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Automaton watches - When watches come to life

Automaton watches When watches come to life

Automaton watches are some of the most intricate and enchanting timepieces. We train the spotlight on four breathtaking creations

Generally speaking, apart from a few components concealed beneath the dial, the hands are the only part of a watch that moves. However, every so often, the magic of watchmaking expertise weaves its spell and, as if by magic, the whole timepiece springs to life. This is the captivating world of automaton watches, where mechanical mastery joins forces with a touch of poetry to create exceptional horological art. 

For years, the concept of poetic time has been a signature of Van Cleef & Arpels’ creations, which was why it was no surprise to see a number of automatons at their Watches and Wonders booth. Among the extraordinary pieces on display was the nature-inspired Floraison du Nénuphar (blooming water lily). This captivating 30cm-tall masterpiece combines time display on the base with a mesmerising performance. When activated by the user, a water lily opens, revealing a lifelike butterfly with wings that flutter momentarily in a natural rhythm. The butterfly then retreats to the heart of the flower as it delicately folds its petals closed — all against the backdrop of a crystalline melody.

When watches come to life

Floraison du Nénuphar © Van Cleef and Arpels

Richard Mille stays true to his signature hyper-mechanical watchmaking style, while infusing the RM 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur with a touch of poetry. This timepiece marries traditional horological artistry with a dynamic, contemporary twist, emblematic of Mille’s vision of 21st-century watchmaking. A flying tourbillon, that most complex of complications, is transformed into an automaton, with the tourbillon cage nestled within a magnolia flower. Its five delicate handmade and hand-painted petals gracefully open and close in time to a captivating kinetic ballet.

When watches come to life

RM 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur © Richard Mille

The stunning new Astronomia Revolution by Jacob and Co. showcases a unique combination of precision and entertainment. The watch is powered by a finely-crafted movement that completes a full rotation in just 60 seconds. The double-axis flying tourbillon features a rotating cage, visible from every angle, encapsulating a space telescope between the tourbillon cage and off-centered hours. Using an arrow to indicate seconds, the watch continues to captivate as the ruby-set arrowhead rotates on its own axis every 15 seconds.

When watches come to life

Astronomia Revolution © Jacob and Co.

Louis Vuitton demonstrates its mastery of horological automata once again with an unapologetically feminine timepiece, the Tambour Fiery Heart Automata. The grand feu enamel dial, decorated with an engraved climbing rosebush and two flamboyant red roses, reveals an enchanting series of animations upon activation. An outer halo of thorns emerges to surround the hours and minutes subdial. The two previously dormant enamel roses at 4 and 12 o’clock spring to life as the Monogram flowers in their centres rotate. The passionate, fiery heart beats fervently, its dancing flames seemingly fanned by an unseen force. As it opens, a tender message appears with a warning: “Sweet but Fierce.” This breathtaking display of horological brilliance is the result of three years’ research and development by Louis Vuitton’s high watchmaking workshop.

When watches come to life

Tambour Fiery Heart Automata © Louis Vuitton

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Jacob & Co. is an artistic visionary Maison that displays boundless creative freedom. Setting a completely new tone, both in terms of design and complications, it celebrates being different.

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Twenty years ago, Louis Vuitton boldly ventured into the world of watchmaking with the unveiling of the Tambour watch. Since, the Maison has dreamt up a growing collection of innovative timepieces...

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Each of Van Cleef & Arpels’ creations is imbued with jewelry and watchmaking excellence, drawing inspiration from whether nature, couture or the imagination. Its creations evoke a timeless world of...

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