Profile: Jaquet Droz Bird Repeater

Jaquet Droz debuts a brand new minute repeater that also includes an automaton, thus pairing the passions of founder Pierre Jaquet-Droz

What does bird song have to do with a contemporary wristwatch? To find the answer, you have to travel back in time to the age of Swiss inventor and watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz. Our time machine of the moment is the Jaquet Droz Bird Repeater, a sublime minute repeater and automaton. A brief description of this device is called for before we embark.

We have long been fans of the work of both Pierre Jaquet-Droz and the watchmaking brand that bears his name. This year, the Swatch Group-owned Jaquet Droz debuts a timepiece that incorporates a magnificent automaton that speaks – nay sings – the virtues of the inventor. Not only does the Bird Repeater have a magical automaton on its dial, it is also a minute repeater (as implied by its name) and has a beautifully decorated dial, with engraving and painting coming together. We would have included it on our list of most complicated watches of 2012 if it had been ready for preview at Basel World 2012.

It is often said the true test of a minute repeater is in the hearing but for the Bird Repeater, the eye is given first class entertainment, thanks to the lavish decoration on the dial and the automaton.  Truly, there is much to admire here, especially for fans of automatons and of Jaquet-Droz in particular.

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A table clock created by Pierre Jaquet-Droz

A History of Mechanical Ingenuity

The inventor’s automatons – the Musician, the Writer and the Draftsman – are on display at the Museum of Art and History in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, which if you are ever in Neuchâtel you should certainly visit. With regards to the Bird Repeater in particular, collectors may want to take note of Jaquet-Droz’s work with animatronic birds – in table clocks, music boxes and pocket watches – many of which can be seen at his birthplace, La Chaux-de-Fonds.

In fact, Pierre Jaquet-Droz actually created chiming clockworks incorporated into actual birdcages, as you can see here, but eventually moved on to creating miniaturized versions for pocket watches and table clocks. In 2012, more than 200 years after his death, the brand Jaquet Droz reminds the world yet again of the importance of its founder and also takes his work to the next level.

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One of the original bird automatons created by Pierre Jaquet-Droz


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