Christophe Claret 21 Blackjack

Christophe Claret Manufacture has been active in high end watchmaking sector for more than two decades, mostly serving some of the world’s prestigious watch brands.

Founded in 2001 by Christophe Claret, the Manufacture introduced first watch bearing the Christophe Claret brand name, the DualTow in 2009. Following the success of the DualTow and Adagio, Christophe Claret plays another card with its third creation, the 21 Blackjack. A real miniature casino, it matches grand complications with the world of gaming, in the process creating a new watchmaking paradigm: the interactive watch.

The DualTow already offered a fabulous 3D effect; with the 21 Blackjack, Christophe Claret has propelled informed enthusiasts into the fourth dimension. In addition to transparency, relief, and the passage of time, here he adds the sensory effects of blackjack, roulette and dice. An unprecedented upmarket toy for aficionados, expressing a kind of watchmaking that has cast off its inhibitions.

For over 20 years, the Christophe Claret company has been designing, developing and producing fine watch movements for the most prestigious brands. Of course, the founder will continue this activity, but now at the head of a company renamed La Manufacture Claret for enhanced clarity. The Christophe Claret brand itself is gathering an experienced and dynamic team dedicated entirely to its strategy’s success: to go where no one has ever ventured before, into the territory of playful and complex Fine Watchmaking.

Connoisseurs of fine mechanics are thoroughly impressed, and certainly not by vain promises. If they are speechless, it is in the face of Christophe Claret’s acknowledged inventiveness in offering them no less than three casino games. To start there is Dice.

This game features a pair of miniature dice, 1.5 mm on each side – and incidentally, perfectly legible – which are located in a cage at the 4 o’clock position on the side of the case and, visible through a sapphire crystal, offering the oldest game of chance. When shaken in their tiny capsule, the dice can be used by one or more players, for a game of craps, for example.

On the back of the watch the winding rotor, which is visible through a glare-proofed sapphire crystal, serves as the roulette wheel. Once set in motion by one or two undulatory movements, the wheel turns for a few moments before stopping.

“Place your bets! The bets are down! No more bets!” Here there is no ball, however, but an arrow inlaid into the winding rotor that stops at one of the 37 numbers (from 0 to 36) applied to an internal flange. “Eight, black, even and low!” Your lucky number? If it were, a special key would have been used to place it opposite a green emerald set into the back – a rather extraordinary custom feature for those who believe in their lucky number.

But these games are only a playful warm-up for the king of all card games, Blackjack. Blackjack appeared in France in the 18th century under the name of “21,” and consists of drawing cards to equal or to come as close as possible to 21 points. If the player goes over 21, he “busts” (loses). Across the table, the dealer follows the same rules. The winner takes the stakes. Introduced later in the United States, “21” did not initially see much success there. To make the game more attractive, bonuses were invented. For example, the black jack paid 10 to 1! Today, the bonus has disappeared, but the name remains.

The dealer deals one card face up to the player; then draws a card, face up; then deals a second card face up to the player. The player then decides to either ask for a third card (“hit”) or stop (“stand”). He can ask for as many cards as he likes before stopping, but of course he risks going over 21. Once the player’s cards have been dealt, the dealer plays, using one simple codified rule: “Dealer must draw on 16 and stand on 17.” Of course, the dealer also runs the risk of going over 21.

Until now, no one has ever had the idea and the ability to adapt this complex Blackjack card game to an automaton watch. On the lower part of the dial, between 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock, the player’s four cards appear in windows. Two are visible, the other two hidden by shutters. On the upper part of the dial are three additional windows for the dealer’s cards, one of which is visible, the other two also hidden by shutters.

A pushpiece at 9 o’clock arms a spring that triggers, all at once, the seven discs on which the cards are printed. Made of solid gold to impart the ideal weight and inertia, these discs each rest on a double set of ceramic ball bearings. After a few seconds, they are randomly stopped by a jumper spring. The extremely delicate symbols and numbers on each card are made with successive transfers, requiring that they be fired in a dedicated oven once for each colour.

At this stage of the game, three cards are face up: two of the player’s cards and one of the dealer’s. The next step is delightful. If the player is going to hit, he presses the pushpiece at 8 o’clock, engraved with the word “player.” One of the shutters then opens, revealing his card, and at the same time, in a supremely refined touch, a bell rings to indicate “hit.” Each time a shutter opens, whether for the player or the dealer, the note will sound. The striking mechanism’s hammer and bell are visible through a side window at 2 o’clock.

When the player’s turn is over, the dealer can take a turn, always following the strict rule “Dealer must draw on 16 and stand on 17” – a rule which is even written out on a small plaque affixed to the dial in one version of the 21 Blackjack! The dealer operates the pushpiece marked “dealer” at 10 o’clock to open one of the two shutters. Now all that remains is to count up the points and determine the winner. The dealer has some 216 different card combinations; the player no less than 4096; for a total of 884,736 ways to win or lose.

Such a complex automaton watch was bound to house an exceptional movement. This Manufacture Calibre BLJ08 is a self-winding COSC chronometer-certified movement comprising 501 parts and two barrels ensuring a power reserve of about 72 hours. In addition to the casino games and chime, it displays hours and minutes. To ensure extreme accuracy, it operates at a frequency of 4 hertz, or 28,800 vibrations per hour.

Technical details
Movement
Mechanical self-winding movement, Calibre BLJ08, twin barrel, 501 components, 40 jewels and 7 double sets of ceramic ball bearings, frequency 28,800 v/h (4 Hz), power reserve of about 72 hours

Functions
Hour, minute, three games: blackjack with bell, roulette and dice

Case
White gold and grade 5 black PVD titanium; pink gold and grade 5 black PVD titanium; platinum and grade 5 black PVD titanium; grade 5 black PVD titanium, or grade 5 grey titanium. Diameter: 45 mm
Two side windows, one revealing the striking mechanism hammer and bell, the other a pair of dice
Titanium or titanium/gold crowns
Watertight to 3 atm

Dial
Titanium and grey sapphire with a plaque decorated with casino-related motifs (card games, Las Vegas or Joker), or black onyx
Black PVD/ruby or gold/ceramic hands
Front:
• Three “dealer” windows, two of which are activated by a button pushpiece at 10 o’clock with bell
• Four “player” windows, three of which are activated by a button pushpiece at 8 o’clock with bell
Back:
• 3D roulette wheel that rotates as the watch rotor moves

Strap
Black alligator with a two-screw attachment system that avoids damaging the case
Limited Edition: Each version will be limited to a maximum of 21 pieces

Suggested retail price in Swiss Francs
CHF. 178,000 to CHF. 210,000 (Swiss francs) depending on version and case material

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