You know us at Monochrome-Watches, we love complicated watches and Haute-Horlogerie. We love exotic displays, we crave for independent watchmakers and their audacious creations, we could barely cry in front of a grande complication. With the watch we’re going to test today, we found something that can easily fulfill our needs: a one-minute carrousel (a sort of tourbillon) and a minute repeater together with a superbly finished skeletonized dial and an automatic winding. Here is the Blancpain Carrousel Minute Repeater Le Brassus, one of the most complicated timepieces of the manufacture.
Forget about the massive 45mm x 15.3mm case. We’re not talking about a daily beater like a Rolex Datejust here. We’re into passion and demonstration of advanced watchmaking skills. Wearability and legibility are not the important facts here. We’re not requesting such a watch to be practical. It’s heavy and massive. Whatever, it is not made to be hidden under a cuff. And the size is not a result of a showy design, but comes from the movement itself and the need of space for the chimes. The hands do not clearly pop out. Yes, true, but who cares. You’re not going to dive with it and need it to have contrasting super-luminova. What we have here is pure dream and pleasure.
Visually, the Blancpain Carrousel Minute Repeater is indeed not the smallest or the most discreet watch we’ve experienced before. The case is large and heavy but still wearable. It is made of 18k red gold. However, the alloy used by Blancpain remains (hopefully) quite soft in its colour. It comes with a 2-step bezel, a classical design, typically Blancpain (a similar design can be found on the Villeret Chronographe Pulsomètre). The lugs are short and curved enough to balance the watch on the wrist. The dial is partially opened in the middle and comes with a white enamel chapter ring, with applied gold indexes for the hours. This central aperture offers a superb view on the mechanical elements: all the levers and gears that actuates the minute repeater and the hands are visible.
All the elements are finished by hand with straight or concentric graining, beveled angles or mirror polishing. The main plate, made of the same metal than the case, comes with a fine perlage. Alongside the finish, 3 elements are especially noticeable. First, the gears with their specific design (close to a car’s wheel), a typical Blancpain feature that is also part of the Bathyscaphe Chronograph Flyback. Then, the multiple levers on the top of the dial. You can see them moving when actuating the minute repeater and feel the mechanic working. Finally, the carrousel that is located at 6, always very pleasant to look at.
From the sapphire caseback of the Blancpain Carrousel Minute Repeater we can also see some very interesting features. The visual aspect is quite special and unique, with these deep engravings (no Geneva Stripes or graining here) and the bridges and rotor made in red gold. Then come the finishings, with the same level of details than the dial: hand chamfered bridges or polished screw heads and slots. The movement is built around two main components: a special tourbillon and a minute repeater.
The minute repeater is using two hammers (visible on the back side, made of steel and engraved as the rest of the movement) and 2 cathedral chimes, longer than normal chimes, to produce a clearer and louder sound. In a normal minute repeater, the gongs cover around 1.5 times the perimeter of the movement. When they exceed that length, they are called “cathedral gongs” and create two sets of chimes. It means that the work of the watchmaker, in order to adjust them to the desired tone, is way more difficult.
The regulating organ is what Blancpain likes to call a “one-minute flying carrousel.” Like the tourbillon, the carrousel counteracts and neutralises the effects of gravity, as it rotates on itself in one minute. With a tourbillon, the carriage is linked to the barrel via a single gear train. The carrousel is connected to the barrel by two gear trains: the first delivers the energy required for the operation of the escapement, while the second controls the carriage rotation speed. Thus, it requires more components. The movement is composed of 444 parts and boasts 65 hours of power reserve. Last feature: the movement is secured as the gongs cannot be activated when the crown is pulled.
The Blancpain Carrousel Minute Repeater is part of these extremely complicated and expensive collections that we can find in several catalogs. It may be seen as marketing, in order to promote the most classical and profitable collections, such as the sports watches or usual dress timepieces, by demonstrating the knowledge of a manufacture. In a sense, it is true, but every industry linked to luxury goods is doing the same (concept cars from BMW certainly help to sell the 30k 3-series). Putting aside these material considerations, we won’t blame a brand such as Blancpain for doing this type of watches. It may be priced north to 300,000 Eur and limited to 30 pieces, it’s an object of pleasure and passion. And we love it.