If one were to walk the annals of traditional luxury watchmaking, there would be plenty watches created for kings, nobleman, and historic figures that would stand out. Watch museums are filled with pieces that showcase how watchmakers have pushed boundaries to create special timepieces that would have no equivalents. Pierre Jaquet-Droz, founder of Jaquet Droz, was one such watchmaker. The inventor of the automaton, his work revolved around incorporating their properties within timepieces, a Herculean task in the 18th century, and to a large extent even today. The brand’s eight pillars of watchmaking, which include automata, hand-painted dials or Grand Feu enamelling, quality watch case and movement, and artistic pursuits, were all set by him. And the Bird Repeater watch perfectly personifies this.
The 2012 Bird Repeater is nothing short of watchmaking poetry. It melds exceptional craftsmanship, mechanics, and properties of an automaton to fit into the dial of a watch. But why exactly is that incredible and warrants a price tag of Rs 3.2 cr?
The basics first. The glorious dial boasts an off-axis mother-of-pearl detailed black onyx sub-dial that actually tells time, and rests over a hand painted ‘Saut du Doubs’ waterfall and other natural motifs. The highlight of the watch are the two handcrafted birds figures watching over a nest of chicks and an unhatched egg that together sit atop the dial (yes, it makes for a thick, big dial). Their magnificence aside, the beauty of this timepiece lies underneath.
A hand wound Jaquet Droz RMA88 with a 48 hour power reserve rests under the face of the watch, and upon activating the minute repeater, the automaton comes alive. An automaton is guided by mechanical gears and levers. It’s a sort of programme which when activated, starts the pre-programmed movement. In the Jaquet Droz Bird Repeater, the mechanics start the movement of the left bird while the right bird opens its wings and the eggs hatch releasing the baby bird.The two birds begin feeding the chicks, and the waterfall in the background is also set in motion. All while the chimes of the minute repeater play out.
The entire mechanism is absolutely stunning, and dare we say, outdoes grand tourbillons, a true hallmark of watchmaking prowess. Add to that the fact that the watch is cased in pure 18K gold, and strapped on with handmade black alligator leather.
Upon turning over the timepiece, we’re greeted by the mechanism that sets the gears in motion. The minute repeater comes with two chimes enhancing its ‘singing watch’ feature. There are hand-polished beveled angles, concentric Geneva stripes, and circular grain-work. As a unique feat and an ode to their pioneering founder, a tiny clover is engraved on the movement that is considered a mark of authenticity.
Only 8 pieces were created of this watch. With no confirmation on sold items, Jaquet Droz Bird Repeater is easily a timeless watchmaking novelty. The automaton, minute repeater, and hand-crafted elements justify the price of this exquisite watch. And if you want it, there is a 6-8 month wait after purchase.
The Bird Repeater Openwork is available at Johnson Watches in New Delhi for a slightly lower price
All images: Courtesy Jaquet Droz