Tourbillon minute repeater with four cathedral gongsThe Soprano by Christophe Claret
The Soprano is a timepiece of contrasts: traditional haute horlogerie with state-of-the-art manufacturing; English Parliament with French King; historic complications with contemporary design; aural indications with visual displays; noble gold with high-tech titanium, and metal components with sapphire elements.
The minute repeater is considered – with good reason − to be one of the most demanding and difficult horological complications to realize due to the marriage of technical complexity with artistic musical tonality. A minute repeater tells the time audibly with two notes created from two small hammers striking two gongs: one for the hours, one for the minutes and a combination of the two for the quarter hours. Even more complex is the Clarion repeater with three notes that can play a simple melody for the quarters.
However, the nec plus ultra of the minute repeater realm is the Westminster – so called for the distinctive tune played by the Big Ben clock at the Palace of Westminster, home of the British Parliament. Big Ben strikes a complex melody for the quarters with four hammers striking four notes on four bells. To provide an even fuller and richer sound than standard repeaters, the Christophe Claret Soprano features four cathedral gongs, each circling the perimeter of the movement twice (a normal gong goes around only once). And to further ensure that the rich sound reaches the listen’s ears, the central case band is in grade 5 titanium, a metal known for its superior acoustic properties and used in musical instruments.
A few decades before Big Ben began chiming Westminster Quarters over London, the French king Charles X was making a significant impact on art, architecture and horology. One of the defining characteristics of pocket watches created during this period were stepped bridges, which became known as Charles X bridges. Having spent much of his early watchmaking career restoring beautiful timepieces from this epoch, Christophe Claret incorporated this historic design element into the Soprano.
In 1997, Christophe Claret was the very first to use sapphire bridges (even then Charles X style) and plates in wristwatch movements, and the Soprano makes liberal use of sapphire components to allow visual access into the mechanisms. From the smoked ring circumscribing the movement that discreetly hides yet subtly reveals the cathedral gongs, to the transparent mainspring barrel at the top of the open dial, and turning over to the clear repeater inertia governor cover visible through the sapphire display back.