An automaton on a wristwatch offers a visual (and occasionally audio) pleasure like no other, and no one does it better than Jaquet Droz.

The name Jaquet Droz is synonymous with automaton ever since founder Pierre Jaquet-Droz wowed royalties from France to China with his three humanoid automata, The Writer, The Draughtsman and The Musician, in the late 18th century.

Swatch Group acquired the brand in 2000, but it was only 12 years later that Jaquet Droz revisited this tradition, this time incorporating it on a wristwatch in the form of the Bird Repeater. Combining mechanical and decorative art, this animated minute repeater was more than a watch; it was a magnificent work of art to be preserved for generations to come.

Jaquet Droz followed this up with the Charming Bird featuring a mechanical songbird chirping out musical notes, the only wristwatch to date to boast such an appendage. Its beauty and intricacy eventually won it the Mechanical Exception prize at Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve (GPHG) in 2015.

The same year, Jaquet Droz unveiled the Lady 8 Flower, the first feminine timepiece to be endowed with an automaton - a lotus that bloomed on demand. This year, the La Chaux-de-Fonds watchmaker released new versions of the Lady 8 Flower, the award-winning Charming Bird as well as last year’s Loving Butterfly.

ICYMI: Watches that blur the line between art and time

Lady 8 Flower

The lotus flower is positioned at the top of the watch for maximum visual impact. Crafted with gold petals, a pusher at ‘2’ activates the opening motion, slowly revealing a briolette-cut sapphire in the centre that swivels in the opposite direction. This animation takes eight seconds to complete, in harmony with the serenity that the lotus symbolises.

It’s perfectly matched with a grand feu enamel dial decorated with lotus leaves and flowers engraved in bas-relief. The different shades of blue are achieved by painstakingly controlling the amount of enamel powder applied in each firing. Limited to eight pieces, diamonds on the white gold case give it a dazzling final flourish. 

Also see: 6 glamorous watches destined to be precious heirlooms

Charming Bird

The songbird now calls a new gleaming “cage” in red and white gold home. Each limited to eight pieces, the melody is created by releasing air compression inside three sapphire crystal tubes intermittently through a whistle. Elevating the ephemeral sense of wonder is the fact that the bird, which is produced at Jaquet Droz Ateliers d’Art, appears to dance along to the tune. All of this action, including the movement that operates the winged creature, which is separate from a second one that keeps time, is visible on the dial.

Read also: The exceptional watches with Latin American flair at SIAR 2018 watch fair


Loving Butterfly

The newest to the automaton family, it boasts a new opal dial, which is a unique piece. Against this backdrop of green and blue opal are the butterfly and a chariot with a cherub in it, all of them rendered in red gold, as are the trees. The moving wheels of the chariot and the fluttering wings of the butterfly make it appear as if the latter is pulling the former. For sheer opulence, the small central dial is set entirely in baguette diamonds in a sunray pattern.

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