First Tortoise of a very limited series of Tortoises, all different and exclusive © Pagès Automata.

LA CHAUX-DE-FONDS, SWITZERLAND - The beginning of the year is always a thrilling moment for horology. With the opening of the most prestigious salons like the SIHH in Geneva and the Baselworld fair, all the brands and makers are competing alongside each other to show off their new designs and innovations.

However, there is one master watchmaker who has decided to rejuvenate the automaton, which was a highly desired novelty item of the 19th century, making a return to handmade traditional techniques. Raúl Pagès is about to reveal his first creation: “The Tortoise.” This very complicated automaton, which is entirely handmade, is composed of 18k white gold, enamel and finely set with sapphires and diamonds.

I had the privilege of seeing the intricate fabrication of the components necessary for its construction and it’s all very impressive! The Tortoise is composed of over 300 pieces, which allow it to move forwards while moving its legs and head.

Raúl Pagès making one of the components.

The history of mechanical wonders dates back to ancient times reaching their apex during the 19th Century when mechanical animals were “items for the amusement of the very wealthy." In 1810, Jaquet-Droz and Henri Maillardet touched the zenith of mechanical wonders with his renowned Ethiopian Caterpillar. Together with his Siberian Mouse and Egyptian Lizard, the fancifully named creature was a life-size automaton with perfectly realistic movement, which you may have seen in the latest exhibition “Automates et Merveilles” of the Horology Museum in Le Locle.

Through his work in horological restoration with Parmigiani Fleurier, Raúl Pagès has most definitely become a scholar in this field.

Symbolizing longevity, wisdom and perseverance, Raúl Pagès’ first “Tortoise” is a unique piece that reignites a wonderful art and a craftsmanship that was lost many years ago. Each Tortoise takes a year to complete and therefore is extremely rare.

During the enamel work process © Pagès Automata.

In a time when independent horological expression is becoming more prominent in the market place this really is an inspiring and innovative venture.

The Tortoise is a curiosity that will appeal to collectors for its historical, intellectual, technical and amusing qualities.

Tortoise with the shell open © Pagès Automata.