Press Kelys’ tail and he will start to gently walk across the table, in an amazingly realistic turtle-like gait. After a few seconds, another surprise: one of the scales on his back opens and his friend Chirp pops out, wings flapping and singing loudly. Her melody finished, Chirp dives back into the shelter provided by Kelys’ shell and he continues his walk, unfazed.
This zoological surprise hides incredible mechanical know-how from our friends Reuge and Nicolas Court. Chances are you’ve heard of REUGE before; founded in 1865, they are the last remaining high-end music box and singing bird manufacture in the world. We had the pleasure of creating three otherworldly “MusicMachines” with them.
Nicolas Court is perhaps lesser-known, but an absolute mechanical genius – it is extremely challenging to create an automaton like Kelys the turtle. Running on the modest power supplied by the Singing Bird mechanism, Nicolas and his team managed to create a system that puts the 1,4kg in motion thanks to low ratio gearing, while the turtle-like walk is achieved via elliptical gears and a complex cam system. As if this was not enough, there is also a friction clutch security system that detects the edge of a table or desk, stopping Kelys before he drops… and another security system to protect Chirp!
Kelys & Chirp’s 480 components – the equivalent of a minute repeater! – lie testament to the complexity within.