Crank-a-head
Not every crank has a crank...


Sainte Croix is a small village in the French speaking part of Switzerland. It lies high above the Lake of Neuchatel (over 1000 metres / 3300 feet above sea level) and is a beautiful place for extended countryside walks.

Although not one of the top Swiss tourist attractions (perhaps it is better this way) it is a well known, and top destination, for music automata enthusiasts.

Sainte Croix was one of the biggest music automata production centres at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century.
Although these times are gone the history is well documented and the beauty and sound of music automata ("the music of heaven" as a friend of mine says) can still be enjoyed with guided tours of two museums: one in Sainte Croix and one in L'Auberson which is a few kilometres away from Sainte Croix.

CIMA (Centre International de la Mécanique d'Art), Sainte Croix:
http://www.musees.ch/

Musée Baud in L'Auberson:
http://www.museebaud.ch/

And worth mentioning is the company Reuge which still produces luxury music automata in Sainte Croix.  Although the factory can only be visited upon request by companies or groups of more than 10 people it is possible to look at their website and see some music automata with a modern design:
www.reuge.com

There are still a small number of automatists who are able to master this art form and give "life" to figures E.G. let them breathe, open and close eyes, write letters and so on ...

In the museum CIMA there are a few automata which are much less than 100 years old (see example below) and when you ask, the tour guide will tell you with pride about Francois Junod who lives nearby.

I knew a little bit about his amazing work and I tried to contact him before a trip to Sainte Croix with the aim of visiting his workshop, meeting him in person and glimpsing the magic world in which he works.

Being a very busy person whose workshop is not a museum open to the public, it was unclear up to the last moment if a visit would be possible.

He graciously agreed and we (two Irish friends and I) received a warm welcome.

It was impressive how he described some of his work, with a simplicity that belied the several years development of his androids took him and his 5 employees.  The pieces are composed of several thousand parts and need various skills and professions like sculptor, carpenter, (micro) mechanic, tailor, ... to complete. 

Needless to say such detailed and mechanically complex work has a (justifiably) high price and correspondingly wealthy customers all over the world.

But what impressed me most was that, from the very first moment, I felt his passion when talking about his work. 
He wants to do nothing else and Sainte Croix is the right place to let his ideas grow and become a magical reality.

A glimpse into the workshop:

Just two "backstage" pictures:

You get the best impression of Francois Junod's work by watching some videos.
Here are some recommended links (there are some more on the web): 

Website of Francois Junod:
www.francoisjunod.com
The starting page shows the "Spain project" and the different components of this project. Under "Les Automates" are lots more videos of his automata.

Video of Alexandre Pouchkine (not to be found on Francois' website):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivIHcHwR6b0

Alexandre Pouchkine again, incl. the preparation work of Francois Junod to start it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvi0-JkJkMY

Francois Junod's Wonderland (documentary in English):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jk0JmZ9xYII

Francois Junod, thank you for having made this visit possible and the very best wishes for many more exciting and unique projects!

Merci beaucoup Francois Junod!

Et j'espère de Vous revoir avec des nouveautés magiques!

Pictures taken by: Alan Mahon