Spend less than a minute playing with Christophe Claret’s 21 BlackJack, and you’ll instantly appreciate the skill and playfulness of the Le Locle-based master watchmaker. A watchmaker is what we call Claret, perhaps because we lack a term that fully conveys what he means to the industry. He is, of course, a master of the horological arts whose workshop furnishes high complications to about twenty of the top watch brands. But, in addition to supplying tourbillons and minute repeaters, Claret is a genius of micro engineering with few peers. Now that he is making watches under his own brand name, he is also becoming something of a horological celebrity.
With the 21 Blackjack, Christophe Claret invented a miniature casino for the wrist. The timepiece offers collectors the chance to play three casino table games constructed with a very realistic and sensory feel. These include a dice game, black jack and roulette on the watch’s back, which can be customized by the watch retailer to land on the favorite number of the customer.
And oh yes, the 21 Blackjack also tells the time.
Immediately after its release at BaselWorld last year, the 21 BlackJack was one of Claret’s most iconic inventions, and many a journalist on the watch beat made a stop at Claret’s exhibition space to check it out and meet Claret. Rolling the dice, playing a few hands of blackjack and spinning the roulette wheel were just too hard to pass up.
While Claret’s mechanism is far from the first watch complication to mimic a casino game, the 21 BlackJack is the most realistic by far. The wearer can simulate a blackjack hand played between a dealer and a player, with totally random card drawings leading to consistently unpredictable and entertaining outcomes. And, drawing on his many years of experience making minute repeaters, a beautiful chime rings each time the player draws a card.
This past December, Christophe Claret’s eponymous watch line, founded only three years ago, hosted its first gathering of the international press to announce a partnership with Monaco’s Casino de Monte-Carlo. There, Claret presented a unique version of the 21 BlackJack that would be the grand prize in a roulette tournament hosted by the casino. The unique watch was cased in white gold and white grade 5 titanium, as well as a white gold bezel set with 3.6 carats of diamonds. It is the first watch ever to bear the logo of the Casino de Monte-Carlo.
Valued at over 300,000 euros, the unique timepiece can only be won through the roulette tournament. That will require a 5,000 -euro buy-in and some serious luck.
Well-heeled collectors will be happy to know that Claret simultaneously announced a limited edition of—you guessed it—twenty-one timepieces that pay homage to the unique tournament-only watch and the partnership between Claret and the Casino de Monte-Carlo.
These timepieces, which are essentially the same but lack the plentiful diamonds of the unique piece, also bear the logo of the casino. Like the unique piece, the limited edition is also encased in white gold and titanium; however, here the titanium is coated with PVD.
According to Claret, these pieces will be commercially available in December 2012 for the price of 188,000 Swiss francs.
Claret revealed the timepieces at a press conference across the street from the casino, at the luxurious Hotel de Paris, where he hinted at a few more debuts that collectors can expect in the coming years. His next gaming complication, he said, will incorporate the card game of Baccarat, the preferred table game of the casinos in Macau, the Las Vegas of Asia.
Claret also hinted that 2013 may see the introduction of a Christophe Claret timepiece priced in the 70,000-Swiss-franc range, significantly lower than what his previous models have cost and a strong signal that the firm in Le Locle aims to create a brand with broader reach to more collectors.