Learn about the geography and history of watches to help you understand difficult movements

Having just returned from the Geneva Watch Show (SIHH), among the many new products, I would like to say two more words about today’s moving couple. Because in the world of clocks, “moving” and “sounding” are recognized as the highest realm. Today’s talk is both dynamic and sounding, but it is not the “top brand” that watch fans think. The concept of top brands needs to be updated, from the historical dimension, from the product dimension, in fact, our understanding of the top brands is not comprehensive. Historical data show that the current brand, in the early years, there were cooperation and exchanges between founders. It is ridiculous to “support” a brand in isolation and “step on” a brand. It’s even more ridiculous to evaluate a product just from the brand.

The key word: “difficult”, both schools of craftsmen believe that it is impossible to complete

Although the art of the watch was lost for a while, it is still preserved in the arts and crafts and jewelry industries. Automaton (French Automate) first appeared in France, and later developed into a moving couple clock combined with clocks in Switzerland in the 18th and 19th centuries. After that, it disappeared. Since the beginning of last year, the puppet has returned to the exhibition of Haute Horlogerie, and today, the industry’s highest exhibition combining Art Deco and the watch of the moving puppet is officially back. Based on my understanding of the geography and history of the industry, I think this piece is one of the most difficult moves in the watch industry today. The difficulty is that both schools of craftsmen think that this work is impossible to complete! And the French brand Van Cleef & Arpels actually finished it.

“Active” and “ringing” clocks have a single way

Studying the origin of clocks in the valley, there are two reasons why we are interested in music boxes, one is that we can see music boxes in many clocks, and the other is that many music boxes have finally been developed to a more extreme realm by craftsmen. Recently, Van Cleef & Arpels displayed the Automate Fee Ondine (official translation: Lingbo Fairy) at SIHH, which combines music boxes and motion dolls.

Music boxes and kinetics have always been linked throughout history. The famous singing bird is a combination of a moving puppet and a music box. The singing birds were lost after being used to the extreme by the Rosa brothers in the valley. Until last year, a certain valley brand had restored the singing birds. At the same time, as the inventor of the mechanical puppet on the clock and the singing bird, Jaquet Droz also launched the singing bird song watch on the wrist in 2016.

The “writer” of the puppet made by Jaquet Droz at the end of the 18th century

In the history of clocks and watches, chime watches are divided into three categories: 1. Singing birds belong to the pistons that blow the whistle; 2. The music box is to stir the reed to make sound; 3. The question table belongs to the sound hammer hitting the sound of the sound spring. All three of these ringing methods are meant to be extraordinary.

The ancestor of the music box is the ancient church clock

Built in 1350, a church in Strasbourg has an astronomical pendulum clock that strikes multiple melodies instead of a single “Duang, Duang, Duang”. In the earliest days, such church bells used a tree trunk tied to pebbles to turn the lever, and the pole to ring the bell.

Before 1796, some people in Geneva had already used this principle to make music boxes. Antoine Favre used the principle of church bells to propose a concept, attaching nails to the drum to pluck the reed.

Soon, David-Nicolas Lecoultre of the valley was the first to make the core of this music box. This brother is the grandfather of Antoine LeCoultre, who later created the Jaeger-LeCoultre brand. David Nicolas’ two sons were not idle, they perfected the craft of the music box, and later made the main splint of the music box for the watch factory. It was also suspected that the know-how of exporting music boxes to the outside world later led to another region of Switzerland eventually becoming the music box production capital (there was nothing wrong with the valley at all).

Music box production was transferred from the valley to Sainte Croix

The transfer was seen as a spy incident (too late to say anything). Didn’t it be mentioned earlier that Geneva first proposed the concept of a music box for miniature church bells? What can really be done well is the people of Jaeger-LeCoultre, the grandfather and uncles of the founder of the Jaeger-LeCoultre family, making the valley the main production area of music boxes. However, the Geneva side wanted to wean itself off its dependence on the valley, and their eyes gradually fell on the neighboring area of Sant Cova outside the valley.

The region has been acquiring the basic materials and equipment needed to produce music boxes. According to the data, a secret relationship led to the transfer of the music box from the valley to Saint-Cova, which was the secret contact between Abram-Louis Cuendet and a member of the Legute family in the village of Sherni in the rural village of Sherni in the valley, facilitated by another justice of the peace named Pige.

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By 1911, the strategy of introducing the music box industry in the Santa Kova area began to bear fruit, and eventually the area became the music box production capital. In 2017, Van Cleef & Arpels produced two Extraordinary objects, at least one of which was Automate Fée Ondine, the main creator of which is Juno from the San Cova region. My first reaction when I saw this piece was that it should be a specialty of the Santa Kova region. To make sure, I asked the Van Cleef & Arpels docent, and he confirmed the matter. I have also been confirmed that this Juno is also involved in the design and production of some of the moving couples. This brings us back to the clock puppet that was born almost at the same time as the music box.

Coupling clocks originated in France and are abundant in the valley

History says Jaquet Droz is the inventor of the moving couple’s clock. There are two meanings here, one is that he was the first to make clocks with puppets; Second, it is unknown when the moving couple device was invented. In 1738, the Frenchman Vaucanson demonstrated in Paris a robot with a shepherd tapping a drum pipe, a flute playing, and a duck shaking its head and tail, drinking water and croaking. Apparently there is no clock on this robot. By 1780, Jaquet Droz had made a moving doll with a clock, the singing bird. It is said that there are Jacques Droz’s moving dolls in the Forbidden City, whether they belong to this era or earlier, I need the guest official to help me verify.

There are many forms of moving couples, such as those that can jump out of a flower, and pens that can spray perfume.

From 1802 onwards, the Rosa brothers of the valley were apprenticed to Jaquet Droz and developed their own characteristics in singing birds (pistol pistol puppets). Because the geographical and human environment of the valley was more suitable for making intricate and complex things in history, the Rosa brothers gradually became the masters of moving couples. Around 1804, the Rosa brothers opened shop in Geneva (since then Jaquet Droz has rarely been seen in the literature). In the eighties, the Rosa brothers’ pistol singing bird was auctioned for $1.1 million in Geneva. I remember that the world’s last best remaining singing birds were in the collection of the Museum of Time in the United States, and the most expensive Patek Philippe pocket watch ever auctioned in previous years is also in the museum (Americans say, clocks should be turned over, if you want it, take it away).

The most difficult thing is to cooperate across production areas and industries

The masters who participated in the production of Van Cleef & Arpels’ fairy puppet work have said that this thing is impossible to complete! Because there are so many craftsmanship and techniques involved in this work, including gemstone processing, metal carving modeling, clock machinery, moving dolls, enamel and so on. No studio can do it on its own, and no one has ever done anything like this. Everyone unanimously acknowledged that Van Cleef & Arpels achieved a work unimaginable in the industry through repeated communication (communication between brands and studios, communication between studios). Therefore, insiders look at this work and see cross-industry and cross-production cooperation.

Since the moving puppet has reached its peak in the valley, and the music box technology has long been transferred to St. Cova, when you see the fairy moving puppet, you will definitely think of the Pu Valley and St. Cova. As for other crafts, as the press release put it, “there are several living craft heritage” studios involved.

It should be said that François Juno, who is responsible for the puppet and music box, has not lived in vain in his life, he never dreamed that he could make a puppet music box for the time-honored brand on Place Vendôme in Paris, and this time it was a dream.

Another Van Cleef & Arpels work, the Butterfly Doll, also benefits in part from the Valfleurier movement factory, which belongs to the canton of Vaud in the valley. This also proves the strength of the valley region as the “Silicon Valley” of Swiss watches.