Parmigiani’s Mastery Showcased in Dragon Chiming-Automaton Clock

A lavish mechanical sculpture restored.

Originally presented in 2012 to that Year of the Dragon – and reputedly priced at over US$3 million at the time – the Parmigiani Le Dragon et la Perle du Savoir has been restored just in time for this Year of the Dragon that soon begins in February 2024. Now renamed Tempus Fugit, the automaton made up of a dragon chasing a flaming pearl, a traditional motif in Chinese culture.

Initial thoughts

This exemplifies Parmigiani’s mastery of ultra-high-end automatons and clocks that were a key part of its offerings in the 1990s. During that period, only Parmigiani and Gerald Genta specialised in such extraordinary creations. Although this was produced in 2012, it certainly evokes the sculptural automaton clocks of that earlier period.

Such extravagant automatons clocks are rare today – only Van Cleef & Arpels regularly creates such one-offs now – but are undeniably impressive. Like its peers, the dragon automaton combines goldsmithing, gem-setting, automata construction, and of course clockmaking, all techniques mastered by Parmigiani thanks to its restoration department, which was historically the best in Switzerland.

Naturally, the brand’s affordable and relatively more ordinary wristwatch offerings don’t possess the same extravagant craft, but it is good to know the scope of the brand’s capabilities.

The dragon chasing a pearl

A familiar motif in Chinese folklore, the dragon chasing a flaming pearl represents the pursuit of wisdom, prosperity, or power.

Here it has been realised in tangible form with a solid-gold dragon sculpture covered in 585 scales, each inlaid with jade in graduated colours, while the eyes and tongue of the dragon are carnelian. The pearl is similarly precious and set with diamonds, rubies, and yellow sapphires.

As a result of all the precious materials used, the just automaton stands 25 cm high but weighs a hefty 6.12 kg.

The dragon makes one revolution an hour on its base, inching closer to the pearl. However, the pearl speeds up and out of the dragon’s reach at six random times an hour, ensuring the chase continues in perpetuity. Each time the pearl speeds up, the chiming mechanism strikes a single note.

The automaton is powered by a key-wound, eight-day movement visible inside the rock crystal base. The time display is situated on the outer rim of the base with a jade pointer on an hour scale.

Key Facts and Price

Parmigiani “Tempus Fugit” Objet d’Art
Unique piece no. 44064

Dimensions: 28 cm by 16.5 cm
Material: Rock crystal, 18k yellow and white gold, various colours of jade, diamonds, sapphires, and rubies
Weight: 6.12 kg

Movement: PF670
Functions: Hours, minutes, dragon automaton chasing a pearl with chiming mechanism
Winding: Key wind
Frequency: 18,000 per hour (2.5 Hz)
Power reserve: Eight days

Limited edition: Unique piece
Availability: Part of the Parmigiani collection
Price: Unavailable

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