Jaquet Droz quite rightly decided to present its latest masterpiece outside the periods of the main international and regional watch fairs, because it is already available to purchase (the first one has already been sold at the brand’s Geneva store). I saw this new automaton for the first time at the end of November in Geneva, but don’t expect to be able to get your hands on one in time for Christmas. This exceptional timepiece took three years to develop and requires one full month of work by three artists just to complete the dial! Even if you have the 680,400 Swiss francs spare to buy one, you will still need to wait around six months to get your hands on one of the first models.
The 47mm diameter 18-carat red-gold case of the Tropical Bird repeater has been exquisitely hand engraved. Jaquet Droz could have shaved around two weeks off the production time by “preparing” the case for engraving as other engravers do (this involves tracing the lines of the design on the case before starting the engraving proper), but instead gave the engraver the freedom to work freehand from scratch. As a result, the case takes around one month to engrave.
It is proven to be rather attractive and is a part of the contemporary Jaquet Droz brand because its reintroduction in the year 2000. Of course, the irony here (as I’ve mention in the past) is that the seconds indicator (which is also the tourbillon display) is smaller compared to the hour and minute dial so that it is not technically a “grand moments.” That name applies accurately to the non-tourbillon versions of this design where the moments indicator is below (and bigger), and the cover of the figure eight will be the dial for the hour and minutes (which can be smaller). The watch is intentionally bold, though it’s more dressy in its style at 43mm wide (13.1mm thick) – which, for me, is an perfect size since everything you are really showing off here is the artwork of the dial. The composition of this watch is truly top-notch (supposing the overall style appeals to you, as it will myself). I like how Jaquet Droz chose to go for a semi-transparent window into the tourbillon. You can view it via the dialup, but it is not brazenly exposed. It’s a more subtle method of displaying a tourbillon, also I think it’s a style a lot of individuals would love (again, despite the high price tag of this standing timepiece). It has a whole seven days of power reserve operating at 3Hz (21,600bph). You can observe the motion through the sapphire crystal caseback window, and there you will also see the appealing blue lapis lazuli applique set to the otherwise 18k red gold automated rotor.
Manual engraving of the case © Jaquet Droz
The Tropical Bird repeater has to be both seen and heard up close to appreciate it, which poses a problem for Jaquet Droz, since the brand has 12 flagship stores worldwide, but will only produce eight of these watches (although it could serve additional customers with their personalisation options). “Our stores are very useful for presenting this kind of watch,” admits CEO Christian Lattman, “but we simply don’t have enough watches to go around.” There are seven different mechanical animations on the dial: a waterfall, dragonflies, a peacock, tropical leaves, a toucan and a hummingbird. It is the use of the hummingbird as the centrepiece for the animation that provided the inspiration for the entire tropical theme of its decoration. In real life, the fastest hummingbirds can beat their wings up to 80 times per second; in the Jaquet Droz Tropical Bird repeater, the mechanical hummingbird can beat its wings a staggering 40 times per second as part of a sequence of animations that can last up to 12 seconds to correspond with the chimes of the minute repeater mechanism. The hummingbird also bobs up and down as if hovering in the air while feeding off one of the tropical flowers, just like in real life, and can be activated independently of the minute repeater.
The amazing three-dimensional effect of this watch is created by five different levels of hand-engraved and hand-painted decorative elements that are suspended from the base of the dial at its edges (Jaquet Droz has a patent pending for this technique). Despite the thickness added by these elements, plus the use of a minute repeater mechanism with cathedral gongs, the overall height of the Tropical Bird repeater is nearly 4mm less than the Charming Bird model. Furthermore, a new movement, the manually-wound Jaquet Droz calibre RMA89, increases the power reserve to 60 hours (compared with 40 for the Charming Bird) at the same frequency of 21,600 vibrations per hour.
Tropical Bird Repeater © Jaquet Droz
Christian Lattman sees a clear demand for the exceptional among Jaquet Droz’s customers, who like the density of the colours on this piece. “Because of its size, this is primarily a watch for men,” he says, “but men who are in tune with their emotions and have a poetic side.” Japanese collector Dr. Haruhisa Handa is just such a man and is already a proud owner of the Charming Bird. He just happened to be in Geneva on the day the Tropical Bird repeater was presented and was impressed by what he saw. That six-month waiting period might just get a little bit longer.