Beautifully complex

Jaquet Droz is celebrating the 275th anniversary of the first piece produced by the brand's namesake, watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz, with wristwatches that combine masteries of several crafts.                                                                                                                                                                             The brand's watches have always been aesthetically fine works of art that took into account the classical needs of balance, elegance and simplicity. For the past few years, it has been producing timepieces that highlight expertise in the traditional crafts of miniature painting, engraving and sculpture. It recently began working with automata, the intricate animatronic pieces that replicate things in sound and movement, such as a singing bird.                                                                                                                                     To commemorate the anniversary, Jaquet Droz produced a wristwatch that has a simple name and simple beauty, but is amazingly complex in its construction. The Charming Bird is a ground-breaking piece that has a miniature singing bird protected by a sapphire crystal dome on the face of a classic 47mm wristwatch.
Automata is usually only seen in museums or important collections, usually encased in the visual themes of the time. But this little blue bird is set over a floor of intricate mechanical wizardry. This contrast gives the traditional automata a whole new feel, with the older parts that were normally covered up now finely finished and displayed for view. The little bird turns, flaps its wings, moves its head and tail, and opens its beak as it chirps - quite amazing considering the mechanisms needed to make this happen in such a tiny space, powered only by relatively small wristwatch barrels and springs.
As mechanical as the bird is internally, it is an exquisite work of art externally, as it uses all the craftsmanship that the company has been highlighting over the past few years. It is surrounded by a halo of white gold above, and all around it the different parts that make it move, work and sing are left visible. Springs, gears and even the piston-driven bellows that push out the air are all there, finely finished to support and bring to life this contemporary vision of a classic craft. The wristwatch is a collaboration between Jaquet Droz and automata maker Francois Junod.
A slightly less complicated - but still mechanically advanced - piece presented by Jaquet Droz this year is an interpretation of the perpetual calendar.

Following the company's leanings towards aesthetic fineness, its Perpetual Calendar Eclipse gives all the data of that mechanism, but with an elegance and minimalism that almost surprises - especially considering how many hands are actually at work. Time is told by two straight hands from the centre, while two thin, wavy hands ending in half-crescents flank the centre and extend outwards to show the date on the right and the day on the left. Above them is a subdial showing the month, with a small window indicating a leap year. Below centre is an image of a golden moon that is covered or uncovered by a small paddle reminiscent of those used in an old stage play to show the phases. The dial itself is a sky of enamel with eight gold stars.

When you think of how busy many perpetual calendars have become, this interpretation of that masterful complication is refreshing. It manages to take what many make an instrument and turn it into a work of art.

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