Christophe Claret X-TREM-1
X-TREM-1, the first of a new generation of timepieces, represents a major technical and aesthetic accomplishment: a flying tourbillon inclined at a 30° angle, mounted on a three-dimensional curvex titanium mainplate, equipped with a retrograde hours and minutes display system that is radically different from existing watchmaking conventions. Two tiny hollowed steel spheres, isolated within sapphire tubes on the left and right sides of the caseband magically move with no mechanical connection thanks to magnetic fields.X
for Experimental T
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for Engineering M
The concept certainly deserves its name. It expresses Christophe Claret’s determination to continue pushing the boundaries of mechanical watchmaking, integrating scientific fields of research never previously applied in the horological domain.
The Manufacture from Le Locle presents the first creation in a new X-TREM collection that will be exceptional in all ways. X-TREM-1 features a tourbillon timepiece and uses magnetic fields to create the illusion of hour and minute indicators floating through the air.
The challenge is bold and some might say a little crazy: How could someone possibly think about introducing a magnetic field – the arch enemy of horological mechanisms – into the heart of a watch? That is what purists are liable to say. And yet Christophe Claret has done just that by creating a system where two small steel spheres – hollowed to make them lighter – encased within two sapphire tubes placed to the right and left of the caseband, are controlled by precision magnetic fields generated by two miniature magnets moved by cables. The cables are made from an extremely thin and strong woven silk thread more commonly seen in reparative surgery. The resistance of the thread has been tested in the Manufacture Claret on an accelerated-wear simulator corresponding to six years of operation.
The spheres have no mechanical connection with the movement, with each one floating inside the two tubes and creating outstanding horological magic. “We developed this technology with the School of Business and Engineering Vaud (HEIG-VD) in Yverdon-les-Bains, and a team headed by Professor Besson,”
explains Christophe Claret. “What’s more, the magnetic fields have been focused so that they have no effect whatsoever on the mechanisms – apart from the task assigned to them, which is to help display the time in a quite incredible and original way”.
The initial project, which was in fact very different from the one now being presented, was proposed by two Neuchâtel watchmakers, Frédéric Richard and Olivier Randin, to Christophe Claret – who decided to acquire the rights and patent.
The “floating” sphere display system of the X-TREM-1 is not the only technical feat involved. The entire construction and finishing of this timepiece meets the extreme demands systematically imposed by Christophe Claret.
Ultra-light titanium was used for the three-dimensional curvex mainplate and the bridges. A determination to enhance ergonomics and reduce volumes guided the designer in his choices. This is indeed a first for such a complex calibre, especially one made in titanium. The case is composed of titanium and white or red gold, or platinum, and produced in limited series of eight per model. The flying tourbillon is fitted with double ceramic bearings to enhance its shock-resistance. It is inclined at a 30-degree angle in order to make it even more clearly visible to the wearer.
The hand-wound watch draws its energy from two barrels – a necessity in this case, since they enable the use of a sophisticated display without disturbing the rate of the tourbillon, and thus the accuracy of the watch. The first barrel is reserved for the tourbillon, the second for the hours and minutes. The timing gear train (first barrel) is regulated by the tourbillon; while the display gear train is regulated by a special escapement which picks up the relevant information from the timing gear train. The latter is composed of a lever that releases a tooth of the pallet-wheel of the display gear train every 25 seconds, which is is driven by a cam connected to the timing gear train. When one of the gear trains reaches the end of the power reserve of its respective barrel, the escapement interrupts the running of its neighbour. This conception offers an important advantage in that the tourbillon and display gear trains are independent, thus avoiding disturbances, optimising power reserve and endowing the watch with excellent precision.
But that’s not all. For Christophe Claret, every technical innovation must be validated and approved, which is why each movement is hand assembled from start to finish by the same watchmaker who ensures its technical and aesthetic qualities. At the end of the process, the timepiece undergoes a stringent set of internal testing in the THF (Test Homologation Fiabilité) workshop, after which it earns a certificate guaranteeing its quality and precision.
The underlying haute horlogerie criteria governing all activities conducted within the Manufacture also apply to the finishing and the exterior of the timepiece: components are hand-bevelled, flanks are straight-grained, sinks on solid gears are polished and the spokes on open-worked gears are bevelled and polished, screw heads are mirror-polished, and cams, bridges and the tourbillon cage are mirror-polished on the visible side. Christophe Claret devotes particular care to the finishing of each component, which is designed to ensure the overall harmony and aesthetic coherence of the model.
Christophe Claret considers the creation of each object as a collective challenge that takes shape by dint of passion and perseverance, along with a significant measure of emotions and dreams. He is never happy just to redo something that has already been done. The brand is resolutely dedicated to technological innovation and never hesitates to venture off the beaten track in its quest to offer unprecedented ways of reading the time.