In the last few years Swiss watch manufacturer Christophe Claret has built up quite a reputation for making outrageously expensive, sometimes gimmicky but always complex timepieces. So much so that I would wager if you searched amongst a group of luxury watch enthusiasts you would be hard pressed to find someone who has not at least heard the name.
Many though – especially those outside the watch industry – are quick to assume that the Claret story is one of a somewhat miraculous overnight success, brought about by chance and timing more than anything else. Nothing could be further from the truth however.
Despite only launching its first self-branded watch 5 years ago – the Dual Tow – the Christophe Claret manufacture has actually been in operation since 1989 and is responsible for the design and construction of some of the most complex movements to ever power you’re favorite brands. This is rarely acknowledged publicly by the brands themselves of course but if you look hard enough you will find the Claret name comes up more often than not in relation to many high-end timepieces.
In 2009 however the financial crisis was in full swing and Claret needed to reduce its dependence on its external clients, who themselves were weathering the storm with varying degrees of success. The company’s management had been planning for this next step since 2005, having already learned a valuable lesson when the global markets took a pounding in 1998 and so were ready to take action.
They had developed unparalleled technical expertise over those last 20 years, not to mention the state of the art facilities they had available at their fingertips and so it was time to publicly show the world what they could do. The rest, as they say, is history, which brings us to today’s feature presentation; the Maestoso.
Christophe Claret Maestoso Hands-On Review
The Maestoso is Christophe Claret’s new mens watch for 2014, and has far more of a traditional focus than some of the brand’s earlier models. You won’t find any mechanical parlour games here such as Blackjack or Poker, rather this is a timepiece for true aficionados of haute horolegerie, for the mechanophiles if you will (I apologise if I just made up a word there but I’m not really sure how else to put it.)
Developed entirely in-house the movement of the Maestoso boasts boasts no fewer than three patents, each dedicated to the sole task of bringing new life to traditional pivoted detent escapement. I did warn you the focus was very technical.
By way of background this type of detent escapement first appeared in the 18th century, at a time when watchmakers were competing to create a time-measuring instrument of maximum precision, to be used to determine a ship’s exact geographical position at sea. Known for its exemplary reliability it was found primarily in marine chronometers, mounted on gimbals to ensure a fixed position.
Its main weakness though was that it was (and still is) particularly sensitive to lateral impacts. At the time that was not really an issue of course because as we just discussed the marine chronometers it was so often used in were fixed in place, thus greatly reducing the possibility of any type of lateral impact. Put one on your wrist however and it becomes a completely different story.
According to Christophe Claret even the slightest shock to a detent escapement can cause it to stop or even release the escape wheel and break. Another danger is over-banking, in which an external shock, or even setting the time, can cause the balance wheel to oscillate with excess amplitude, i.e. more than 360°, causing a second impulse. This can speed up the escapement wheel and disrupt timing.
Suffice to say therefore that enabling the mechanism to reliably operate in all the positions that wearing a wristwatch entails – without resorting to the convenience of a modern, shorter detent – took an immense amount of research, testing and I’m sure even a little luck, with the end result being three new patents and one extremely impressive timepiece.
Presented in a 44mm wide x 13.59 mm high case in your choice of 5N Red Gold, 5N red gold and anthracite PVD-treated grade 5 titanium or white gold and anthracite PVD-treated grade 5 titanium, it’s worth noting that the whole watch – case, hands and all the parts of the movement, down to the balance spring – was designed, manufactured and assembled in Manufacture Claret’s workshops, an almost unheard of occurrence in these modern days of outsourcing.
There is no real dial to speak of, instead transparent sapphire bridges ensure uninterrupted viewing of the complex detent escapement mechanism, which is on display in all of its three-dimensional glory. To the left of this (just below 8 o’clock) you can see the micrometric worm screw on the regulator, also patented, which is used to regulate the timing rate.
Meanwhile at 4 o’clock close inspection reveals the constant force mechanism, which guarantees stable energy and amplitude throughout the 80 hour power reserve (made possible by four barrels fitted in parallel). The constant force spring, wound up by the barrel, always releases the same energy at regular intervals, making the torque to the escapement more constant and therefore more reliable.
As you would expect the backside of the Maestoso isn’t anywhere near as interesting as the front but it’s still definitely worth a quick glance or two as there is some cool information back there visible through the sapphire exhibition caseback.
Finished on a black alligator leather strap with black stitching, the Christophe Claret Maestoso is undeniably eye-catching on the wrist although very few people will truly appreciate the remarkable technical achievement it represents.
Each variation will be limited to just 20 pieces – making for a total of 60 pieces – with pricing as follows: US$178,000 for the 5N rose gold/titanium edition, US$182,000 for the 18k white gold/titanium edition, and US$186,000 for the 5N rose gold edition.