The fact that watchmakers revel in ‘the more complications per square centimeter the better’ isn’t news to anyone. But the 2016 edition of Jaquet Droz’ The Charming Bird is a masterful performance at micro level. The brand debuted an initial version with the complication in 2013 and made the official introduction in 2015. The 2016 variant is limited to 16 pieces, eight in white gold and eight in red gold.
The masterpiece of the watch, which has a diameter of 47mm, is the automaton; a robot powered by springs and cogwheels. Automatons play an important role in the long and rich history of Jaquet Droz. In The Charming Bird a robotic bird sings its little heart out. The watch has sound, but it isn’t a minute repeater. It was made purely for the spectacle and to showcase the technical abilities of the house of Jaquet Droz. Those abilities didn’t go unnoticed because in 2015 the complication won the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix.
But how exactly does this songbird work? An ingenious system allows the bird to sing; not through vibration but with the use of air that passes through three sapphire crystal tubes. Air passes through the first tube, is stored in the second tube and ultimately compressed in the third tube, which regulates the melody by controlling the amount of air and the speed of the piston. A regulator with magnetic effect ensures that metal components do not come into contact with each other. This is an attempt to explain the concept to some extent, but watching it in real life or in a YouTube video really works wonders. Seeing the ultra-complicated bird that spins around and even moves its wings goes to the furthest boundaries of the possibilities of mechanical miniaturisation. And the almost fetishist eye for detail doesn’t stop there. A hand-painted and engraved mother-of-pearl dial refers to the Swiss mountain landscape, a historic Jaquet Droz motif. The Jaquet Droz The Charming Bird is daring, luxurious and serves no useful purpose, but take one look at it and you’re sold. Or is that in fact useful enough for a complication?