The invention of singing bird boxes is attributed to Swiss-born watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz who also played a significant role in the creation of The Writer, a programmable automaton of a writing boy that recently inspired the movie Hugo. The basic device includes the bellows mechanism mentioned above along with a fully articulated bird with a moving beak, rotating head, and flapping wings. Several 18th and 19th century watchmakers including Jacob Frisard, Frères Rochat, and Charles Bruguier, were inspired by Jaquet-Droz’s to create their own opulent variations of singing bird boxes which are highly prized by collectors today. Variations include cigar holders, singing bird guns, and jewelry/makeup boxes.
One fantastic source of many antique bird boxes is London-based Douglas Fisher Antique Automata who carefully films almost all of their devices and makes them available on their YouTube channel. Included here are a few of my favorites, and you can also watch a number of fantastic technical videos about singing bird boxes filmed by Troy Duncan.
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