One of the watches that I was most eager to get my hands on at Baselworld 2011 was Christophe Claret's new 21 Blackjack masterpiece. Having previewed the 21 Blackjack watch and understanding all of its three gambling game functions, I was eager to see the master watchmaker's work in real life. For the first time, a single watch could play blackjack, dice, and roulette - not to mention that this is the first watch ever that could play blackjack.
The design of the watch is polarizing, however, some felt that the design left a bit to be desired given Claret's usual intense attention to refinement. It is true that the 21 Blackjack watch is a very different Claret timepiece but I think it satisfies its mission well. That mission of being a showpiece, a plaything, and a casino floor toy. A watch like this isn't meant to look elegant and timeless, it is meant to draw attention - just as casino games do - for better or worse.
I like the watch, especially the hands. I eagerly wanted to see those synthetic ruby lined hands. There are actually two options, the hands seen here in red, and onyx hands on the gold version. Christophe Claret took the same type of synthetic ruby material used in mechanical watch movements and made it into parts of the hands. The results are broad, determined looking hands with a bright red edging. I love them. The rest of the dial is all dedicated to the Blackjack game. The face is smoked sapphire crystal with windows showing the cards. The only semi-cheesy part is how it wants very much to be a blackjack table and the (slightly unnecessary to be constantly seen) "Dealer must draw on 16 and stand on all 17" plaque prominently placed on the face.
For more details and tech specs see my earlier post of the CC 21 Blackjack here. The case is 45mm wide and substantial in its presence. I like that Claret doesn't make watches for wimps. Operating the blackjack game is done via the pushers on the left of the case. The operation is smooth and the randomizer spins the solid gold discs with the card images printed on them with incredible detail, much like small turbines. Pushing the "deal" button has the watch emit a sort of "whirring" noise. It is fun, though just wearing the watch is fun enough. Can you easily play Blackjack with the watch? Yes. The watch is the dealer allowing you to just sit back and play a little game of chance with yourself.
In addition to the blackjack game complication the watch has two other games. The roulette game is linked to the automatic rotor. Rather than just a free spinning rotor, it has a little stepped system that has it stop in little notches. As you can see, a small ball is attached to the wheel as it moves around and will stop precisely in front of one of the numbers. The detailing here is also very impressive and you can only see it when you take off the watch. There is another interesting element back here - see the small emerald that says "lucky number?"
Christophe Claret includes a tool that you can use to move a ring on the back of the watch with the emerald on it. This allows you to point the precious stone next to your own lucky number on the roulette wheel. Works perfectly as long as your lucky number isn't higher than 36.
The last game is the most simple though it is very satisfying. These are the small-sized dice located in a chamber on the right side of the watch. Claret is proud of just how tiny the dice are, as well he should be. They are freaking small little dice! I have no idea how he managed to machine those little guys. They are behind a transparent sapphire crystal so you can just shake the watch around and then look at what numbers come up.
Mechanically, the 21 Blackjack is amazing and Christophe Claret really delivers on his promises. Does this high-end toy make a good daily wear? Of course not. As occasional fun wear, and a testament to Claret's unrelenting passion for micro-mechanics, the 21 Blackjack limited edition watch is a watch-lovers delight that isn't afraid to play games. Each version is limited to 21 pieces (and there are a handful of versions). Very cool and priced around $200,000.