By Rebecca Doulton
Jaquet Droz is one of those brands that is often overshadowed by the beefy line-up of quarterbacks under the Swatch Group umbrella. And it's a shame because once you have discovered the artistry behind its beautiful enamel watch dials and sophisticated movements, you wonder why it hasn't always garnered the attention it merits.
Pierre Jaquet-Droz made a name for himself in the mid 18th century with his wonderful automata, often animated with singing birds, which graced the royal palaces of Europe and as far afield as the Forbidden City of China. In that pre-industrialised age, where entertainment was necessarily limited to mechanical artefacts, automata - machines that operate on their own with mechanised mobile figures - were all the rage.
Following the acquisition by the giant Swatch Group emporium in 2000, Jaquet Droz has been able to revive its rich heritage of automata in the Les Ateliers d'Art Collections. Tucked away in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Jaquet Droz has injected new life into traditional crafts like miniature painting, paillonné enamelling, sculpture and engraving.
In 2012 the brand unveiled the Bird Repeater, an authentic automaton featuring two blue birds feeding a worm to its hungry chicks, one chick literally breaking out of its shell. Not only does the watch offer eight different possibilities of animation - featuring a cascading waterfall, a hatching egg, a bird spreading its wings or nodding its head - it chimes the hours, quarters and minutes with a cathedral gong.
Last year, Jaquet Droz decided to show us what makes the Bird Repeater tick and sing with its Bird Repeater Openwork model. Featuring a more contemporary skeletonised dial, which meant eliminating most of the scenery, including the nest, the watch offers a view on the movement, much to the delight of cog heads.
This month, just ahead of the Baselworld watch fair in March, Jaquet Droz has presented the Bird Repeater Geneva, a tribute to the Swiss city in which Pierre Jaquet-Droz opened his third workshop in 1784. The two goldfinches have been meticulously sculpted by hand in gold and adorned with colourful plumage. Miniature painting on the white mother-of-pearl dial reproduces landmarks from Geneva like the Jet d'Eau fountain in Lake Léman, the lighthouse and the silhouette of the mountains.
In keeping with Jaquet Droz' hallmark figure eight layout of the dial, the hour and minute sphere is suspended in the upper part of the dial on a black onyx disc. The 47mm red gold case features a pusher on the left flange to activate the automata and the minute repeater and a crown on the right flange for winding. Limited to just eight pieces, this exquisite piece of horology will be music to many a collector's ears.
Read about Jaquet Droz watches with mother-of-pearl dials