Friday, October 23, 2009

Swiss singing bird music box clock automaton

Swiss singing bird music box clock automaton
Here's an attractive, fairly recently made miniature singing bird music box by Swiss manufacturer Reuge.

From the eBay listing:
Offered for sale is a singing bird music box made in Switzerland by Reuge, probably made in the 1980's. The multi-colored bird is in full feather and will sing a beautiful song. This is in perfect working and singing condition, having been recently serviced by a professional restorer. The clock is separate from the bird automaton and does not activate it. The bird plays by pulling out the knob on the right-hand side. It is in very fine condition, mechanically and cosmetically.

Here's the eBay listing for this particular Swiss singing bird music box clock automaton

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Accordion player automaton nickelodeon

Accordion player automaton nickelodeon
Here's an interesting coin-operated automaton depicting an accordion player currently on the eBay auction site.

From the eBay listing
Made by Swiss automaton builder Zwahlen from Yverdon ca. 1960. Moves finger, lips,eye brows, eyes and plays with tape recorder inside. You can put loud/soft and playing time.

Here's a link to the eBay listing for this Accordion player automaton nickelodeon.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Vintage automatic cigarette dispenser music box

Vintage automatic cigarette dispenser music box
Here is a neat vintage automatic cigarette dispenser on eBay. There is a button on the front that when pushed starts a the music box. The multiple doors of the dispenser gently open to reveal the chamber inside and reverse side of the doors where cigarettes have been placed. The doors then close on their own to finish the cycle.

Here is the full eBay listing with many other pictures for this Vintage automatic cigarette dispenser music box

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Junod's Wonderland - video of a true master

A wonderful video with English translations profiling a modern master of classic automata. I'm so glad people like Francois Junod and his team still exist.

From the YouTube description:
Swiss artist Francois Junod has changed the automaton into a new art form. He calls his unique creations androids - mechanical robots designed to resemble humans in both appearance and behaviour. (swissinfo, Julie Hunt) visited his studio in St Croix, in the Jura mountains.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Antique sailing ships automaton and music box

Antique Sailing Ships Automaton Music Box
The two small wood and paper ships inside this 19th-century automaton have French flags, so it is likely of French make. The base of the scene is hollow so it can house a Swiss music Box and the tiny mechanism that causes the two ships to rock up and down on the painted tissue paper waves. A very charming antique automaton.

Here is the full eBay listing with many more photos of this antique sailing ships automaton and music box

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Video of Three Jaquet-Droz Automata in BBC Film

While a bit longer than most videos I like to post, this one is worth a look. The first several minutes contain footage of the three famous automata created by Pierre Jaquet-Droz: The Musician, The Writer, and The Draftsman.

The automata footage is in the first few minutes. If you are curious about the French Revolution, Mozart, and Ben Franklin, by all the rest of the clip. Pretty interesting stuff, actually.

The video is from part 8 "The Drive For Power" of a 13 part series "The Ascent of Man" by Jacob Bronowski available as a 5 DVD set.

Here is a link to the The Ascent of Man 5 volume set.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Magic Decapitation Automaton by Artist Zdenka

Swiss artist, Zdenka, is apparently known for her work in making fully functional limited edition automata in the style of the 1800s. There does seem to be a lot of detail and workmanship this magic-themed automaton. I have seen antiques that perform this same trick. The listing says she uses rare doll bodies to make up these pieces.

This Magic Decapitation Automaton is currently open for bids on eBay.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

DIY Music Machine - Programmable Gloggomobil

Programmable Music MachineI published a post not long ago about an inexpensive Programmable DIY Mechanical Music Box that uses paper strips to program the song to be played.

Here is its upscale cousin -- the Gloggomobil, made by Naef, a swiss company.

The wooden barrel is spun by means of a hand-crank on the side. Small pegs are inserted into pre-drilled holes in the barrel to determine what note plays and when. The music plays on a small-scale metallophone or Glockenspiel (like a xylophone but with metal tuned bars rather than wood).

