The watchmaker’s watchmaker, Christophe Claret has created a home of horology in the Neuchâtel region of Switzerland, where his Manoir du Soleil d’Or stands as a beacon of modernism and traditionalism amongst the titans of fine watches. Like an alchemist creating magic in a castle in the sky, Claret has developed a world of wonder, producing watches like no other brand in the world. We met up with the man who banished the word ‘impossible’ from his headquarters, and replaced it with ‘challenge’.
What first attracted you to watchmaking?
I first became enthralled by the idea of horology as a ten year old child. Even at that age I was busy dismantling mechanical components to examine how they worked and what they contained. From the age of fourteen, I spent every Friday afternoon with a watchmaker in Lyon, where I was allowed to dismantle, clean and assemble a variety of clock movements. The mechanical ingenuity of these movements instantly fascinated me.
Where there any particular watches you fell in love with when you were that age?
My first love was a Charles X period watch, it was my first pocket watch and had a silver case. I bought it with my pocket money when I had just turned fourteen, so it was incredible special to me then and still is now.
Is watch-making a career you would recommend to young people?
Of course, and especially these days because there are so many different professions housed under the umbrella of the watchmaking profession due to new products now available on the market.
Your watches are exceptionally unique. How important is design to you?
Design has always been incredibly important to me, and remains so today. I am personally involved in the design of the entire product, whether it be the case, the dial or the hands, but especially the movement and each of its components.
What are your thoughts on the debate over modern vs traditional methods of making luxury watches?
For me personally, I appreciate more the skill involved in constructing watch movements with traditional finishes and aesthetics. Modern machines are also very important too though. Most of the machines we use have been created by our Christophe Claret Engineering Department in collaboration with manufacturers of machines, and these are key in ensuring we produce watches with ever more efficient methods of construction, whether that be through the level of complexity of the movement or, especially, the stability of accuracy and quality of manufactured components.
Explain why the X-Trem-1 is so unique
This watch is extremely innovative as it is the first wristwatch equipped with a retrograde hours and minutes display system where two small steel spheres – hollowed to make them lighter – encased within two sapphire tubes placed to the right and left of the caseband, are controlled by precision magnetic fields generated by two miniature magnets. These are then moved by cables with no mechanical connection with the movement, with each one floating inside the two tubes and creating outstanding horological magic. We worked over a year with a professor at the University of Yverdon in order to have the control of magnetism for this purpose.
What is your favourite watch you have ever made?
That’s an impossible question to answer, it’s like asking a father which child he prefers.
Are there too many luxuries watch brands out there crowding the market?
Clearly, if there were less high end watchmakers in the market it would be easier to acquire a greater market share. Nevertheless, I think thanks our innovative products and product consistency, we have more chance of success in the market these days than others.
In the current difficult financial climate, do you still regard watches as a good financial investment?
I think as long as the product is rare, exceptional and limited by its quality and innovation, it will always be a good financial investment. This has always been the case and will continue to be.
So that being said, what is the future of high-end watch-making?
Fine Watchmaking will always continue to have a prosperous future, as long as we are capable of coming up with interesting or innovative products that will correspond to future markets and attitudes.