Christophe Claret continues to strike a chord among devotees of horological excellence. Four years after unveiling the Soprano model, the watchmaker from Le Locle reveals a new aesthetic score performed by an original variation on this theme, issued in an eight-piece limited edition. This sophisticated and highly technical timepiece combines two of the most beautiful horological complications: a 60-second tourbillon and a minute repeater with a Westminster chime, four patented gongs and four hammers, highlighted by stepped bridges inspired by the Charles X style. Harmoniously blending tradition and modernity, Soprano epitomizes the high standards of haute horlogerie developed by the manufacture.
The story began with the passion nurtured by Christophe Claret for the pocket watches he was involved in repairing and restoring, even before beginning his studies at the Geneva Watchmaking School. He has been collecting these wonderful historical movements ever since, focusing his attention on minute repeaters and their distinctive architecture. And while he is keenly fascinated by mechanics, Christophe Claret is equally intrigued by aesthetics – and notably by the style of the Charles X period. Although the latter reigned over France for only six years, from 1824 to 1830, the monarch exercised a definite influence on the decorative arts of his age and watchmaking was also impacted by this aesthetic tendency.
Technical perfection and architectural equilibrium inspired by the Charles X style is also manifested in this new version of the Soprano watch. The mechanical hand-wound movement draws its energy from a single barrel ensuring an approximately 72-hour power reserve, and sets a magnificent stage for two of the finest horological complications: the tourbillon and the minute repeater. The 60-second tourbillon performs one full rotation per minute and sits majestically enthroned at 6 o’clock, supported by a stepped and skeletonized Charles X style bridge. This is a classic from the Manufacture Claret, tried and tested in laboratories for many years and equipped with a heart beating at the frequency of 3 Hz.
Christophe Claret also provides a remarkable interpretation of the minute repeater, considered to be one of the most demanding complications involving both technical complexity and musical quality. Developed within the manufacture more than 10 years ago, the Soprano movement has been given an entirely new twist to equip this model. It now appears in an even more complex guise, fitted with four cathedral gongs and four hammers that are all visible through the front of the watch. This original construction avoids any obstacle to effective sound diffusion.
Particular care has also been devoted to the sound quality of this model, drawing upon the longstanding experience acquired by the manufacture in this field. For this creation, just as for previous minute repeaters, Christophe Claret has focused on the production of the drawn steel gongs, on the quality of their assembly and tuning, on the design of the case, as well as on the interconnection between the movement and the case.
The gongs of the Soprano are of the cathedral type. These circular rings are wrapped twice around the movement and also feature an invention already patented by the manufacture, which serves to avoid excessive vibrations and thus any disconcerting buzz when the gongs touch.
The desire to endow the Soprano with a low-pitched, powerful sound also dictated the choice of titanium and gold as case materials. The combined use of these two metals for the case middle as well as the caseback and the bezel ensures optimal resonance. This version in white gold combines a titanium case middle with an elegant black PVD treatment.
Although extremely complicated to produce, the round case of the Soprano – measuring 45mm in diameter and 15.32mm thick – exudes a traditional aura. Its broad opening highlights the movement, itself surrounded by a sapphire ring pad-printed with the Christophe Claret name at 12 o’clock and the inscription Swiss Made at 6 o’clock. The black inner bezel ring bears the hour-markers as well as the brand insignia at 12 o’clock.
The entirely transparent back of the watch leaves ample room to admire the graceful dance of the springs and gears, accentuated by a ring engraved like a musical stave with a flurry of notes. This wealth of details transforms the most complex horological mechanism into a constantly renewed and melodious symphony.