New Derrick by Louis Moinet
The New Derrick by Louis Moinet is yet another timepiece from the high-end watch brand equipped with an automaton. This latest model eschews the tourbillon seen on its older siblings, providing more room for the headline act to showcase its talents. Angus Davies looks closely at this fascinating timepiece conceived by the super-creative Jean-Marie Schaller and his talented team.
An automaton is a mechanical device capable of imitating the behaviour of an animal, human or another object. Automatons have existed, in various forms, for hundreds of years. For example, the Prague Astronomical Clock, the world’s oldest astronomical clock (1410), features four automatons which come alive on the hour.
However, Jacques de Vaucanson (1709 – 1782) is probably the person most synonymous with automatons. In 1740, Vaucanson, a French inventor, unveiled a duck, mainly constructed of gold-plated copper with intestines formed of rubber tubing. Whilst in the presence of Louis XV, Vaucanson initiated a mechanical sequence of events. The duck rose, flapped its wings, flexed its neck before it consumed a small quantity of grain. Thereafter, the duck drank, splashed its beak in water, sat and, ultimately defecated in a dish.
Image – Vaucanson’s Duck
Later, Swiss-born watchmaker, Pierre Jaquet-Droz created three different automatons, ‘The Draughtsman’, ‘The Musician’ and ‘The Writer’. I have had the pleasure of seeing The Writer perform and witnessed it come to life despite a distinct absence of electronics or electrical power. This clockwork automaton wrote text, comprised of 40 characters and arranged over four lines and its eyes followed the motion of The Writer’s quill.
Image – ‘The Writer’
The aforementioned automatons were the preserve of the wealthy. Typically, the automaton would be placed upon a dining table, invariably after supper, and then the mechanical entertainment would ensue, to the amusement of the assembled guests.
Automatons are inextricably linked with horology. Making small components, mastering mechanical motion and giving due consideration to timing are the prerequisite skills needed for making automatons, clocks and watches. In many instances, automatons have been paired with clocks. Indeed, the cuckoo clock is effectively a simple automaton clock.
When viewing an automaton from the 18th century, one must consider that computer-aided design (CAD), CNC machines and numerous other technologies were not in existence at the time. Design was restricted to manual drawings and fabrication was performed solely with hand tools. With this in mind, the achievements of Vaucanson and Jaquet-Droz are quite extraordinary.
Louis Monet and automatons
In 2013, Ateliers Louis Moinet unveiled the Derrick Tourbillon, a watch pairing Breguet’s ‘whirlwind’ with an automaton. As the name of this model implies, the automaton recreates a pumpjack, or ‘nodding donkey’, a type of reciprocating pump used to extract oil, albeit in this instance, presented in miniature form. The design of the watch is ingenious, reaffirming Louis Moinet’s creative prowess. Furthermore, since its unveiling, the model’s appeal has never waned and it still remains a member of the brand’s current collection.
The dial of the Derrick Tourbillon features a guilloché motif, ‘Côtes du Jura’, a generously proportioned aperture for the tourbillon and stylish ‘Gouttes de Rosée hands’. However, it is the animated oil derrick which is most likely to capture onlookers’ attention.
Image – Derrick Tourbillon
The ‘walking beam’, ‘Pitman arm’ and rotating ‘counterweight’ are wonderfully replicated in lilliputian scale. The automaton is in continuous motion, performing one nodding cycle every 15 seconds. Most notably, despite the motion of both the tourbillon and the adjacent automaton, nothing impairs readability.
Louis Moinet has never been a brand to sit still and in 2016, the Maison unveiled the Black Gold Derrick.
Image – Black Gold Derrick
The dial of this model is pared back, eschewing the guilloché surface of the 2013 model in favour of an openworked design. The skeletonised bridges feature black PVD coating and afford views of the keyless works and hour wheel. This nakedness also extends to the openworked barrel, disclosing the mainspring within.
Consistent with the Derrick Tourbillon launched in 2013, the Black Gold Derrick is endowed with a tourbillon and the same animated pumpjack. However, on this newer model, the oil-drilling theme extends to a rotating oil drum which imparts the running seconds.
Buoyed by the success of its oil-inspired watches, Louis Moinet turned its attention to gas, releasing the Derrick Gaz. While this model also has a derrick and a tourbillon, it also features a power-reserve indicator which simulates the appearance of a manometer.
Image – Derrick Gaz
Recently, the prestigious company unveiled an additional model, the New Derrick by Louis Moinet. This watch forgoes the tourbillon escapement found on its forebears, presenting its oil pumpjack centre stage for the wearer’s enjoyment.
Prospective purchasers have the choice of two dial variants: a ‘woven carbon fibre mesh’ or a ‘hand-punched surface’. Both options are blessed with an arresting complexion. On balance, I would probably favour the ‘hand-punched surface’ as it has a slightly toned down appearance, granting more prominence to the hands and automaton.
