Complicated ladies' watches put on a beautiful show at Baselworld

The movements on the dials of these complicated ladies’ watches by Jaquet Droz and Fabergé make for entrancing hourly companions.

Jaquet Droz watches Lady 8 Flower model features an automaton in the movement allowing the lotus flower to open and close.

By Rebecca Doulton

When ladies' watches dance to the music of complications, the effects are magical. They are a grown-up treat comparable to the thrill a child might experience upon opening a music box enclosing a tiny ballerina pirouetting in circles.

The Swiss brand Jaquet Droz is a master of automaton: complex, miniaturised mechanical devices that trigger movement on the dial, like the nesting blue birds feeding their chicks in the wonderful Bird Repeater watch. The original Jaquet Droz, whose name was Pierre Jaquet Droz, became famous in the mid 18th century for his incredible automata with singing birds and other moving flights of fancy to entertain the royal courts of Europe.

Read more about the Jaquet Droz Bird Repeater watch

At Baselworld 2015, Jaquet Droz adopted the iconic figure eight framework of its Lady 8 watch and nestled a gorgeous lotus flower in the upper circle. In the lower, larger circle, a red-winged butterfly crafted from translucent enamel on a gold guilloché background spreads its wings, surrounded by a diamond-set bezel. The magical moment occurs when the pusher on the side of the case is depressed and the gold bud opens to reveal a six-petalled pink lotus flower with a diamond heart. Protected by a sapphire crystal dome, the lotus petals have been individually enamelled.

The craftsmanship is extraordinary and the watchmaking skills necessary to fit a mechanical watch movement and an automaton within a 35mm case would make any Lilliputian watchmaker proud. The red gold case and dial on these ladies' watches are adorned with a total of 135 diamonds and a briolette diamond in the crown. Two versions of these Jaquet Droz watches exist, each limited to just eight pieces.

Debuting this year at Baselworld, Fabergé decided to pull out all the stops with its Lady Compliquée collection of ladies' watches and solicit the skills of master watchmaker Jean-Marc Wiederrecht of Agenhor. Two beautiful and highly complicated mechanical Fabergé watches, Peacock and Winter, are the first to grace the collection and pay homage to the famous Fabergé Peacock Egg of 1908 and the Winter Egg of 1913.

These Fabergé watches literally paint a mobile landscape as the peacock splays its tail and the icicles coat the dial with their frosty hoar. The sculpted gold Peacock is endowed with five majestic feathers that fan out every 60 minutes and make the white mother-of-pearl rotating hour disc advance. They fold up again on the hour revealing more of the wonderful background of intense coloured gemstones, including green tsavorites, diamonds and Paraiba tourmalines, which pavé the dial.

The Winter watch recreates the crackly frost of Russia's longest season. Like the Peacock, blades of frost fan out across the mother-of-pearl mosaic dial. The unfolding fan of frost, complete with a blue enamel sky background, covers the dial on the hour and retreats again to reveal the cracked ice, filled in the centre with five diamonds. Both ladies' watches come in a 38mm platinum case and are fitted with an Agenhor hand-wound movement with a power reserve of 50 hours. The case flange of both watches has been set with 54 brilliant-cut diamonds.

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