In every family there is a common raison d'être that spurs the clan to thrive and grow. So it was in the time of Pierre Jaquet-Droz. Trained in clockmaking by older relatives, he worked with his father-in-law and later his son Henri-Louis. Together they pooled their creative genius and avant-garde vision of clockmaking.
And this spirit prevails 280 years on at the Jaquet Droz studio, reinstated in its ancestral home of La Chaux-de-Fonds. It is here in utmost secrecy, for over nearly three years, that every artisan technique at the firm joined forces to bring to life an exquisite piece to celebrate the 280th anniversary of Jaquet Droz: the Parrot Repeater Pocket Watch.
This exceptional one-of-a-kind piece, Numerus Clausus 1/1, represents the entire spectrum of Jaquet Droz craftsmanship in a single pocket watch. Watchmaking skills are showcased alongside decorative techniques. The Parrot Repeater Pocket Watch carries on the long tradition of automata originally established by Pierre Jaquet-Droz, spurring it today to push new technical, creative and artistic boundaries.
This true work of art depicts an animated naturalist scene. The birds that take center stage here are a beloved motif for Jaquet Droz. Admired for their romance as much as for their singing, they chirp throughout history in the brand’s celebrated Bird Repeater automata.
The macaw was chosen for the beauty of its colorful plumage. At the heart of the composition, an adult pair watches over its two chicks. Each of the family of five is animated: the bird on the left hand side moves its entire body; its partner on the right wiggles its head. The first chick hatches from its egg, while its sibling hops back and forth. This family grouping, another favorite theme of Jaquet Droz throughout its history, is sighted in a lush jungle of vines and hibiscus. A bird of paradise is visible, and a tiger pauses for a drink at the foot of an animated waterfall. Another tiger can be spotted at 6 o’clock, at the bottom of a mother-of-pearl dial upon which two gold hands keep time.
The entire family of Jaquet Droz decorative techniques come together to bring this scene to life. Miniature painting is used to produce the vivid, lush colors of the vegetation. Miniature engraving adds relief and depth to each of the motifs. The tree trunk, birds and nest are gold appliqués, painted and then applied by hand to the dial. The rim of the red gold case glitters with a rainbow of color emanating from a painstaking traditional gem-setting.
The case is protected by two covers. A macaw is depicted on the case back in Grand Feu enamel painting decorated with spangles. Instead of traditional pigments, this technique uses real enamel, which are ground by hand into a fine powder and mixed with oil rather than water. This exclusive preparation is used to produce a miniature painting that is fired in a kiln as with Grand Feu enamel. The artist then applies the spangles by hand. A protective coating of flux (translucent enamel) is applied to the work before firing it again. The entirety of the painting is then hand-polished.
The dial cover is adorned with vines and tropical foliage produced in Grand Feu enamel and set with gemstones. The climbing vegetation affords glimpses of the animated marvels of the dial through the leaves. The two-sided composition can be admired from both angles inside a specially designed hand-painted box, inside which the Parrot Repeater Pocket Watch twirls freely from a red gold chain.
Both covers can be opened individually by a dual case-spring mechanism inside the pendant. Positioned at 12 o’clock –thus allowing the watch to be suspended on a chain– this mechanism contains two patented Jaquet Droz inventions: the method of opening each of the covers, and the crown positioned at 12 o’clock, which is a first for Jaquet Droz in this type of automaton.
The beating heart of this pocket watch comprising 668 components is a mechanical caliber unique in Fine Watchmaking: an automaton with minute repeater and cathedral gongs. A pull-out piece positioned on the case at 9 o’clock is used to activate the automata as well as the chimes that ring the hours, quarter-hours and minutes. The Parrot Repeater Pocket Watch then bursts into life, perpetuating the Jaquet Droz art of astonishment that was invented exactly 280 years ago.
“Some watches tell time, some tell a story”