Every year at Basel, the big watch show in Switzerland, companies trot out their latest R&D projects along with a plethora of new watches. The watches are what sell but the R&D products are what get the press. Take this lump of gears from Jaquet Droz, for example. At its core, this is a minute repeater redesigned to write numbers on a piece of paper instead of chime the current time.
Jaquet Droz is a fairly well-known brand and Droz himself was a pioneer in the field of mechanical automation. However, of late the company has been pumping out cool but fairly unknown watches to the masses and, as a result, feels it needs to show off things like this instead of building out its line. Fair enough.
Anyway, you’ve got 4,000 pieces working in concert to output the time in block letters. The idea, but probably not the implementation, were taken from Droz’s own notes. I would say he was on par with Babbage when it came to building early mechanical ur-computers. It costs $342,000. Enough said.