With its Métiers d’art collection, Blancpain has been exploring new artistic and expressive horizons, nurturing traditional skills with different expressions. Case in point: recently, the craftsmen of the Métiers d’art workshop in Le Brassus presented Shakudo dials. Of Japanese origin, Shakudo is an alloy principally composed of copper and gold, which acquires a dark patina between blue and black, according to variations in its composition and texture. This year, Japan has once again been an inspiration to Blancpain. One of the manufacture’s latest artistic creations features a Binchōtan dial.
Binchōtan is a charcoal of extra-pure quality (often described as the best in the world) made from Japanese Ubamegashi oak. Sourced directly from Japan, in the Kishu province of Wakayama, it is made using century-old traditional methods. Ubamegashi is burnt at low temperatures over several weeks in large kilns to obtain a particularly dense material. The resulting material (nearly 100% carbon) features an incomparably smooth surface and intense black colour.
The oak wood charcoal is washed and machined to obtain a perfectly thin disc for the dial. It is then meticulously polished. Wood being a natural material, this operation is delicate and the parts with natural imperfections in the grain of the wood cannot be used. The Binchōtan plates are then lacquered several times in succession with the resin from the sap of Asian lacquer trees. Finally, these are decorated with motifs applied with red Japanese Urushi lacquer.
The dial is adorned with three hand-engraved gold appliques providing a striking contrast to this intense black background: two cartouches bearing the brand’s name and the caption ‘Swiss Made’, and in the centre, the door of an Asian temple. These are patinated using the Shakudo technique.
This work of art is fitted into a 42mm pink gold case with the signature Villeret double-stepped bezel. Turning the watch over, the sapphire caseback offers a superb view of the in-house hand-wound calibre 13R3A. This large movement (30.60mm x 4.57mm) is regulated by a balance oscillating at 28,800 vibrations per hour and fit with a silicon hairspring. It can store up to 8 days of power reserve on three barrels mounted in series. The power reserve is indicated on the bridge side. As you would expect from Blancpain, the finishing is top notch with finely chamfered bridges, Geneva stripes, perlage or snailing.
The Blancpain Villeret Métiers d’Art Binchōtan is worn on an alligator leather strap. It is a unique piece but the brand also offers bespoke services. More information on www.blancpain.com.