Next, roulette: on the back of the watch the winding rotor, which is visible through a glareproofed sapphire crystal, serves as the roulette wheel. Once set in motion by one or two undulatory movements, the wheel turns for a few moments before stopping. “Place your bets! The bets are down! No more bets!” Here there is no ball, however, but an arrow inlaid into the winding rotor that stops at one of the 37 numbers (from 0 to 36) applied to an internal flange. “Eight, black, even and low!” Your lucky number? If it were, a special key would have been used to place it opposite a green emerald set into the back – a rather extraordinary custom feature for those who believe in their lucky number. Superstition has its reasons that Reason cannot know…
But these games are only a playful warm-up for the king of all card games, Blackjack. Blackjack appeared in France in the 18th
century under the name of “21,” and consists of drawing cards to equal or to come as close as possible to 21 points. If the player goes over 21, he “busts” (loses). Across the table, the dealer follows the same rules. The winner takes the stakes. Introduced later in the United States, “21” did not initially see much success there. To make the game more attractive, bonuses were invented. For example, the black jack paid 10 to 1! Today, the bonus has disappeared, but the name remains.
The dealer deals one card face up to the player; then draws a card, face up; then deals a second card face up to the player. The player then decides to either ask for a third card (“hit”) or stop (“stand”). He can ask for as many cards as he likes before stopping, but of course he risks going over 21. Once the player’s cards have been dealt, the dealer plays, using one simple codified rule: “Dealer must draw on 16 and stand on 17.” Of course, the dealer also runs the risk of going over 21.
Until now, no one has ever had the idea and the ability to adapt this complex Blackjack card game to an automaton watch. On the lower part of the dial, between 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock, the player’s four cards appear in windows. Two are visible, the other two hidden by shutters. On the upper part of the dial are three additional windows for the dealer’s cards, one of which is visible, the other two also hidden by shutters.
Playing could not be easier! A pushpiece at 9 o’clock arms a spring that triggers, all at once, the seven discs on which the cards are printed. Made of solid gold to impart the ideal weight and inertia, these discs each rest on a double set of ceramic ball bearings. After a few seconds, they are randomly stopped by a jumper-spring. The extremely delicate symbols and numbers on each card are made with successive transfers, requiring that they be fired in a dedicated oven once for each colour.
A bell rings with each hit
At this stage of the game, three cards are face up: two of the player’s cards and one of the dealer’s. The next step is delightful. If the player is going to hit, he presses the pushpiece at 8 o’clock, engraved with the word “player.” One of the shutters then opens, revealing his card, and at the same time, in a supremely refined touch, a bell rings to indicate “hit.” Each time a shutter opens, whether for the player or the dealer, the note will sound. The striking mechanism’s hammer and bell are visible through a side window at 2 o’clock.
When the player’s turn is over, the dealer can take a turn, always following the strict rule “Dealer must draw on 16 and stand on 17” – a rule which is even written out on a small plaque affixed to the dial in one version of the 21 Blackjack! The dealer operates the pushpiece marked “dealer” at 10 o’clock to open one of the two shutters. Now all that remains is to count up the points and determine the winner. The dealer has some 216 different card combinations; the player no less than 4096; for a total of 884,736 ways to win or lose.
Such a complex automaton watch was bound to house an exceptional movement. This Manufacture Calibre BLJ08 is a self-winding COSC chronometer-certified movement comprising 501 parts and two barrels ensuring a power reserve of about 72 hours. In addition to the casino games and chime, it displays hours and minutes. To ensure extreme accuracy, it operates at a frequency of 4 hertz, or 28,800 vibrations per hour.
The titanium or titanium/gold crown, which is at 3 o’clock between the two side windows, is topped with a ceramic or ruby cabochon engraved with Christophe Claret’s new logo. The dial is in black onyx or titanium and grey sapphire, depending on the version, with a plaque decorated in casino-themed motifs (card games, Las Vegas or Joker) serving as a setting for the black PVD/ruby or gold/ceramic hands. The black alligator strap is attached by a two-screw system developed by Christophe Claret’s teams, which avoids damage to the case during handling. The case is watertight to 3 atmospheres of pressure (30-metre depth), and is also available in several versions: white gold and grade 5 black PVD titanium; pink gold and grade 5 black PVD titanium; platinum and grade 5 black PVD titanium; grade 5 black PVD titanium, or grade 5 grey titanium. Each version will be limited to a maximum of 21 pieces.
Reserved for a clientele of sophisticated enthusiasts and collectors, the 21 Blackjack heralds a promising future. Building on its independence, the watchmaking developer intends to surprise us again by offering other four-dimensional watches in the future. Far from being anecdotal, this concept opens up a whole new world of expression that so far is practically unexplored. In this world, Fine Watchmaking will not be content to be passively admired; rather, it will offer as-yet unknown sensations and emotions that will be actively evoked by playful and exceptional mechanics. Christophe Claret watches promise to be real “toys for boys”!
Christophe Claret Manufacture
In 1999, motivated by his excellent reputation, he acquired an old manor house perched on the heights of Le Locle. It was the beginning of a new era: in just years, the number of clients exploded and his staff grew from 17 employees to 62. Short on space, Christophe Claret completed the Manufacture’s first addition of 500 m2 built in 2002, a space which he doubled again in 2008. Equipped with a substantial state-of-the-art equipment base, his Manufacture now produces virtually all of the components in his movements in addition to all of the case elements. In 2009, the 20th
anniversary of his company, Christophe Claret introduced the DualTow, an extraordinary mechanical showcase of his skill. This first complete watch led to a second, the Adagio, and now a third – the 21 Blackjack