Christophe Claret was born in Lyon, France, in 1962, and studied watchmaking at the Geneva School of Watchmaking. He continued his studies by working with Roger Dubuis, opened a vintage restoration workshop back in Lyon, and began making his own watches. In 1987, at Baselworld, Rolf Schnyder, Swiss industrialist who had just purchased Ulysse Nardin, ordered twenty minute repeater movements from Claret. This enabled his to get things going: in 1989 he set up his Manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, designing and building his watches, doing virtually everything in-house. Today, his collections are in four groups: traditional complications, extreme complications that feature unconventional functions and designs, gaming complications in which games such as poker, black jack, baccarat or roulette accompany the time-keeping functions, and ladies’ complications. In 1999, he moved the manufacture to the Manoir du Soleil d’Or, a classical Swiss country mansion on the hill above Le Locle, all timber panelling, creaky floors and a gigantic traditional ceramic stove. He later extended the old building by adding another 2,000 sqm workshop space behind. Today, about 100 people work at the manufacture.
Throughout his career, Christophe Claret has continued to make movements for other brands, such as Franck Muller, de Grisogono, Girard-Perregaux, Jean Dunand and Harry Winston. Today, Christophe Claret is one of the few brands making virtually everything in-house, including some of his own machines, for which there is a separate division, Christophe Claret Engineering. He has another office dedicated to making the videos presenting his watches, applying the same sort of CGI software used for films like Avatar. One of the pieces of equipment that you wouldn’t really expect is a high-speed camera operating at 100,000 frames per second. It is used to check each of the microscopic movements that occur in a watch. For example, to the human eye, when a chronometer is reset, the seconds hand simply flicks back to zero. Using the high-speed camera, you can see that in actual fact it gets to zero, overshoots a fraction, and then oscillates back and forth for a bit before stopping.
Claret finds his inspiration in many ways. From his experience restoring vintage watches, from which he developed the stepped bridges in the so-called Charles X style. He also pioneered the use of sapphire for bridges to increase the transparency and depth of his watches. The DualTow, with hours and minutes shown using rolling belts, was the outcome of some work in the garden using a mini-excavator with rubber tracks. The hands made of ruby, that catch the light and glow, were inspired by car speedometers.
Christophe Claret currently makes from 80 to 100 watches per year.
Christophe Claret SA
Le Soleil d’Or 2
2400 Le Locle
Tel. +41 (0)32 933 00 00
Christophe Claret, owner & designer