With gold and enamel floral-shaped key.
The first automatons appeared in Geneva in the late 18th century, small technical marvels imitating the movements of living creatures or beings, ranging from simpler "Bras en l'Air" figures whose arms would indicate the time to incredibly complex works such as pastoral, theatre or other scenes. Some of these automata were fitted with repeating or musical mechanisms and were highly appreciated works of art not only in Europe but also by Chinese and Ottoman dignitaries.
Made by Louis Duchêne & Fils, the present automaton is an exceptional example for the outstanding quality of such a watch produced by one of the most eminent craftsman in Geneva. It is extraordinary for the complexity and ingeniousness of the automaton mechanisms driving six automatons and the small watch movement, separated from the automaton movement and incorporated into its top plate.
The master watchmaker Louis Duchêne (1730-1804) of Geneva was renowned for his repeating and automata watches. As of 1791 his son was taken into partnership and the firm became "Louis Duchêne & Fils". The firm excellent in the manufacture of finely enamelled form watches and watches with all conceivable complications such as minute repeating, Petite et Grande Sonnerie, date, jump hours, but were probably best known for their extraordinary automata watches which they also supplied to China.
A selection of different watches signed Ls Duchêne & Fils are illustrated in Technique and History of the Swiss Watch by Eugène Jaquet and Alfred Chapuis, plates 74, 87, 102 and 110.