The Soprano minute repeater by Christophe Claret pays homage to one of the UK’s most iconic clock towers through innovative watchmaking. Read on to discover how this watch will resonate, albeit on the wrists of just 16 people.
Inspiration for watches can be wide and varied but it is not often that the Houses of Parliament make an appearance on a watch’s fact sheet.
The Soprano by Christophe Claret is a tourbillon minute repeater with four cathedral gongs said to strike the Westminster Quarters, the same distinctive gong played out on the hour by Big Ben at the Palace of Westminster, home of the House of Commons and House of Lords.
The Soprano features a musically accurate four-note minute repeater and a 60-second tourbillion, and has been designed to pay homage to the roots of Christophe Claret’s manufacture, while also being, what it has dubbed, a “timepiece of contrasts”.
Indeed, this pioneering brand has made a timepiece that combines haute horlogerie, state-of-the-art manufacturing, historic complications and contemporary design.
While a minute repeater is one of the most difficult timepiece complications to execute perfectly, Christophe Claret has set itself an even greater challenge by opting for a well-known chime.
Christophe Claret has worked with a piano tuner to develop a computer program called Analyser 2000 that records and analyses the notes for pitch, duration and loudness, and even the length of the silent pauses between notes. This has helped the Christophe Claret manufacture to consistently create harmonious and musically accurate melodies with strong crystalline notes, which means that – in Christophe Claret’s own words – the melody chimed by the Soprano is as musically correct as possible.
When operating, each cathedral gong circles the movement twice so that one coil lies just above the other, but because the coils are so close they can touch each other as they vibrate, creating a disconcerting buzz. As a way of remedying this, Christophe Claret has invented a patented system.
The melody is played when the watch strikes the quarter hours, while a deeper single note chimes out on the hours and a second, higher-pitched single note represents the minutes. As the toll of Big Ben can be fairly ominous, the watch house has opted to play out its Westminster Quarters in the key of C rather than Big Ben’s key of E to create “longer resonating and happier sounding notes”.
Christophe Claret has also purposefully created the timepiece with no proper dial design, to minimise the barriers to sound and maximise the visuals of the watches. This also allows the brand to show off its tourbillion – located at six o’clock – minute repeater, mainspring barrel, winding mechanism and Charles X bridges.
To further ensure that the rich sound reaches the listener’s ears, the central case band is crafted in grade five titanium, chosen because titanium is known for its acoustic properties and is often used in musical instruments.
The brand’s eponymous founder Christophe Claret says of the Soprano timepiece: “When I created Manufacture Claret over 20 years ago, the very first movement I developed was a minute repeater so the complication has always been very special to me.” And special it is. The Soprano is limited to just 16 pieces, eight in red gold and eight in white gold.
Case : 45mm
Number of parts: 450
Power reserve: 72 hours
Distinctive features: Four visible hammers, four patented cathedral gongs, repeater mechanism features silent inertia governor, tourbillon regulator with parachute shock absorber and Charles X-style stepped bridges.
Materials: Red gold and anthracite PVD titanium or white gold and anthracite PVD titanium, both limited editions of eight pieces each.
RRP: About £312,203 excluding VAT
This article was taken from the November 2012 issue of WatchPro magazine. To read a digital version of the issue click here.