minutes, a minute repeater, and an automaton display that is activated while the minute repeater is in operation. It represented complex artwork and mechanics with hand-engraved and hand-painted gold dial, black onyx subdial. Its hand-engraved and hand-painted birds within the 18-ct gold case attracted the viewers’ attention. The dial, done by hand is incredibly well-detailed. The base dial is mother of pearl, which is hand-engraved and painted. Standard, as well as black mother-of-pearl pieces, are used to create the forest and river scene. The waterfall, done on a rotating disc spins to create the illusion of falling water. The birds and the nest are also hand-engraved and painted individually. The family includes two adult Blue Tits, and the three chicks – one emerging out of the egg. The animation sequence has an impressive level of action with wings opening, eggs hatching, and chicks being fed.
The brand’s Charming Bird, launched in 2015, that integrated a singing bird automaton was recognized as a watchmaking feat by the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) jury who awarded its Mechanical Exception category award.
The Charming Bird is the ultimate tribute to the creativity and historic expertise of the master craftsmen at Jaquet Droz with its singing bird automaton movement, hand-winding mechanical movement and push-button automaton triggering mechanism. The 47mm watch, limited to eight pieces, in 18-ct white gold case with self-winding mechanical movement, sapphire whistle system had a power reserve of 38 hours. The solid gold dial, as well as the four birds, the egg and the nest are fully engraved by hand and then meticulously painted. The main sub-dial that shows the hours and minutes is made of a natural stone, a black onyx. The base plate of the dial is made of mother-of-pearl and depicts a view of the city of Geneva, its lake, its lighthouse and its fountain—reproduced upon the pearly base by engravers, painters and enamellers. The goldfinches are accompanied by their two young, and the group is gathered around an egg in the middle of the nest – an egg that is about to hatch and to reveal a baby bird. This singing watch has a minute repeater with Cathedral gongs
The newest edition, the Tropical Bird Repeater is inspired by the tropical landscape and an invitation to faraway places and delights for the senses. Celebrating the beauty of nature, its animated birds and other creatures push the boundaries ever further in the art of astonishment. Hand-decorated by engravers and miniaturist painters the scene done in flamboyant colours emerges like a lush oasis on a mother-of-pearl dial, itself enclosed in a red gold case adorned on the sides of its lugs and on the middle band with an animal motif hand-engraved by the brand’s craftsmen.
A waterfall offers serenity to the blooming tropical flora and fauna. In the centre, a hummingbird moves towards a shrub of bright orange birds of paradise. A one-of-a-kind animation in watchmaking history, its wings beat up to forty times a second, adding incredible realism to the scene. To the right, a peacock with intense blue feathers veritably opens and closes its tail, while a toucan emerges from the palm leaves at 3 o’clock to open its beak. The dancing flight of three elegant dragonflies, located at 9 o’clock, adds to the magic by day or by night as their tiny SuperLuminova®-coated wings glow in the dark. In all, seven animations that may exceed twelve seconds allow for up to 4 different scenarios, all the more striking as they contrast with the suspended background of the scene.
The minute repeater, which enables the marking on demand of the hours, quarter hours and minutes via the vibration of cathedral gongs struck by hammers inside the case. A push-piece activates this complex mechanism. The latter is equipped with a virtually silent wheel regulator, as the regulation of the minute repeater’s speed is operated by the friction between small outer spring blades. New rack springs, an extended pause between the quarter hours and minutes, and the striking of the quarter hours at major third (spanning four semitones) are also part of the complication’s innovations. The 47mm watch, limited to eight pieces, has power reserve of 60 hours with an oscillating frequency of 3 Hz.