Jaquet Droz Charming Bird has no substance to it. The watch is more for aesthetics than technical expertise. But combine the technology and aesthetics together, encapsulated in the watchmaker’s history, and you have a watch that is absolutely chock full of substance and intriguing to a fault.
The mechanics of this watch hearken back to a day when clockmakers struck the hours with a flapping wooden cuckoo and the letter-writing automatons of the Renaissance captivated audiences. Pierre Jaquet-Droz was the 18th century Swiss watchmaker who created programmable mechanical dolls that some describe as the very first type of computers. The Charming Bird is an ode to this history in a revelation of modern technology.
Traditionally made with a bellows system, Jaquet Droz songbirds needed to be miniaturized and adapted to fit into a wristwatch. New technologies were specially developed to achieve this: sapphire for the tube and carbon for the piston. Sapphire is a mineral with strong resistance to wear and tear. Carbon is used to limit friction and increase water resistance.
The prototype was revealed at BaselWorld 2013 to celebrate the 275th Anniversary of Jaquet Droz. Years in the making, it’s the first time a wee mechanical bird has been put into the domed dial of a wristwatch, a feat in itself,with the equally impressive mechanics revealed below the spinning sparrow.
Even though the Charming Bird isn’t a smartwatch and doesn’t provide any utilitarian capability beyond telling time, the piece is a brilliant composition of watchmaking, history and style that any gearhead, steampunker or Horologist would appreciate.
Specs include Jaquet Droz exclusive caliber 615 automatic movement, self-winding with a solid platinum rotor for a 38 hours power reserve. It’s available in 18-caret white gold or red gold with a limited run for each and a price to match at $402,000 US (380,000 Swiss Francs). So, for now, we’ll be happy to sit back and admire the craftsmanship and think on the hours spent to construct this tiny bird within a watch.