Where you see more than one peg on a line, the instrument will play a chord. It looks like it comes with pair of mallets for composing or non-automated playing.

The Gloggomobil will set you back over $1000 USD, but I am told it is of excellent craftsmanship and that they are made in limited quantities. This design cries out for a DIY version.

Once again, my thanks goes out to Falk Keuten who tells me he has had one of these amazing musical, mechanical gizmos for 30 years.

Check out a few more details on the Gloggomobil.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Swiss Watches and Objects with Automata

The photographs are too darn small, but you really must take a look at these watches and clocks with integrated automata. The site says they date from 1770 to 1850.

The cursor doesn't change when you roll over it, but the text that says "Full printable version" is a link that will open a small window with a photograph of the item.

Most unusual is the derringer that is really a small clock with a singing bird automaton. That's got to be one of the strangest combination of things I've ever heard of. Funny, beautiful, clever, incongruous, and chock full of man-hours. Yup, you guessed right: I love it.

See this Collection of Swiss Watches and Objects with Automata

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Writer Automaton by Pierre Jaquet-Droz

I saved the best for last. The Writer is the most complex of the three automata Jacquet-Droz automata housed at the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. The Writer is programmable such that he can write out any line of text up to 40 letters long. The sentence to be written is coded on a wheel where characters are ordered individually in sequence.

He writes with a real goose feather which he dips ink. After dipping the quill, the automaton taps the quill over the inkwell to remove excess ink to prevent drips. His eyes follow the text as he writes, and his head moves when he dips the quill in the inkwell.

Again, this clip is from Monsieur Sayous's film The Jaquet-Droz Androids, available at

The Writer by Pierre Jaquet-Droz

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Musician Automaton by Jaquet-Droz

Another of three surviving Jaquet-Droz automata is The Musican. Here is a clip from THE JAQUET-DROZ ANDROIDS by Philippe Sayous. She is actually playing a custom made organ. As if that wasn't amazing enough, she moves her head to read the sheet music and can be seen breathing. Jaquet-Droz's attention to detail is astounding considering the mechanical sophistication required for the basic effect.

The full video (in French or English, NTSC or PAL) can be ordered at

The Musician by Pierre Jaquet-Droz

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Friday, June 23, 2006

The Draftsman Automaton by Jaquet-Droz

One of three surviving Jaquet-Droz automata is The Draftsman or. Check out this clip from THE JAQUET-DROZ ANDROIDS by French producer and director Philippe Sayous. The video (in French or English, NTSC or PAL) can be ordered on his site The automaton not only draws elegant pencil drawings, but it also blows the dust from the drawing. Amazing.

The Draftsman by Pierre Jaquet-Droz

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Pierre Jaquet-Droz Automatons

Pierre Jaquet-Droz (1721-1790) was a Swiss-born watchmaker of the late eighteenth century. He lived in Paris, London, and Geneva, where he designed and built animated dolls, or automata, to help his firm sell watches and mechanical birds.

Constructed between 1768 and 1774 by Pierre Jaquet-Droz, his son Henri-Louis (1752-1791), and Jean-Frederic Leschot (1746-1824) were The Writer (made of 6000 pieces), The Musician (2500 pieces) and The Draughtsman (2000 pieces).

Here is a clip of the Pierre Jaquet-Droz automaton The Writer on YouTube.

To get a good look at all of the working masterworks, you should consider buying a well made automata film on video from my associate in France, Monsieur Philippe Sayous. It is available in French and in English.

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Automaton by Maillardet is able to Draw and Write

Maillardet's Automaton is one of the most impressive working mechanical automata in existance. Built around 1800, the automaton is capable of creating amazing drawings and handwriting with a real pen.

It has a great back-story involving its loss, recovery, and unknown origins. The automaton itself plays a pivotal and active role in solving the mystery. Stranger than fiction!

Check out the drawing and writing Automaton by Maillardet at the Franklin Institute's web site.

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