July 16, 2015
by Ariel Adams
They say that a good watch has personality: it is an item with its own little life that exists on your wrist to tell the time and also make your daily life a bit more interesting. With the 2015 limited edition Christophe Claret Allegro, you get more than just a high-end luxury watch with a unique mechanical movement but also something with a real face.
I can’t deny that each time one looks at the dial of the Christophe Clare Allegro, they must see some manner of mechanical anthropomorphism staring back at them. It isn’t just me that sees the face of some unknown and likely ancient horological deity in the Christophe Claret Allegro: I am rather sure that, by design, everyone is meant to see the almost jovial grin. Those subdials must be eyes, and that open window dial with a view of the movement looks all too much like a mouth. This timepiece is looking at you – and it appears to be happily snacking on a mouth full of watch parts.
This version of the Christophe Claret Allegro has a smoked, transparent dial, but other models of the Christophe Claret Allegro (which you can view here) have solid faces with the open window. While the “face” is the same in each, certain colors emphasize the visage all the more. When it comes to wearing this little robot man on your wrist, I say collectors should go for the full effect and choose those models of the Christophe Claret Allegro where the face is the most noticeable.
Back in 2013, this Christophe Claret Allegro’s aesthetic cousin was born when Christophe Claret released the Kantharos (hands-on here). We (and people at the brand) likened the dial of the Kantharos to some type of an owl-like creature – though, if you looked at the dial in certain ways, the likeness of a face was lost. With the Christophe Claret Allegro, the brand has certainly refined their ability to capture the true essence of personality in a smile that you’ll never forget is gazing back at you.
Gaze, you will, as the primary high-complication of the Christophe Claret Allegro is a minute repeater whose mechanism offers visual animation both on the dial-side as well as on the back of the case. On the rear portion, you’ll see most of the traditional minute repeater systems such as the gongs and hammers, but the special gear train which makes it all possible is located mostly in the open mouth. Operate the minute repeater, and you can try to imagine the watch speaking at you in some type of undecipherable alien language as the gears move. Well, if you speak “Swiss minute repeater,” I suppose, you’ll understand what it is telling you (which is the time in the form of chimes, of course).
Christophe Claret himself once shared with me that minute repeaters are his favorite types of complications to work on. We have even seen him design chiming features in to watches that don’t have minute repeaters. The above mentioned Kantharos, for example, contains a single hammer and gong used to chime when the chronograph is activated. Christophe Claret even included this type of feature on his first ever eponymously-named watch when he launched the Christophe Claret brand with the Dual Tow. Here is a hands-on look at the Christophe Claret Dual Tow Night Eagle.
With each new watch Christophe Claret produces, it is clear that he is trying to do something different – that no one has done before. I don’t think that he has ever explicitly said this to me in so many words, but as someone who knows watches, I can more or less infer this motivation behind his work. Aside from visual design, the point of the Christophe Claret Allegro is to combine certain complications that you don’t really see together all that frequently. The in-house made caliber ALG89 manually-wound movement combines a minute repeater, big date indicator, and second time zone indicator (with an AM/PM indicator window), along with a standard indication of the time with a subsidiary seconds dial.
A timepiece like the Christophe Claret Allegro is what some people would consider a “collector’s piece.” That is a way of saying “well, it isn’t really trying to vie for a spot on your wrist as an item you’ll wear each day,” but when you feel a connection to the watch, you’ll be inclined to wear it. The rest of the time, it will sit (ideally) protected somewhere. That is probably a good idea, since the retail price for the Christophe Claret Allegro is over a quarter-million dollars.
The complex mechanical movement in the Christophe Claret Allegro operates at 3Hz and has a power reserve of about 60 hours. Also, while I don’t have too many additional details, Christophe Claret claims that the ALG89 movement contains more parts produced in-house than ever before. Christophe Claret continues to develop and design movements for other companies, so bolstering their in-house production capabilities make sense.
What I like most about Christophe Claret’s movements are how three-dimensional they are when looking at them. There is a real sense of height and depth to the movements when looking at them from most any angle, which greatly adds to the level of beauty and visual fascination. On the rear of the Christophe Claret Allegro, you’ll see an open view of the movement which has their “Charles X style” bridges that are a good example of what I am talking about regarding a sense of depth. It is very interesting what Christophe Claret is able to do, and true movement nerds are quick to appreciate his approach to making modern mechanical movements which always have a nod to the past.
At 45m wide in a range of case materials which are mostly a combination of titanium and 18k gold (white or red), the Christophe Claret Allegro has a bold presence. While I like this case style I feel that it is getting a bit long in the tooth. The real allure for me of Christophe Claret’s design innovation is how he melds a wonderful ability to create a cool movement, with a cool display, that exists in a cool case. That latter element has been a bit static over the last few years, as Claret hasn’t done too much in terms of case innovation since he released the X-Trem-1 watch collection in 2012. No doubt, Mr. Claret is working on new cases, but I really wanted to start seeing them, as I am hungry for his creativity.
There is no denying that the Christophe Claret Allegro is a niche-appeal watch with an avant-garde design and a unique set of complications that don’t immediately have a lifestyle analog to connect to. What I mean is that I’d like to know more about who Christophe Claret had in mind when designing this watch. Speaking of that, I think it would be a marketing benefit to the brand to spend a bit more time explaining in general what inspired some of their designs. Christophe Claret himself is, by most accounts, a genius, but that same quality can lead to a degree of communication isolation whereby it becomes difficult for him to explain what he is trying to do with each new watch he releases.
Over the course of the construction period of the Christophe Claret Allegro watch, the brand will produce a total of 60 pieces as part of this limited edition collection. Each model will be limited to 20 pieces and the price is 268,000 Swiss Francs. christopheclaret.com