On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the manufacture’s founding in 1989, Christophe Claret decided to celebrate the event by exceptionally launching a watch signed with his own name. This timekeeper, the DualTow, is strictly limited to 68 unique pieces and is a veritable ‘machine to measure time’, as Christophe Claret himself likes to call it. The DualTow is emblematic of the creator’s watchmaking journey and is representative of the extensive savoir-faire at his manufacture.
Nearly all of the operations necessary to construct and produce the DualTow have been conducted in-house, at the Soleil d'Or site, which is today one of the most advanced industrial and artisanal facilities in the haut de gamme sector of the Swiss watch industry. The manufacture employs around 115 people, including 40 full-time watchmakers. (On this subject, see our article ‘A quick tour of the Christophe Claret manufacture’ in Europa Star’s issue 04/2009 or on www.europastar.com.)
The Christophe Claret manufacture only produces around 420 watches per year, made specifically for the sector’s big brands, a number that speaks to the high complexity of these timepieces. Yet, Mr. Claret himself rarely ‘comes out of the shadows’, we might say. Of course, we know that he has signed his name to one of Harry Winston’s Opus timekeepers. (The Harry Winston Opus IV is a reversible watch, with hands on both faces and a rotational system integrated into the strap attaches. On one face, it has a tourbillon as well as a cathedral gong repeater for hours, quarter-hours and minutes, while on the other face, it has a large moon and date.)
Christophe Claret has also openly collaborated with MaÎtres du Temps and is an equal shareholder with Thierry Oulevay in the Jean Dunand brand. This has allowed him to develop some of his ‘craziest’ ideas such as the Orbital Tourbillon and Shabaka with its rollers. With the DualTow, however, he is—for the first time—signing a watch with only his name. This is a milestone in his career that publicly demonstrates the extent of his mechanical mastery.
Cycle of the chronograph
When the chronograph is activated, the column wheel (7) moves one notch forward and raises the reset hammers (8). The start brakes (9) then drop to block the three satellite-holders (2) and the hands (6) begin turning immediately, since the energy is transmitted from the entry wheels (1) to the exit wheels (4). A second push halts the running of the mechanism. The column wheel moves another notch forward and lifts the start brakes, which releases the satellite-holders. The stop brakes (10) then drop to block a disc connected to the hands. At the third press, the column wheel moves yet another notch forward and the stop brakes lift to release the exit wheel. The hammers then drop onto the cams (5) and cause them to rotate until the hands return to zero. The chronograph cycle is thus complete and the system is ready for another measurement.
A ‘machine’ made up of 568 parts
Christophe Claret has incorporated so many complexities and innovations into his DualTow that we can attempt to sum it up as a single pusher planetary-gear chronograph equipped with a striking mechanism, tourbillon, with time displayed by means of two belts.
To understand it a little better, we need to take each of these terms and try to dissect the internal organs of this ‘machine’ made up of 568 components, 65 jewels and eight ball bearings, all of which are enclosed in an imposing rectangular case measuring 42.75 mm by 48.20 mm, with a thickness of 15.85 mm.
The primary and most spectacular inno-vation of the DualTow—protected by a patent—is how this single pusher chronograph actually operates.
It functions in a quite original manner thanks to three identical globes. The entry wheel of these globes is directly linked to the movement and is continuously driven. Pivoting on the same axis, a satellite carrier can engage the exiting globe in the upper part of the satellite carrier via two superimposed satellites. Attached to this exit wheel is a cam on which a hand is mounted.
When the chronograph is de-activated, the continuously rotating entry wheel drives the satellite carrier that turns in a void. In the start position, the satellite carrier is blocked and the movement of the entry wheel is transmitted directly to the hand. At the centre of this device, made up of three satellites or globes (hours, minutes and seconds), a column wheel drives the operations via six levers and hammers in the form of ‘legs’ that give the ensemble the gracious allure of a mechanical ballet.
