9 February 2016
A maître horloger since 1738, Pierre Jaquet-Droz became famous all over the world in the Age of Enlightenment for his automata, and in particular his singing birds. Today, the watchmaking firm that bears his name is perpetuating the tradition with the Charming Bird: a spectacular watch, containing a mechanical bird that (on request) sings, spins around and flaps its wings. It is notable in the first place for the miniaturization achieved by the technicians, who have had to adapt the automaton’s mechanism to the tiny dimensions of a wristwatch. The bird, sculpted in gold and hand painted, requires at least twenty hours of work by specialized artisans—and is operated by a system of cams that control the opening and closing of the beak, the flapping of the wings, movement of the tail and rotation of the body and the modulation of the whistle. From the acoustic viewpoint, a completely new technology has been developed and patented. Based on carbon pistons in tubes of sapphire glass, clearly visible on the dial, it is used to pump air, store it and emit the sound, a bit like in a wind instrument. The structure is also extremely modern: the 47-mm-diameter is covered by a dome of sapphire glass that is not easy to make. Produced in an edition of just 28 pieces in white gold (and the same number in red gold) and packaged in a presentation case in the form of a birdcage, it is truly charming.