I was recently at Silverstone attending the Blancpain Endurance Series and was mooching around the various models on offer from Blancpain. The historical brand from Le Brassus was founded in 1735.
I am familiar with many of the models of the range and have coveted several models from the traditional Villeret range, the legendary diver’s watches named Fifty Fathoms and the avant-garde L-evolution models inspired by motorsport. However, it was whilst I perused the various models on display within the Blancpain hospitality area I chanced upon a watch I had never seen before.
I contacted Blancpain for more details. I just had to know more. The specification sheet arrived. It was entitled, “VILLERET, Inverted Movement with white or black ceramics, hand-winding”. This watch appeals to my basic prying instinct to view the mechanism of a watch. The movement is visible from the front and provides a backdrop to the two handed timepiece.
The dial & movement
I ordinarily adopt a predetermined format to reviewing the watch. I begin writing about the dial, then the case, movement and so on. A modified approach is required for this timepiece, the dial and the movement are intrinsically conjoined. The first thing to strike you about this watch is that the bridges are the key feature of the dial. On some watches the owner is indulged with a view of the bridges when the watch manufacturer provides a sapphire caseback. But this watch is very different.
A series of bridges span the going train. The most easterly bridge, adjacent the crown, is detailed with Roman numerals from 3 o’clock to 6 o’clock. All the bridges are inlayed with ceramic, providing a wonderful contrast with their silver coloured borders and the recessed aforementioned numerals. The model is available with both white and black ceramic.
The white ceramic version was the model I saw at Silverstone and it remains indelibly etched on my psyche. I knew I would have to write about it immediately I made its acquaintance. Rubies provide warmth next to the angelic white ceramic finish. They are outlined in the silver hued metal which frames the bridges. Silver coloured screws share similar borders to the rubies, with edges perfectly bevelled.
The hour and minute hands are leaf-shaped and skeletonized. The axis of the hands is charmingly finished. The fulcrums of both the hour and minute hands are arranged to appear like two concentric circles in close embrace. The design details are exquisite and visually appealing. Adjacent the axis of the hour and minute hands is the brand’s nomenclature in lean, capitalized font. The text is recessed within the ceramic, revealing the silver colour of the bridge material beneath.
The screwed balance is on view whilst worn on the wrist. Beneath the balance wheel, circular graining is visible to the wearer. The finissage is exemplary and testament to the artisans who spend their working days in Le Brassus.
Another detail I adore is the sight of the ruby pallets interfacing with the escape wheel. It reminds me of the beating heart at the centre of this mechanical masterpiece. Wherever you look, the flawless finishing brings you closer to the connoisseurs and craftsmen of horology. The pleasure continues. An aperture beneath the bridge spanning the centre of the dial, reveals the beautiful brushed finish of the visible cogs.
The case is 43 mm in diameter. This is well-judged, allowing easy viewing of the exquisite details of the dial whilst retaining the discreet proportions of a dress watch. The case height of 9.50 mm would not be termed ultra-slim, yet is modest, congruent with character of the watch. White gold is a noble metal of understated elegance and works in handsome accord with the dial.
The polished finish of the case exudes luxury but without the outré boasts of some finishes. These would detract from the elegant character of the watch. The light is captured beautifully by the case finish, reaffirming the magnificence of the design. The crown protrudes only slightly from the caseband, yet is knurled to facilitate user-friendly operation.
The interhorns are neat, absent of superfluous detail. They draw the strap near to the caseband with minimal spacing. I normally crave a sapphire crystal case back to absorb every detail of the movement lurking within. This watch has a sold case back which would typically lead to frustration on ￼my part, however, much of the peerless mechanical craftsmanship can be viewed from the front of the watch. My potential frustrations are negated.
I only write about watches I love. Life is too short to waste time condemning the ugly, idiotic or crass. I am sometimes accused of being a lover of horology, with dubious, fickle virtue. I freely give my heart to many watches, proffering lifelong affection after a short courtship only to have my head turned by another curvaceous horological form.
The legibility of the black ceramic version may be better, but I cannot betray the affection I share with the white dial version. It is a pure face, absent of sin, borne to provide faithful companionship forever. This is a watch for keeps.
Would I change any aspect of this watch? Yes, a watch of such beauty, intellect and fine breeding commands a worthy name. I applaud this watch, I just think Blancpain need to conceive a model name of comparable beauty.
- Model: VILLERET, Inverted Movement with white or black ceramics, hand-winding
- Reference: 6616-1527-55B (white ceramic); 6616-1530-55B (black ceramic)
- Case: White gold; diameter 43.00 mm; height 9.50 mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and solid case back.
- Functions: Hours; minutes.
- Movement: Calibre 152B, manual-wind; frequency 21,600 vph (3 Hz); 21 jewels; power reserve 40 hours; 170 parts.
- Strap: Alligator leather strap on white gold deployant
More information can be obtained through the Blancpain website.