Christophe Claret Soprano Tourbillon Minute Repeater
October 5, 2012
The Christophe Claret Soprano Tourbillon Minute Repeater features a 4-note minute repeater that strikes Westminster Quarters on cathedral gongs, a 60-second flying tourbillon and Charles X style bridges. The impressive mechanics are on display, from the front or the back, as the dial has been removed. Aesthetically, with the Soprano, Christophe Claret successfully blends traditional haute horology with avant garde design.
The Soprano is a testament to Christophe Claret’s manufacture which specializes and has long been an innovator in striking complications, tourbillons and sapphire components. For example, in 1997 Christophe Claret was the first to incorporate sapphire components, which included plates and Charles X style bridges, in a wristwatch movement.
The Soprano is presented in a 45mm x 15.32mm red gold anthracite PVD titanium or white gold and anthracite PVD titanium case. The red gold version features anthracite PVD and black spinal hands; the white gold version features black PVD and ruby or blue spinal hands.
Powering the Soprano is in-house mechanical hand-wound caliber TRD98 which has 450 components, 39 jewels, a 72-hour power reserve, balance oscillates at a rate of 21,600 vph (3Hz) and a single mainspring barrel in transparent sapphire crystal. Functions include hours and minutes, 60-second flying tourbillon, and a 4-note minute repeater playing Westminster Quarters.
Some unique features include: Charles X style stepped bridges, Swiss lever escapement and tourbillon regulator with parachute shock absorber, four visible hammers — four patented cathedral gongs and repeater mechanism features silent inertia governor.
Transparent mainspring barrel acts as movement state-of-wind indicator: when the movement is fully wound the spring is centered in the barrel. The repeater mechanism is activated by a slide on the left side of the caseband. The crown is in either red gold and titanium (red gold case) or white gold and titanium (white gold case).
Excerpts from Christophe Claret Press Release
A minute repeater tells the time audibly with two notes created from two small hammers striking two gongs: one for the hours, one for the minutes and a combination of the two for the quarter hours. Even more complex is the Clarion repeater with three notes that can play a simple melody for the quarters.
To provide an even fuller and richer sound than standard repeaters, the Christophe Claret Soprano features four cathedral gongs, each circling the perimeter of the movement twice (a normal gong goes around only once). And to further ensure that the rich sound reaches the listen’s ears, the central case band is in grade 5 titanium, a metal known for its superior acoustic properties and used in musical instruments.
From the smoked ring circumscribing the movement that discreetly hides yet subtly reveals the cathedral gongs, to the transparent mainspring barrel at the top of the open dial, and turning over to the clear repeater inertia governor cover visible through the sapphire display back.
“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.” Christophe Claret
The minute repeater, which strikes the time on demand (usually by activating a slide on the caseband), is an extremely difficult complication to realize because: 1. Technically, it is a very complex mechanism. 2. Musically, the notes have to ring clear, loud and harmoniously. With decades of experience developing striking watches, Christophe Claret has not just mastered the mysterious art of minute repeaters, but has brought the genre into the 21st century. Working with a piano tuner, Claret developed 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 enables the Christophe Claret manufacture to consistently create harmonious and musically accurate melodies with strong crystalline notes.
Each note is determined by the precise length and diameter of the gongs. The hammer has to strike forcefully for a loud sound, but immediately leave the gong so as not to deaden the ring.
“The melody chimed by the Soprano is as musically correct as possible.” Christophe Claret
When the repeater slide is activated, the chimes sound the number of hours with C (Do), the deepest note; followed by the Westminster Quarters’ melody for the quarter hours (unless fewer than 15 minutes after the hour); and then the number of minutes after the last quarter hour.
Each cathedral gong circles the movement twice so that one coil lies just above the other. Because the coils are so close together, they can touch each other as they vibrate, which can create a disconcerting buzz. Christophe Claret invented a system that effectively avoids this problem, which was awarded a patent.
Westminster Quarters, also known as Westminster Chimes, is a four-note tune originally written in 1793 for the bells of the St Mary the Great Church in Cambridge, England and was known as the Cambridge Chimes.
However, in 1859 the melody was chosen for the clock tower at the Palace of Westminster in London. A clock now more commonly known now as Big Ben, though the term originally referred to just the large hour bell. So well known did the four-note chimes become that they came to be called Westminster Chimes.
The melody is played when the watch strikes the quarter hours (each 15 minutes) as just a single deep note is played for the hours and another single (higher pitched) note for the minutes. While the Westminster Quarters melody is usually played in the key of E major, the Christophe Claret Soprano chimes in the key of C major to provide longer resonating and happier-sounding notes. Manufacture Claret is one of a very elite few manufactures with the skills, knowledge and capability to create four-note Westminster minute repeaters.
The purpose of a minute repeater is to allow the time to be heard rather than read, which was a very useful feature before the invention of electric lamps (and mobile phones). To maximize the sound of the notes Christophe Claret has incorporated three features into the Soprano: Cathedral gongs, an open dial and a titanium caseband.
“One of the keys of developing an excellent minute repeater is ensuring that the sound can escape easily.” Christophe Claret
Standard repeater gongs (the bell) are usually made from a hardened steel wire that makes a one complete circle around the movement or dial. The Soprano is equipped with four cathedral gongs, each circling the movement twice to provide a fuller and richer sound.
To minimize barriers to sound − and to maximize visual appreciation of the finely finished movement and the operation of the striking mechanism − the Soprano has no dial which allows the beautiful melody out and showcases the tourbillon, repeater operation, mainspring barrel, winding mechanism and Charles X bridges.
The case of the Soprano is in three parts: upper and lower (bezel and caseback) sections in gold and a central titanium caseband. Titanium was selected for its superior sound transmission qualities. Where gold tends to deaden sound, titanium effectively transmits sound from the interior of the case to the exterior. The sound qualities of titanium are so good that the metal is often used for saddle bridges in high-quality guitars.
Christophe Claret has an affinity for the tourbillon escapement, for both its kinetic beauty and its superior chronometric performance. In fact, Claret is so dedicated to the tourbillon that it is the standard escapement for all of his manufacture movements. The 60-second tourbillon carriage of the Soprano is on full view through the open dial at 6 o’clock and is supported by a single arm stepped bridge in the characteristic style of Charles X. Abraham-Louis Breguet invented the tourbillon escapement at the end of the 18th century, so it is only fitting that Claret has complemented the Soprano’s tourbillon with a ‘parachute’ shock protection system - another Breguet invention. .
Black hand-sewn alligator leather with black stitching (red gold case), red or blue stitching (white gold case). Buckle in Red gold and titanium (red gold case) or white gold and titanium (white gold case). Water-resistance 30 meters.
Two limited editions, eight in red gold and eight in white gold.
Christophe Claret is a true watch manufacture, and this timepiece pays homage to their watchmaking expertise - especially: minute repeaters, tourbillons and sapphire components.