One of the advantages of this complex device is to minimize the amplitude variation of the balance because, since the entry wheels continuously rotate, the torque required by the chronograph function does not vary, regardless of its position, start, stop or reset. In this manner, the precision should be greater. These elements are attached to a part fixed to the plate whose form evokes the barrel of a revolver. Mr. Claret thus calls it ‘barillot’.
Start, stop, reset chime functions and the belts
We know that Christophe Claret is a great specialist in watches equipped with striking mechanisms. He fully demonstrates this expertise here with a very original world first that connects a gong to the chronographic function. Each time that the chronograph is activated, the snail-shaped gong resonates, thus giving a warning sound for the start, stop and reset functions. We wager that this type of playful utilization of a ‘warning sound’ linked to a chronograph will soon find its way to other watchmakers. But isn’t this one of Christopher Claret’s ‘functions’, to also be a forerunner in innovation?
This innovative spirit is seen—quite directly—in the two belts that provide the display for the hours and minutes. Placed on the two sides of the dial, these belts are made of a type of rubber that was specially developed for this usage (resistance suitable for the traction). On the visible face, they feature the hour numbers on the left and the minute numbers on the right. The belts are notched on the bottom so that they can be driven by two cylinders positioned at each of their ends. To provide optimal force, a screw-tightening module, hidden inside the belts, enables precision adjustment. The winding and time-setting systems are also integrated into the belts and are concealed by the minute belt. The digital hour and minutes are read inside a small frame with a tiny pointer that is supported by a fork attached to the bridge of the 60-second tourbillon, itself placed at 6 o’clock.
The DualTow is powered by the mechanical hand-wound calibre CC20A that features a power reserve of 60 hours supplied by two barrels whose ratchet wheels are placed in parallel at the centre of the movement. The power reserve indicator is located on the back of the watch.
A retro-futuristic and transparent design
The design of this ‘caterpillar machine’, like something that a child fond of mechanical things would dream about, embodies a world of mechanical references such as mechanical diggers and lunar rovers—a whole universe of robotic and futuristic designs.
The upper dial, made in-house from a sapph-ire crystal and displaying the chronographic indications, provides a clear view of the brakes and levers that are set into motion when the chronographic functions are activated. The chronograph’s hands take on the appearance of stylized lightening bolts. Below, the frames that show the hours and minutes on the caterpillar tracks evoke the pincers of a robot from the 1950s.
The same transparency is found on the back of the DualTow’s slightly domed rectangular case. The sapphire crystal is attached to the case back with specially constructed screws designed by the manufacture.
This imposing case, designed like a powerful stage setting, has mobile lugs specially developed for the wearer’s comfort. A large opening on the left side allows a view of the pulleys that drive the hour belt. On the right side, a smaller opening between the pusher and the crown offers the same view. Both are partially rubber-moulded.
The case comes with robust straps in either crocodile leather or rubber, which are equipped with a special three-bladed clasp. The clasp can be easily and delicately extended up to one centimetre, thanks to the two mobile parts hidden under the decorative cover.
We mentioned above that the 68 watches are available in the DualTow line, all of them ‘unique’ timekeepers. This unique personalization is made possible thanks to a ‘configur-ator’ that is on the watch’s website at www.dualtow.ch. Clients can thus directly configure their own version of the watch by choosing from a large range of colours offered for the various elements of the piece. For the case, they can select from white gold, rose gold, platinum or black PVD titanium.
The mainplate comes in rhodium-plated, 4N gold-plated or black gold-plated versions. The same applies for the hands, tourbillon bridge, the screws that hold the sapphire dial and the hour and minute display forks. The rubber belts and the other rubber elements are available in nine different colours, ranging from ‘Lipari Black’ to ‘Russian Red’, from ‘Diane Violet’ to ‘Lyra Green’ or ‘Eos Blue’. By selecting these different possibilities, each client can thus compose his or her own personal and exclusive DualTow watch.
Source: Europa Star October-November 2009 Magazine Issue