When you are paying in excess of half a million Swiss francs for a watch, you have the right to expect great things. Jaquet Droz delivers them with its Bird Repeater watch, which is produced in a strictly limited edition of only eight pieces. Inspired by the automata produced by Pierre Jaquet Droz, which are now found in museums, as well as the prevalence of birds in his work, the Bird Repeater presents an authentic automaton, complete with a cam system just like those used in the original automata, reduced to fit into a 47mm gold case.
At the touch of a button, the picturesque scene on the dial, featuring a pair of blue tits at their nest, with the Saut du Doubs waterfall in the background, comes to life as the mother feeds her chicks and the father spreads his wings. An egg in the nest then opens to reveal a chick as the water streams over the cascade. The intricate animation is accompanied by the striking of the hours, quarters and minutes on a cathedral gong.
Although in a completely different register, the TNT Royal Retro 43 by Pierre DeRoche offers its own unique animation. The Dubois Dépraz calibre that powers the watch is exclusive to Pierre DeRoche and has six gear-driven retrograde seconds hands with a strip-spring return system. In an horological relay race, each hand sweeps around its ten-second scale before passing the baton on to the next and springing back to its starting point.
In its latest incarnation, the signature Pierre DeRoche complication is presented in a more modest 43mm case with a black PVD-coated titanium case middle and contrasting bezel, lugs, crown guard and crown in stainless steel. The visual ballet and the exclusive self-winding movement that powers it are both visible through scratch-resistant sapphire crystals on the front and back of the watch. The TNT Royal Retro 43 is a limited edition of 201 pieces.
There is little doubt that a modern luxury watch comes with a movement that offers superlative accuracy. Some brands back up their claims by submitting some or even all of their production to the COSC, which will certify that the movement is accurate in accordance with their exacting standards.
But all this is based purely on laboratory testing to simulate various wearing scenarios. Urwerk takes things a step further, however, by accommodating the technology to monitor the watch’s accuracy (which usually takes the form of a bulky Witschi timing machine on the watchmaker’s benchtop) within the watch itself. As if that wasn’t enough, the wearer of the EMC watch can even adjust the length of the balance spring himself by turning a screw on the case back, thus correcting the rate of the movement based on the instantaneous rate delta that can be displayed on demand.
The whole process starts with a few turns of a hand crank on the side of the case to charge up a capacitor to power a mini computer that compares the frequency of oscillations of the 4Hz UR-EMC calibre against a 16,000,000 Hz reference signal. After a three-second measurement period, the result is displayed on the most prominent scale on the dial, with the humble hours and minutes relegated to a subdial at the bottom right of the case. The EMC is a smart watch ahead of its time.