Two Hundred Year Old Clockwork Caterpillar


It may be 200 years old, but this beautiful automaton silkworm still runs like clockwork. The jewel-covered “Ethiopian Caterpillar” was made for Chinese aristocracy in the early 19th century and is one of just six or seven in existence.

Made around 1810 by Swiss watchmaker Henri Maillardet, the silkworm uses a hidden clockwork mechanism to crawl and mimics the undulating movement of real-life caterpillars.
Its 7cm-long body is made of gold, decorated with colored enamel and studded with seed pearls, rose diamonds and rubies.


It was titled the “Ethiopian Caterpillar” when Maillardet, in partnership with legendary watchmaker Jaquet Droz, organized an exhibition to show off his menagerie of miniaturised automata in London in 1811.

He created exotic-sounding names to attract the public, hence the invention of the “Ethiopian Caterpillar”, which was accompanied by the “Egyptian Lizard” and the “Siberian Mouse”.

Via Daily Mail.

This entry was posted in Gadgets, History, Visual Art by Heretic. Bookmark the permalink.

About Heretic

I design video games for a living, write fiction, political theory and poetry for personal amusement, and train regularly in Western European 16th century swordwork. On frequent occasion I have been known to hunt for and explore abandoned graveyards, train tunnels and other interesting places wherever I may find them, but there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that I am preparing to set off a zombie apocalypse. Nothing that will stand up in court, at least. I use paranthesis with distressing frequency, have a deep passion for history, anthropology and sociological theory, and really, really, really hate mayonnaise. But I wash my hands after the writing. Promise.

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