21 Blackjack, Baccara and Poker: three original watches, three miniature casinos, and three ways to tackle an unprecedented theme in Fine Watchmaking. The man behind this winning hand is Christophe Claret, the Le Locle-based movement maker who in the space of a few years has established himself as a bona fide Manufacture. Poker is the final flourish in a trilogy that began in 2011. Like its predecessors, it looks to the world of gambling and casinos for inspiration and manages to contain an authentic game of poker inside a 45-millimetre diameter case. More specifically, it allows three players to enjoy a game of Texas Hold’em, poker’s most popular variant.
"A credible solution"
This wrist-borne casino is capable of proposing 32,768 card combinations or 98,304 game plays for all three players combined. The mechanism, which comprises an impressive 655 parts, took more than three years to develop. Four concentric discs, including one in sapphire, are mounted on ceramic or ruby ball bearings to optimise their rotation. The 52 cards in the pack are printed on these discs. “Obviously we set out to develop a solution that would be technically reliable, but that’s not all. It also had to be interesting and credible for real players. There was never any question of this just being a gadget,” notes Christophe Claret. “Fortunately, we have on our team a movement constructor who is also a huge gaming fan. His input really helped.”
So how exactly does it work? First of all, each player is dealt two cards, which the other players cannot see. This operation is actuated by the pusher at 9 o’clock on the side of the case, which triggers a spring that sets the discs spinning. These discs are then randomly stopped by dampers. With the cards now shuffled, they can be dealt in three windows: one between 2 and 3 o’clock, one at 6 o’clock, and another between 10 and 11 o’clock. In a clever touch, each of these windows is slatted to conceal the different hands from the other players. The second deal (flop) is activated by a pusher at 10 o’clock to reveal three cards on the left of the dial, at 9 o’clock. The third deal (turn) is triggered by a pusher at 8 o’clock. This time the card is shown on the right side of the dial, at 3 o’clock. The same pusher commands the fourth deal (river). Each deal is signalled by a brief chime on a cathedral gong.
Plenty to look forward to in 2014
While this may seem a little abstract on paper, in real life the movement of the cards on the dial makes for a fascinating sight, even for someone who don’t know a flush from a full house. In fact Christophe Claret assures us that all three watches in the trilogy have caught the attention of collectors, not just card sharps. In other words, the sheer technical exploit hasn’t escaped admirers of fine horological mechanics! Nor has the rest. The rest? At this stage it’s worth remembering that Poker, Baccara and 21 Blackjack are watches which, as well as dealing cards, give the time, thanks to an in-house, automatic movement equipped with two barrels that deliver a power reserve of some 72 hours. And because we are in the realms of fine watchmaking, and that Christophe Claret is known to be a stickler for detail, it goes without saying that finishes are on a par.
So what’s next? With his line-up of interactive watches only just completed, Claret is about to unveil two new timepieces at Baselworld, beginning with his first ever women’s watch, by the name of Margot. It will, he promises, feature “one or more unprecedented complications in this category.” Not forgetting Maestoso, a men’s watch with detent escapement that will join Adagio in Christophe Claret’s Tradition line. Clearly 2014 is to be an exciting year for the brand. And 2015 promises equally rich pickings, with the launch of an entry-level collection. Entry-level being a relative term, as prices are expected to range between CHF 30,000 and CHF 60,000. Needless to say, we’re eager to see what Chef Claret will be cooking up at this price!