Collector’s favorite Blancpain maintained its distinctive vision and enhanced its appeal to Asian watch aficionados in particular with its new watches for 2012. Revealed at Basel World earlier this year, we were truly impressed with what we saw, even though we did not manage to see everything. For this report, we will begin with one watch we heard a great deal about but did not actually get a chance to view, the Villeret Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel.
Villeret Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel
Angled clearly towards East Asia, this watch offers a full traditional Chinese calendar. To our knowledge, the Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel, or Reference 00888, is the first watch in the world to offer such a complication. Briefly, the watch marries some basic functions (hours, minutes and Gregorian date) with elements of the Chinese calendar. These include traditional double-hour, day, month (with indication of leap months), zodiac signs and five elements with 10 celestial stems. The movement is the in-house calibre 3638, with an impressive 7-day power reserve.
Given that this is the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar, Blancpain is to be commended for going with a different interpretation that nevertheless is directly related to the year in question. In fact, while standard dragon interpretations are clearly one-offs, the Villeret Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel can become a regular fixture in the collection. Those looking for a direct dragon reference should look to the limited edition (a series of 20) in platinum, where the dragon is engraved onto the rotor of the automatic movement.
Villeret 8-Day Squelette
The next new Villeret watch is one we have selected as being amongst the most notable of 2012, the Villeret 8-Day Squelette (Reference 6633). In an intriguing move, Blancpain has created a traditionally baroque open-worked or skeletonized movement and added a decisive contemporary touch in the titanium balance. This balance is highly visible in the 4 o’clock position. As with most skeletonized watches, there is an oddly ethereal feeling to the entire piece, with sections of the watch being entirely see-through.
The in-house movement, calibre 1333SQ has been graced by two other arts aside from skeletonizing: chamfering and engraving. Chamfering, otherwise known as beveling, involves whittling away at metal to create slender and angled structures. In this piece, engraving has resulted in the elaborate patterns on the bridges and the mainplate. Issued in a 38mm white gold case, the watch is not a limited edition, which will no doubt surprise many. Of course, for craftsmanship at this level, one should expect supply to be limited by capacity.