February 29, 2012
by Ariel Adams
Mr. Claret, I will take five! That ought to do just fine… Here is another super high-end, experimental, and unique exotic luxury watch designed to stimulate the masses and end up on the wrists of just a few. It is true that including variations on the word “extreme” as part of the name of something quickly went out of style a few years ago (do you recall when everything was “eXtreme?!”), in this case I will give Christophe Claret a pass because he turned the name into a acronym of sorts. “XTREM” stands for “Experimental Time Research Engineering Mechanism.” Wait, doesn’t that pretty much everything CC releases these days?
Extreme or pristine, the X-TREM-1 watch is both visually interesting and technically fascinating… and it uses magnets! Not impressed? I actually am because magnets are the traditional enemy of mechanical watches. Nothing like magnetism to totally screw up the operation of precisely moving parts. Ever wonder why “anti-magnetic” watches are a big deal? In the X-TREM-1 magnets are used to create the illusion that the steel balls contained in each of the side sapphire crystal tubes move up and down with no help to indicate the hours and minutes.
According to Christophe Claret the concept was developed by a third party and then acquired by Christophe Claret and built into the concept of this watch. The feat is impressive because the magnets used are so specialized and focused that they don’t hinder the normal operation of the movement. In each of the tubes is a small hollow steel ball that is not attached to anything. Given enough shock the ball would likely release from its bond with the magnet, but would then eventually roll back and reattach.
The magnets used are special tiny magnets that are suspended in surgical silk threads that are moved up and down by the movement on tracks in order to have the steel balls pass over the hour and minute indicators to tell the time. This effectively creates “mystery hands” in the grand tradition of clocks that have been doing so for generations. You can even tell the time in the dark as there are SuperLumiNova strips along the side of the case on both ends of the watch where the tubes are located. It isn’t a super precise way of reading the time, but I think we can all forgive this watch given the concept. Probably still easier to read than a Movado Museum Dial watch.
Center stage on the watch dial is the movement. The time indicator part of the watch is all on the side. Claret always does an amazing job of showing off his manufacture’s handiwork. Each of the movements are hand-assembled and decorated. The new movement is the caliber FLY11. It uses a sophisticated titanium curved base plate and contains a flying tourbillon. The tourbillon is further angled at 30 degree and is mounted on double ceramic bearings. You can see it generously displayed through a sapphire crystal window on the lower part of the watch. The movement contains 419 parts and has a power reserve of about 50 hours. There are two mainspring barrels for the movement – one for the escapement and one for the gear train. The more I look at this watch, the more it looks like a totally crazy carnival game that I don’t understand.
Operating the watch is done via double fold-out crowns on the back of the watch. One is for winding the manually wound movement and one is for setting the time. I like how all manners of operating the piece are hidden from view. Christophe Claret loves titanium, but he also knows that his clients love gold. Much of this watch uses titanium – especially the movement. Though to satisfy his customers most current versions of the X-TREM-1 watch have titanium mixed with a precious metal. Interesting enough this is another rare Christopher Claret watch not to have precious stones in it.
The X-TREM-1 case is 40.80mm wide by 56.80mm tall. At 15mm thick the overall package is quite reasonably sized being not too large or small. I look forward to getting it on my wrist soon. One thing I like about Claret’s case designs are the slick angles and elegant curves. Whereas something like an MB&F is very machine inspired, and an URWERK is very modern industrial inspired, Christophe Claret pieces have an old-world charm that have been modernized but retain the grace of a Delage automobiles (for instance). You don’t have to love all of his stuff, but the brand does “slick” nicely.
This niche appeal watch is certainly the type of thing I have come to expect from Christophe Claret’s workshop. I get all excited about this novel stuff, but know that a lot of my readers are just going to sigh or scoff at it. That is OK. As a watch lover I enjoy the effort involved and the novelty of this horological curiosity. Claret himself did suggest it was “experimental.” Each version of the X-TREM-1 watch will be limited to 8 pieces. To start models will mix titanium and either 18k white gold, 18k rose gold, or platinum. The strap options are either alligator or a special leather that actually looks and feels like rubber (which I have seen before and is neat). Price (depending on the materials) is between 264,000 – 288,000 Swiss Francs.
Technical specs from Christophe Claret:
Dimensions: 26.6 x 46.4 x 11.94 mm
Number of parts: 419
Number of jewels: 64
Power reserve: 50+ hours
Barrels: Dual barrels:
– One for the movement gear train
– One for the time indications
The tourbillon movement and the time indication gear trains each have their own independent energy supply to optimize power distribution and duration.
– Escapement: Swiss lever type
– Oscillation frequency of the balance: 3 Hz (21,600 vph)
– Tourbillon rotates once every 60 seconds
– Flying tourbillon inclined at 30° supported by a double ceramic bearing, with cone-shaped pinion transmission
– Mystery hours and minutes displayed on each side of the case, with indications provided by hollowed steel spheres moving 23 mm inside two cylindrical sapphire tubes
– The metal spheres are driven by magnetic carriages following a surgical silk thread – Reference: SOFSILK
– Seconds displayed on the tourbillon cage
– Mechanical, hand-wound movement
– Open barrel acts as movement state-of-wind indicator: when the movement is fully wound the spring is centered in the barrel
– Curvex with sides inclined at 30° angle
– Mainplate and bridges in bead-blasted titanium
– Open-worked ratchet and wheel
– Use of precisely-shaped magnetic fields in a mechanical movement
– No mechanical connection between the indications and the movement
– Fine adjustment system for the retrograde display returnspring
– Rectangular with curvex profile
– Dimensions: 40.80 x 56.80 x 15 mm
– Water resistance: 3 ATM / 30 m / 100 ft
– Polished white gold/bead-blasted black PVD-coated grade 5 titanium
– Polished rose gold/bead-blasted black PVD-coated grade 5 titanium
– Platinum/bead-blasted black PVD-coated grade 5 titanium Hour and minute displays: Hours and minutes are indicated by two 4mm-diameter hollowed spheres weighing 0.100 grams that move past sapphire scales marked with thin Super-LumiNova graduations beneath the sapphire
Pusher: Fast time adjustment is via an integrated pusher on the caseband at 12 o’clock
Bows: Winding and time-setting via lift-out rotating “bows” on caseback
Strap: Black hand-sewn alligator leather or rubber-touch leather fitted with an innovative two-screw fastening system that facilitates strap change and avoids damaging the case
Buckle: Titanium folding clasp with gold buckle
Distinctive features: Super-LumiNova along the side of the caseband enables time reading in the dark
Number of watches: Each version is issued in a limited edition of eight pieces