Watchuseek Blog

Thursday, September 29, 2011

And the best is yet to come: Master watchmaker Christophe Claret

Haute horology manufacture Christophe Claret have opened their scrap book to give us all a greater understanding of the remarkable man and his exceptional watch brand.

Christophe Claret is part of a small select circle of master watchmakers, so recherché, so high on the haute horology pecking order that it was only two years ago that he actually launched his own exclusive brand. Until that time he was designing specially commissioned watches of ominous awesomeness for the yacht and mansion owning set.

Christophe Claret, a stubborn, taciturn youth, was not yet 20 when he graduated from the Geneva Watchmaking School. He found in this field a source of fulfilment and scope for creative expression that have remained undiminished to this day. Insatiably curious and thirsty for knowledge, he trained for an additional year with the master-watchmaker Roger Dubuis who, in taking him under his wing, passed on the secrets of restoration and the mysteries of complex horological mechanisms.

Buys first tools from flea markets

Upon returning to his native city, he set up his first real horology workshop in the family home. His equipment and his tools had been patiently acquired at flea markets in Geneva. He decided to specialise in restoring antique models, perfecting his finishing techniques and also crafting openworked or “skeleton” watches.

Meets with Ulysee Nardin CEO, Rolf Schnyder

In 1987, Christophe Claret was 25 years old. His first ever trip to the Basel Watch Fair led to an encounter with the late Rolf Schnyder, a Swiss industrialist who had just acquired the Ulysse Nardin brand. He changed young Christophe’s life forever when he placed an order with him for 20 minute repeater movements with jacks. After creating a first company in La Chaux-de-Fonds, he officially set up the Manufacture Claret.

Within a decade, his name became a watchword in the field of complication movements. Prestigious clients included Ulysse Nardin, Franck Muller, de Grisogono, Jean Dunand and Harry Winston. They all came to Christophe to develop their most complex timepieces.

Acquires Manoir du Soleil d-Or

Christophe Claret decided to install his company within a setting worthy of its reputation and its ambitions. In 1999, just 11 years after securing his first significant commission, he acquired the Manoir du Soleil d’Or, a mansion perched on the heights above the nearby town of Le Locle, just a few steps from the Musée d’Horlogerie des Monts.

Here he set up his workshops giving a new lease on life to an already magnificent residence that formerly belonged to the legendary watchmaker Urban Jürgensen. It was spacious to begin with but then Christophe added more and more workspace so that his Premier league artisans can work and create in an atmosphere of harmony and serenity aided by state of the art machinery all cosily nestled within the exclusive enclaves of nearby Le Locle in the Neuchâtel mountains.

Develops signature brand

While continuing to create exceptional movements for the most prestigious brands, Christophe Claret also made his own signature, one-of-a-kind creations ordered by collectors. This took on a more significance in 2009 when, in celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Manufacture, he launched the DualTow, a mechanical compendium of his considerable range of competencies. This first piece naturally led to another, Adagio, and a third, the 21 Blackjack.

All watches made entirely in house

The Christophe Claret brand now belongs to the extremely exclusive circle of independent Haute Horlogerie manufactures that conceive, develop and produce their watches entirely in-house – placing Christophe Claret firmly on the cutting edge of horological creation.

The most famous watches to date

Christophe Claret works to a credo:

“In watchmaking, everything has already been done, and everything has yet to be invented.”

Following this belief he has developed some of the most complex and awe inspiring watches in recent times. One such watch was the Dragon watch inspired by a silver samurai belt engraved with two dragons and acquired at auction.

Tradition line: Adagio

Unveiled this year, Adagio is equipped with a calibre entirely conceived, developed and produced in-house. The movement is composed of 455 parts, it drives central hour and minute hands, small seconds at 9 o’clock - either in a subdial or through an aperture, depending on the version – as well as a large date at 6 o’clock and a second time zone display (in hours and minutes), complete with day/night indication in a subdial at 2 o’clock.

Innovation line: Dualtow NightEagle

2010 saw the introduction of the DualTow NightEagle. Its sophisticated face appears to fade into the background in order to reveal the extraordinary mechanism below. It is distinguished by a “stealth-type” design embodying references including the ultra-secret world of stealth aircraft such as the American F-117.

Innovation line: 21 Blackjack

 It would be hard to exaggerate how much of a buzz this watch caused at Baselworld this year, and many pristine acres of watch related blogosphere were earnestly dedicated to honour its highest of haute horlogerie achievements.

21 Blackjack constitutes an authentic miniature casino combining mechanical precision with the world of gaming and thereby heralding a new watchmaking concept: the interactive watch.  21 Blackjack provides for its wealthy wearer an unprecedented upmarket interactive “gaming” experience, as well as a watch at the very pinnacle of Haute Horlogerie.

Of course, being a stubborn, determined and immensely talented watchmaker who refuses to settle for ordinary or even extraordinary, we can look forward in the knowledge that as far as Christophe Claret is concerned, the best is yet to come.

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