There's no doubt about it, if you're looking for a watch as a conversation-starter, this is a good candidate. It's a fair-sized watch at 45 millimetres diameter, and it has a sort of humanoid-robot face, with the two disc counters for the chrono putting it in the same league as C-3PO or Wall-E. In addition, the hands are in ruby, with SuperLuminova, producing an effect like a car speedometer. At 6 o'clock, a transparent sapphire bridge provides a view of the constant force escapement.
Its principal talking-point, though, is the gong that sounds whenever the chronograph is started, stopped or reset using the single pusher. At Baselworld, during our interview, Christophe Claret explained, "Athletes launch out of starting blocks when the gun is fired; boxers begin and stop their fights when a gong is struck; horses burst out of the stalls when the starter gives the signal. So it is logical to hear exactly when the chronograph starts and stops timing. After all, to take a time, you have to be looking at the scene, not the watch. The sound tells you that you have started the chronograph." The hammer can be seen at 10 o'clock; it produces a pleasant, clear sound, which has already featured in previous Claret designs such as the Soprano.
The constant-force escapement is a beautiful and intricate part of the movement. It increases precision by ensuring that the energy delivered to the escapement is constant right through the 48-hour power reserve. Its constant motion has a hypnotic quality, like that of a tourbillon or carrousel.
Visually, the chronograph counters are unusual, inspired by aircraft instrument panels, with numerals on one sapphire disc, and another black and white disc below. The instantaneous jumping mechanism used in this rotating-disc display is another ingenious feature. The complexity of the in-house movement can be gauged from the 75 jewels and 558 components, with beautiful hand-finishing, and details such as a balance-cock with a brilliant-cut ruby. The view through the sapphire caseback is also exceptional, with the platinum rotor driving the automatic movement.
Below, the dial face of the movement, with the gong hammer at 10 o'clock:
Below, reverse of the movement, with the platinum rotor:
At Baselworld, Christophe Claret exhibited in the Dream Factory booth, within The Palace, where many of the smaller, independent watch brands were present, often with the most extreme and innovative pieces. An appropriate location for Christophe Claret, who over the years has launched many new watch ideas, such as the belt-drive watch Dual-Tow, and the steel spheres inside sapphire tubes of X-Trem-1, both of which have since been copied in various ways. I asked Claret, do you get annoyed about being copied?
"It's the story of my life. In 1997 I made the first watch with sapphire bridges, everyone said I was crazy, and now there are twenty watch brands doing the same thing. I'm sure that in one or two years, we will see other companies making chronographs with a gong."
But by then, Christophe Claret will have, of course, moved on to his next idea...