Clockwork spies are tiny, buglike constructs that can record an hour of sounds (particularly conversations). As Tiny creatures, they are hard to spot; since they are physically present, they don't alert spellcasters attuned to scrying; and they can fly away should their presence be discovered. All in all, very useful pets for the espionage-minded mage.
And yes, just like the clockwork spy, this message will self-destruct in six seconds…
Adventurers are doing research in a library when they observe a clockwork spy recording them. If they don’t catch it, the spy’s master has a leg up on whatever secrets they uncovered. If they do catch it, they risk burning the entire library down if they trigger its self-destruct sequence…and even a small fire will see them permanently banned from the private collections crucial to their next quest.
Adventurers on loan to the Queen’s Musketeers must act quickly to preserve Her Gnomish Majesty from scandal. A clockwork spy meant to secretly record a meeting of traitorous members of the Department of the Exchequer inadvertently recorded her own negotiations with a Black Bishop. The treacherous clergymen scooped up the clockwork beetle and now races to reveal its contents to the Gnomish Parliament. He must be stopped.
Clockwork spies are commonly used as messengers by the gearpriests, mages, and aristocrats of Cognomon. (Presumably the Clockwork Mind, if it exists, employs them as well.) These messenger constructs bear tiny slips of paper for short messages and gemstone recordings for longer works like speeches. And yes, many of them also serve as spies, especially for the law. Perhaps the worst thing about Cognomon’s clockwork spies is how the gearpriest advocates present their evidence in court. Rather than simply play back the recordings, the spies fly into the mouth of a court reporter umbilically attached to the very walls of the courtroom. (These are typically surgically altered indentured servants—treat as androids or humans with the clockwork template from the Advanced Bestiary.) Plaintiffs then hear their own treasonous words spilling out of the mouths of these wall-mounted, dead-eyed unfortunates.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 3 58
I was going to ask why clockwork spies couldn't be familiars, and then the Internet reminded me that the clockwork familiar already exists, courtesy of Pathfinder Adventure Path #63: The Asylum Stone. So…I’ll just be over here, shutting up.
I also haven’t found time to mention that 2e Spelljammer had a race of monsters known as clockwork horrors. Since they looked like bugs, maybe today is a good day.
Speaking of blasts from the past, demiurge1138 delivered some Pathfinder ancient history re: the clockwork servant (which is how a reference to the Advanced Bestiary creeped in above—I haven't cracked that book in ages).
Oh hey, looks like The Order of the Stick just went clockwork. I think we can all agree that Rich Burlew was clearly following this blog’s lead. Trendsetters, that’s what we are.