3 museums, 3 cities

L'écrivain, Pierre Jaquet-Droz, 1774, coll. MAHN
La Musicienne, Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz, 1774, coll. MAHN
Le dessinateur, Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz, 1774, coll. MAHN
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One exhibition, 3 museums, 3 cities

The Musée d'art et d'histoire de Neuchâtel, the Musée international d'horlogerie de La Chaux-de-Fonds and the Musée d'horlogerie du Locle – Château des Monts have joined forces to host an exhibition focussing on three leading figures in 18th century clockmaking: Pierre Jaquet-Droz, his son Henri-Louis and their associate Jean-Frédéric Leschot.

Hailing from the Neuchâtel mountains, Jaquet-Droz and son built up a reputation as inspired inventors and smart businessmen. Their renown, both in Europe and across the world, is founded on their production of luxury, understated and elegant pieces. Their forte was pieces of jewellery with miniaturised mechanisms, clocks with musical functions, such as singing birds, or even pendulum automata and androids.

To shine a light of the genius of the Pierre and Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz and Jean-Frédéric Leschot and the questions which link them to modern times, the three museums combine their expertise and their collections, enriched by a number of exceptional pieces on loan from public and private collections. Open to the public simultaneously in all three institutions, and in three languages (French, German, English), this international artistic and technical event will take the visitor from the 18th to the 21st century.

One project, numerous partners and several disciplines

The Automates & merveilles (Automata and marvels) project has given rise to a number of scientific and technical collaborations, notably with the Institut d'histoire de l'art et de muséologie (institute for the history of art and museology) at the University of Neuchâtel, which is leading a research project financed by the Swiss national fund for scientific research. Dedicated to the history of Pierre and Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz, from the perspective of their international family-run company, this study forms an important part of the project's scientific foundations. A range of collaborations with specialist universities and museum institutes in Switzerland and in Europe have contributed to this major project.

The exhibition

The Automates & merveilles (Automata and marvels) is split into three sections, with each of the museums focussing on a particular aspect of the world of Pierre and Henri-Louis Jaquet-Droz, linked to its collections. These themes will be illustrated by three automata currently kept in the Musée d'art et d'histoire de Neuchâtel, two of which will be moved to the partner museums for this event.

From the 700m2 of display space in the Musée d'art et d'histoire to the 70m2 at the Musée d'horlogerie du Locle, a lot of thought went into the construction of this shared project, designed to attract large numbers of visitors.

To achieve this result, the three partners quickly realised that they would have to unite under a single association which would symbolise this link.

This association took its name from the "Automates et merveilles" (Automata and marvels) exhibition and is intended to be permanent to be able to continue to support all initiatives linked to the canton's watch and clockmaking heritage.