Less than two weeks ago aBlogtoWatch previewed the newest mechanical gaming watch by Swiss Christophe Claret. Able to play a full game of Texas Hold ’em, the Christophe Claret Poker is the most complicated mechanical gaming watch this or any other watch manufacture has ever produced. As we previously mentioned, this is the third and perhaps final in a collection of limited edition ultra-luxury “toy” timepieces meant for whimsy and fun, and the exploration of all that can be done in a time wrist-worn mechanism.
It all started with the Christophe Claret Blackjack 21, but did you know that it was not what he intended to release first? In fact the Poker was to be his first gaming watch but it proved a bit more complicated than his team anticipated. So back in 2011 Christophe Claret released a watch that played Blackjack which would eventually lead up to the Poker watch piece now in 2014. We have yet to see the piece hands on, but look forward to giving you a full hands-on review after Mr. Claret antes up.
At 45mm wide the Poker fits the same aesthetic mold as Claret’s previous gaming timepieces. It is a case design that he debuted with the Blackjack 21, but has seen life in other models that don’t even closely fit the gaming theme (such as the musical Soprano watch). There is typically a trio of models available featuring Claret’s penchant for materials and bright colors. While he always focuses on the 18k white gold and titanium models first (I guess he loved the red accents), one of the most visually interesting variations is when he uses blue spinel hands mixed with black.
In the Poker collection this latter combination finds itself in the PVD black-coated titanium model with blue accents. The hands are edged with blue spinel, while other models have had lined with synthetic ruby (red), as well as onyx (black). These are easily some of the coolest hands around, and in person they look even better. The case design is strictly modern. While Claret is more than capable when it comes to producing classically themed timepieces, he seems to have zero interest in doing so for the watches with his name on it. Yes, Christophe Claret does continue to produce and assist in the design of highly complex mechanical movements for a range of other watch brand clients. Few very people on the planet produce anything even remotely like what Christophe Claret does.
The movement inside of the Poker watch is both more simple and more complicated than we originally anticipated when we previewed the new watch. We stated that it would allow the user to play a game of Poker against the watch itself. That is still true if you wish to play alone, but the system is actually designed for up to three players. The game of course is Texas Hold ’em, and Claret chose it because it reduces the internal complexity of the system. Having said that, the in-house made PCK05 automatic movement still contains 655 parts, 72 jewels, a collection of ball bearings, and it even operates at a modern frequency of 28,800 bph while maintaining a power reserve of 72 hours.
In fact, the movement is like two machines. One is for keeping the time, while the rest is for the poker game. The gaming system is completely powered by pressing the pushers as we understand it – which means there is no drain on the mainspring barrel. I also includes a signature Christophe claret “cathedral-style” gong that chimes each time one of the pushers is pressed. That doesn’t add to the functionality, but it does add to the pleasure of playing with the Poker watch. So how does it work?
What we originally thought were rotating louvers are actually a “privacy blinds” system that prevents you from seeing the other player’s cards. Yup, imagine three adults sitting around a tiny poker table that takes the form of this watch. So if all three people are sitting in the right place, at the right angles, then they should only be able to see their own hand. In poker there are apparently 32,768 possible hand combinations assuming you are playing with a single deck. Given that there are three players in the Poker watch, that is a total of 98, 304 possible combinations that the dial can display. Let’s put that into perspective a bit. Do you recall the Girard-Perregaux Jackpot Tourbillon watch from 2007 with the working slot machine on the dial? That only had 125 possible output combinations.
In center plane of the dial contains five cards which are visible to everyone. This is part of how Texas Hold ’em is played. Unlike Five Card Stud where every player gets their own five cards, in Texas Hold ’em each person gets two private cards and seven visible cards that they can use to make the best possible hand of five cards. Not all of the five “public” cards are displayed at once. Three cards are initially displayed (the “flop”) and the players start to make bets. Then one more card is displayed (the “turn”) and more bets are placed. Finally the last card (the “river”) is displayed and the case is then determined based on who has the best possible poker hand. The movement inside of the Christophe Claret watch is designed to adhere to these rules, and the cards in the middle are displayed first as a set of the left three, and then the right two additional cards are displayed each with the press of a pusher.
Claret clearly has at least one patent on his poker mechanism, and you have to admit the implementation is rather brilliant. This isn’t a piece for mere video poker enthusiasts, this is a serious item of haute horology decided to a game. Christophe himself is very open about the fact that he applies the rules and values of traditional watchmaking in the production of extremely exclusive and highly entertaining modern luxury toys. He knows that people don’t need things like this. So what he does is create something that people want. This are amazing watches but they aren’t what we could call “beautiful” in the classic sense. They don’t have elegantly symmetrical dials or timeless designs, but they do have a serious right to demand envy because they represent an apex of “cool” that so few people in this world will be able to access.
If you recall the Blackjack 21 you will remember that the watch actually had three games in one. There was blackjack on the dial, three tiny dice in a small chamber, as well as a roulette wheel connected to the automatic rotor. The roulette wheel makes a comeback once again in the Poker timepiece. It is displayed on the back of the watch and actually allows you to play roulette. Shake the watch and as the rotor loses momentum and the system ensures that it stops on a precise number. Under the spinning roulette wheel there is a view of the mechanical movement. I just think that is so insanely cool how cleverly it all comes together.
There is one more little surprise feature I neglected to mention. Debuted on the Baccarat watch and once again showing up on the Poker is a special image on the sapphire crystal that is only visible under moisture. Basically you need to put your mouth close to the dial and breathe on it heavily. When you do so the image of a pin-up girl will materialize on the sapphire crystal. Why? Well because according to Claret that is what Vegas is like. So just breathe heavily and girls will arrive? Come on… it is a fantasy watch through and through.
In total there will be three limited edition versions of the Christophe Claret Poker watch and each model will be limited to just 20 pieces. That includes 20 pieces in 18k red gold with PVD black titanium, 20 pieces in PVD black titanium, and 20 pieces in 18k white gold and titanium. Price will be between 160,000 – 172,000 Swiss Francs depending on the version (about $175,000 – $190,000). christopheclaret.com