Both dials feature a multi-section design, with each constituent part retained with visible screws. The New Derrick by Louis Moinet is also equipped with partially openworked ‘Gouttes de Rosée hands’. These reveal more of the automaton without impairing readability.
The automaton is comprised of an openworked walking beam and horsehead, a Pitman arm and a counterweight. The depiction of the pumpjack is intentionally stylised and simplified to avoid the dial appearing cluttered.
An exposed wheel is positioned just above 6 o’clock. It is attached to the fourth wheel of the gear train and drives the small seconds display. The seconds are indicated with a 3-arm hand in conjunction with a 20-second track. In addition, the wheel is also in mesh with a smaller wheel propelling the counterweight of the derrick along with the rest of the automaton. An additional rotating wheel is positioned at 9 o’clock, augmenting visual interest.
The automaton performs three complete cycles every minute.
The New Derrick by Louis Moinet is housed in a 45.4mm, 18-carat rose gold case. The diameter of this model is smaller than the aforementioned Derrick Tourbillon which measures 47mm. While the size difference may not sound much, it is more noticeable when the watch is worn.
Louis Moinet has endowed this latest model with its ‘NEO’ case, an elaborate yet tasteful design seen on other watches within the brand’s collection. The main body of the case has an arcing profile, narrowing as it approaches the case back.
Louis Moinet state ‘everything is constructed around two horizontal bridges, spanning the piece and securing the strap in place at each end of their lugs’. The openworked lugs imbue the appearance of the case with a visual lightness. Close examination of the case reveals that its construction is incredibly complex, formed of numerous parts, however, its glorious appearance justifies the brand’s efforts.
The crown is easy to grip and features the company’s fleur de lys emblem on its vertical flank, presented in relief. A sapphire case back affords views of the self-winding movement, the Calibre LM64.
The New Derrick by Louis Moinet features a self-winding movement, the Calibre LM64. The oscillating mass is adorned with a ‘concentric clous de Paris’ decoration, presented in a golden hue. Beneath the oscillating mass, the movement is embellished with circular graining and Côtes de Genève motif.
Each part of the automaton is made of lightweight brushed aluminium. The automaton is powered by the movement, but courtesy of its low mass requires little energy to function. Indeed, the power reserve is a respectable 48 hours, demonstrating the automaton’s frugal thirst.
The balance is regulated with an index-adjuster and has a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz). The movement comprises of 248 parts, including 28 jewels.
Looking back to my school days, there were always some children who looked over their shoulders in order to plagiarise the work of others. No such allegations could ever be directed towards Jean-Marie Schaller, Louis Moinet’s CEO and Creative Director.
Schaller has always been, and remains, instrumental to Louis Moinet’s extraordinary inventiveness and artistic flair. Indeed, these latter traits are at the epicentre of the firm’s DNA. Having known the charismatic Schaller for a number of years, I suspect that in childhood he possessed an amazing imagination, bursting with thoughts of subaquatic worlds, distant planets and extraterrestrial life. Certainly, in adulthood, Schaller’s incredible imagination is manifest.
Image – Jean-Marie Schaller
When the New Derrick by Louis Moinet is wound and its pumpjack is in flight, it proves fascinating to behold. However, it has an array of other attributes, including excellent readability, a beautifully formed NEO case and a palpable sense of quality and refinement.
Few companies make automaton watches. Indeed, I can only think of two firms, Louis Moinet and Jaquet-Droz. The latter brand crafts amazing automaton watches, featuring incredibly elaborate and realistic details such as singing birds with lifelike feathers. However, a Jaquet Droz Charming Bird is produced in very limited numbers and is priced at 410,400 CHF excluding VAT (circa 2015). Quite simply, this level of horological excellence attracts commensurate pricing.
By comparison, the New Derrick is simpler, albeit it remains an incredible creation. It is priced at 55,000 CHF (RRP as at 19.2.2020), a not insignificant sum, but much more affordable than the Jaquet Droz. The New Derrick by Louis Moinet enriches the horological landscape but, most pertinently, it perpetuates the mechanical wonderment of 18th century automata, a time when Jacques de Vaucanson and Pierre Jaquet-Droz conceived ideas few people had even imagined.
Based on the Louis Moinet’s impressive body of work to date, I am keen to see the brand’s 2020 novelties and discover what Monsieur Schaller and his team have conceived and subsequently brought to life.
- Model: New Derrick by Louis Moinet
- Reference: LM-64.50.50 (hand-punched surface) / LM-64.50.51 (woven carbon-fibre mesh)
- Case: 18-carat rose gold case; diameter 45.4mm; water resistance 5ATM (50 metres); sapphire crystal to front; sapphire caseback.
- Functions: hours; minutes; small seconds; automaton
- Movement: Caliber LM64; Self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 28 jewels; power reserve 48 hours; 248 components.
- Strap: Alligator leather strap paired with a 18-carat rose gold folding clasp.
- Price: CHF 55,000 (RRP as at 19.2.2020)
- Limited Edition: 12 pieces in each dial configuration