Back in the 18th century, if you were hosting a party for the rich and famous, you would have wanted one of Pierre Jaquet-Droz Watch automata as your centrepiece. These mechanical, self-operating machines came in a number of forms, from beautifully painted dolls to delicate birds in cages. The mechanisms delighted aristocracy and nobility across the globe, and were a real feat in mechanical artistry at the time. The watchmaker’s songbird automata were beautiful recreations of realistic-looking birds that would ‘sing’ a sweet tune by means of a sliding piston whistle.
In celebration of the genius of Jaquet Droz Mens Watch, the brand that bears his name has created an exceedingly complicated timepiece with a miniature songbird at the 6 o’clock position. Where the original songbirds sang by means of vibrations from a single pipe, the wristwatch reimagining of the songbird automata instead uses three tiny tubes made of sapphire with carbon fibre pistons. The sound is created when air enters the first cylinder, is stored in the second, and exits via the third, creating a melody that varies according to the amount of air in the tubes and the speed of the pistons.
The bird not only chirps, but spins on its perch and flaps its wings gracefully, as the watch’s in-house caliber 615 whirs around it. The bird sits beneath a dome-shaped sapphire crystal, and directly above its cage is a subdial that reads the time. The watch face comes in two version: one with a skeletonised dial, and the other, an intricate hand-engraving that depicts the Swiss countryside.
The watch is part of a very limited series, with only 28 pieces created by the brand. The case is available in either 18k red or white gold, and measures a fairly substantial 47mm by 15.75mm. It might not be the sort of watch you could wear every day, but it’s every bit the showpiece of the original automata.