Timepieces with automatons and jaquemarts are a lot more fun than replica watches that just tell time. An automaton, illustrated here by the flying butterfly on the Van Cleef & Arpels Papillon Automate, is an animated figure driven by a mechanical movement. The dancer on Ulysse Nardin’s Pin-up is a jaquemart, an automaton linked to a chiming function, usually a minute repeater.
The Lady Arpels Papillon Automate is part of Van Cleef & Arpels poetic dials collection, with dials that depict some romantic scene, often incorporating fairies and butterflies. This model is equipped with an automaton module, developed in partnership with sister company Valfleurier, that drives the wings of a butterfly, causing them to flutter randomly anywhere from one to four times in a row. The number of times the wings beat, and how often, depends on the power reserve. When the watch is worn, the rotor winds the barrel for more power, which in turn makes the butterfly come alive more often. Van Cleef is patenting four elements of the 417-component movement (174 components make up the self-winding base movement, and the rest are for the automaton module). The wings will also beat on demand when a button at 8 o’clock on the case side is pushed.
The dial reflects many hours at the bench in the brand’s metiers workshops. It includes mother-of-pearl marquetry, gemsetting and enamel in three separate techniques – champlevé, plique-à-jour and paillonné. Van Cleef created a curved version of plique-à-jour enamel in order to make the dial composition three-dimensional. It is set with round- and pear-shaped diamonds as well as sapphires in blue, mauve and violet shades. The case and bezel are set with diamonds. It is priced at $290.
Ulysse Nardin is one of the few practitioners of the wristwatch jacquemart, and collectors look forward to the brand’s limited-edition series. Previous dials have depicted characters in a circus, metal forgers, bell ringers and jazz musicians, all of which spring into action when the minute repeater chime is activated. The Classico Hourstriker Pin-up, brings the “delightful daring of the burlesque dancer” to life, says Ulysse Nardin, blurring the line somewhat between genres by entering the realm of the erotic copy watch, a jacquemart that typically has two players.
The dial of the Pin-up depicts a burlesque dancer surrounded by miniature paintings of peacock feathers. When the watch strikes the hours and half-hours (or on demand), the dancer’s “beauty” is exposed. It contains the automatic Caliber UN-610, with a 42-hour power reserve. It is a limited edition of 28 rose gold and platinum replica watches, priced at $103 and $124 respectively.