Watches in motion

Watch as these movers and shakers of the horological world perform magic before your eyes – their animated theatrics will leave you spellbound.

Vacheron Constantin Copernicus watch

Why settle for a watch that just tells you the time when you can be entertained around the clock with these amazing mechanical delights? From fluttering butterflies to heartbreaking skulls and a tasteful striptease, telling the time can be an action-packed experience. Watch our video to see all the incredible watches featured in this article in motion:

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Papillon Automate watch

Butterflies are always popular decorative elements for women’s watches, but when you add motion to their wings, the effects are even more enchanting.

Van Cleef & Arpels stole the show earlier this year with its jaw-dropping table-size Ondine Fairy automaton and, thankfully, women’s wrists have not been overlooked. The Papillon Automate watch depicts a lavish nature-inspired dial – picked out in enamel, diamonds and sapphires – that comes to life thanks to the fluttering plique-à-jour enamel wings of the pretty butterfly at 8 o’clock.

An exquisite ode to nature portrayed using countless traditional crafts, what is particularly attractive about this model is the fact that the butterfly’s wings flutter randomly, moving in accompaniment to the movements of the wearer.

 Lady Arpels Papillon Automate watch
Van Cleef & Arpels pays an exquisite ode to nature with this high jewellery watch complete with a butterfly flapping its plique-à-jour enamel wings in time with the wearer (£270,600).

Vacheron Constantin Copernicus Celestial Spheres watch

Inspired by the great astronomic discoveries of Nicolas Copernicus, Vacheron Constantin has engaged its master artisans to create the exquisite Copernicus Celestial Spheres watch, which celebrates the discovery of heliocentrism. Challenging the established view of geocentrism, Copernicus sparked a revolution with his theory of heliocentrism by demonstrating that the Earth spins on its axis and gravitates around the Sun. 

An oval disc in the centre of the dial bearing a blazing Sun features an elliptical track allowing the Earth to orbit around the King of our Heavens. The heavens, in turn, are decorated with the zodiac symbols dreamed up by Andreas Cellarius, a 17th-century cartographer. A combination of laser and hand-engraved sapphire crystal has been employed to depict the astrological symbols set against a midnight blue dial with the constellations highlighted with luminescent material to glow in the dark.

Métiers d’Art Copernicus Celestial Spheres watch
Vacheron Constantin’s Copernicus Celestial Spheres watch celebrates heliocentrism as the Earth orbits a gold Sun surrounded by the symbols of the zodiac engraved in sapphire crystal (POA).

Jaquet Droz Loving Butterfly Automaton watch

Two-hundred-and-fifty years ago, the hottest name in the production of automata was Jaquet Droz, a multi-talented watchmaker famous for his creative animated timepieces that delighted the royal courts of the world.

The scenery of the Loving Butterfly watch, below, set against a black onyx background, is sculpted and engraved in rose gold and depicts a chubby cherub on a chariot being drawn through an enchanted forest on the wings of a butterfly. The exclusive automaton mechanism, which took three years to develop, allows the butterfly’s wing to flutter up to 300 times over a period of two minutes and the chariot’s wheel to spin.

Loving Butterfly Automaton watch
The Loving Butterfly Automaton by Jaquet Droz will steal your heart with its depiction of a child being drawn in a chariot by a butterfly (£92,600).

Ulysse Nardin Hourstriker Pin-Up watch

Ulysse Nardin is renowned for its highly original automata watches, timepieces that add an animated scene to the dial using Jaquemarts, which involve complex mechanical solutions hidden inside the movement.

In the case of the new Hourstriker Pin-Up watch, Ulysse Nardin has spiced up the action with a Carmen Miranda-style dancer. Coyly hiding behind a dress of peacock feathers, she performs a tasteful peek-a-boo in time with the hourstriking function – or whenever the owner activates a push button on the side of the case. As the watch chimes the hour and half-hour intervals, the feather’s sweep back and expose her charms.

Hourstriker Pin-Up watch in rose gold
Ulysse Nardin spices up the action with a Carmen Miranda-style burlesque dancer who performs a tasteful peek-a-boo in time with the hourstriking function (£79,000).

Speake-Marin Crazy Skulls watch

Skulls are all the rage these days, and Speake-Marin has been a leading exponent of the human cranium for more than 10 years, subtly reminding his fans that time is ticking by and we had better appreciate every moment we have.

The Crazy Skulls watch brings about as much movement as you can to something designed to be worn on the wrist and features a minute repeater, an animated dial depicting two moving skulls and a 60-minute tourbillon. But there’s more: the two skulls, united at the base by a heart, magically separate when the minute repeater is activated to reveal the spinning tourbillon hidden beneath.

True love, in Speake-Marin’s folklore, can’t bear to be separated and the world around them comes crashing down, represented by the collapse of the Roman numeral XII. Thankfully, when the hammers finish striking the hours, the heart and skulls are reunited, and the numerals appear in their rightful position. 

Crazy Skulls watch
A tale of love, separation and unification takes place on the dial of the Crazy Skulls watch, complete with a minute repeater, tourbillon and moving skulls and numerals, by Speake-Marin (CHF 388,800).

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