“Some watches tell time, some tell a story”
The Watch Museum of Le Locle (MHL) and the International Museum of Horology in La Chaux-de-Fonds (MIH) have joined forces to restore the Pierre Jaquet-Droz pendulum clock, a historic local project carried out by the non-profit Association Automates & Merveilles. The majestic timepiece, acquired in 1984 by the Watch Museum of Le Locle, is a treasure of Neuchâtel watchmaking heritage. Gifted by Napoleon to a Princess of Württemberg, the singing bird automaton is housed in a cage mounted on a mahogany French cabinet decorated with bronze Empire style motifs.
The aim of the restoration of the Jaquet-Droz pendulum clock is to return it to a condition similar to its original state. The clock has not been operated for a number of years, so it is therefore crucial that each component is removed and cleaned. The mechanisms require a complete service.
The grand complication movement at the heart of this priceless piece which bears a brass plaque that reads: “Pierre Jaquet-Droz à La Chaux-de-Fonds” has been inspected and cleaned. The bird motif has been part of Jaquet-Droz since the brand’s inception. Pierre-André Grimm has refreshed the bird’s plumage while respecting the original feathers. With regards to the wings, a spacing analysis found a lack of mobility in this area, contrary to the restored beak, tail and throat of the bird.
Originally the serin’s glorious song could be heard on demand, or automatically on the hour, in testament to the grand complication inside the timepiece. The six melodies in its repertoire were played by a pin-barrel serinette, a feat of mechanical genius that produced sounds by air intake to its flutes. The serinette has now been restored, thanks to Walter Dahler’s long-term endeavor of measuring, checking and reassembling, and some 75 hours of studying the movement.
Under the supervision of Sylvain Varone, was tasked with creating identical reproductions of the four-link chains in the motor of the serinette and the clock.
This work involves producing initial cutouts, carrying out strength testing, and testing the metals. To date, the team has produced the stamps and ordered the components for profile-turning, which is the final stage before reassembly.
On the exterior of the piece, the gilt-bronze motifs have been restored to their former excellence by Olivier Bauermeister.