I was pleased to shoot this as one of my first assignments for Watchonista. The incredible automation of the cherub brought a smile to my face.
Exclusive: Jaquet Droz Loving Butterfly Automaton – An enlightened piece of art on a canvas of onyx
As a tribute to the mechanical genius of Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz, the eponymous watchmaking house presents an automaton watch devoted to the love of fine mechanics and the art thereof.
By Vincent Daveau
Like the pieces in the collection of automata models produced by the Maison Jaquet Droz, the new Loving Butterfly Automaton watch belongs to a tradition installed by the founder of the House. An 18th century aesthete who had great success with the poetry and technical perfection of each of his creations. Today, Jaquet Droz is firmly committed to continuing this work, which has been displayed in museums in several kinetic exhibitions. In the spirit of Jaquet Droz, the brand this year unveils a timekeeper measuring 43 mm in diameter and crafted in red gold or white gold.
The trembling of a butterfly's wings
The butterfly is an ephemeral creature. Except at Jaquet Droz, where the original maker of the delicate Petite Heure Minute dial has resided for over two centuries. The depiction shown on the new Loving Butterfly Automaton is taken directly from a drawing by the Maison’s founder depicting a cherub riding a carriage pulled by a butterfly. After seeing the original drawing while visiting the manufacture, it’s incredible how Jaquet Droz’s artists turned a 242-year-old drawing in to a true work of art.
Displaying a theatrical depiction of a love scene, the dial of this watch contains a generic miniature tableau entirely representative of the ideas that artists of the Age of Enlightenment were likely to propose to their clients. Here, the image is encased within a modern bracelet watch, like a legacy of the past, an invitation to contemplate the pleasures of tender love and the amorous meanderings of the mind excited by the grace of a simple touch. The image's construct is suffused with all the emotions aroused by the sight of Cupid in search of a heart to pierce with his arrow. The idea may appear antiquated, but it is nonetheless still valid. True feelings are eternal and prompted by the same triggers.
Love in motion
The cherub and the butterfly is a replica of a sketch produced by the Designer's automaton, a source of fascination throughout 18th century Europe, and one that provokes similar emotions today. A sophisticated mechanism protected by two patents is activated by a single press of the crown. As if by magic, a poetic world is set in motion beneath the dial's crystal. With sublime grace and delicacy, the butterfly flutters into life, pulling a carriage ridden by a cherub along in its wake. The clever interplay of fixed and mobile spokes make the wheel of the carriage appear to be turning. This well-known device, commonly employed by the craftsmen of yesteryear, is given full expression here. The sophisticated decoration, crafted and assembled entirely by hand in red gold or in white gold, is endowed with great realism using forty elements of incredible finesse and complexity the arms and charming facial features of the little cherub.
Words fail when it comes to the butterfly's exquisitely fragile legs and antennae. The trees, just 0.2 millimeters thick, are engraved one by one, as are the hands. Here, the watchmaker's expertise is employed in the service of art, involving an innovative patent-pending technique. The finely sculpted volumes in gold contrast strikingly with the onyx or Polynesian black mother-of-pearl dial, rendering the magic of this timeless scene more hypnotic.
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Three years have gone into the development of this exclusive automaton module with two patents pending. The power reserve, supplied by three barrels powered by a hand-wound crown, allows the butterfly to delicately flutter its wings 300 times in the space of around two minutes. As you can see in the photos, the realism of the scene is even more powerful and immensely captivating. The nicely decorated movement, is viewable through the transparent case back, the hour-minute movement houses a 22K gold oscillating weight engraved with the carriage wheel motif, symbolic of life.
Reserved exclusively for an initiated few, each version of this marvel of watchmaking lifted by the wings of love is part of a series limited to just 28 pieces, and comes with a certificate of authenticity signed by the Jaquet Droz master craftsmen that created your timepiece.
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Translated from the original French text
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While visiting Jaquet-Droz, I was amazed at the dedication that the entire Team was showing. The result is such a piece of art as the Jaquet Droz loving butterfly automaton. It carries the brand’s heritage and the one that we expect hearing at the name. The onyx dial contrasts with the gold case and scenery and enhances the artistic craftsmanship that was put into the piece.