One of the surprise highlights from the recent Swatch-stravaganza that was Time to Move was Blancpain's Air Command – a really neat reissue of an historic pilot's chronograph. It's fair to say that prior to this release, knowledge of the Air Command was limited to hardcore Blancpain fans and seasoned professionals. Well, the timing couldn't have been better for the Phillips & Blackbird Sports auction, held in Hong Kong recently. As Lot 814 was an exceptionally rare original version. This 1960s chronograph was in impressive condition — with an evenly aged dial and a very crisp looking 42mm steel case. The watch had an estimate of $390,000 – 780,000 HKD (or roughly $72,000 — $144,000 AUD). And clearly the star of the Air Command is on the rise, as this example hammered in well above estimate at $1,125,000 HKD — or around $208,000 AUD. If one of these rare birds is out of reach (understandable), there's still a chance at the new release, though I expect that even that piece, which is limited to 500 pieces, will be hot property as well.
Increasingly, I'm finding myself drawn to watches that are understated, unassuming expressions of classical perfection. Which goes a long way to explaining why I was so into the Blancpain Villeret Extra Flat. This is an exquisitely simple watch. Two hands, no date and a manually wound movement. A pure expression of classical watchmaking if ever I saw one. It's also very classic in its proportions – the steel (also offered in gold) case is 40mm across by a svelte 7.4mm thin — truly deserving of that extra flat name. But just because it's pared back the essentials, that doesn't mean that Blancpain has sacrificed style or technical know-how. The look is instantly Villeret, with applied, stylised Roman numerals, leaf-shaped hands and that double-stepped bezel. Very Blancpain. The mechanics are impressive too. For all that it's slender, the manufacture 11A4B doesn't sacrifice on performance, offering 4 days of wind off two barrels, which allow for a consistent energy pulse, resulting in greater accuracy at low power. In a nod to user-friendliness there's also a power reserve indicator discreetly displayed on the sapphire caseback. The Blancpain Villeret Extra Flat 6605 doesn't aim to raise eyebrows in terms of 'novelty' factor, but it… Read More
When we were shown the new Blancpain products at Time to Move, we expected to see Fifty Fathoms and Villeret. We did not expect a pilot's chronograph. But, oh boy, was the Blancpain Air Command a pleasant surprise. On its face, this 500-piece limited edition is a very handsome heritage-styled number, with a 42.5mm steel case, topped with glass box sapphire and a distinctly Fifty Fathoms-esque rotating bezel, with that lozenge-shaped pip at 12. The handset is particularly elegant, with matchstick-shaped hands in white, filled with an ivory-toned, vintage-look lume. The heritage feel is picked up on the dial, which is a bi-compax flyback, with the same vintage-look luminous Arabic numerals, and a tachymeter scale. The movement is the F388B, a 5Hz movement that is buttery smooth to actuate. The overall historic tone of the piece is finished off with a nicely patina'd calf strap. It might not have been the Blancpain we were expecting, but it's very, very nice indeed. Blancpain Air Command price Blancpain Air Command, limited to 500 pieces, $24,750 AUD
Like it or not, the origin story of Blancpain's famous diver is inseparable from that of naval warfare. The development of the original watch was driven by two men, Captain Robert Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud, who were in charge of a newly formed French unit, the Combat Swimmers — or Nageurs de Combat. They came up with a list of ideal characteristics for the perfect underwater wristwatch, one suited to their very specific needs. And, in 1953, Blancpain managed to meet these requirements, which came to define the needs of modern dive watches. To celebrate this legacy, Blancpain has released a limited edition Fifty Fathoms (of 300 pieces). And even though the shape is familiar, the overall effect is far more tactical than we're used to. The 45mm case is steel, with a black dial and bezel. The caseback is solid with a very nice engraving of the Combat Diver Qualification Badge, an anchor flanked by winged seahorses. This detailed caseback means you don't get a look at the 135 automatic movement, which is pacing a silicon balance and 5 days of power thanks to the three barrels. As you'd expect, this watch is good to 300m. The final subtle… Read More
In the underwater realm of dive watches, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is an undisputed master. Initially released in 1953, this prototypical dive watch was instrumental in reframing the rules of the game, and defining the modern dive watch. It's to be expected then that the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms has been an enduring feature of our horological landscape ever since, being realised in countless different versions over the years. And this is the latest. The big story here is the titanium case: 45mm across, and rated to 300m, but refreshingly lightweight. Into that mix we get the traditional black Fifty Fathoms dial and bezel (with that charming sapphire insert), and silky sunburst dial texture, with Super-LumiNova packed hands and markers. The movement is the Blancpain 1315, with a hefty five days of power and a silicon balance spring. It's visible through the sapphire caseback. This new titanium take on the Fifty Fathoms offers a strong combination of classic style and contemporary convenience.
If the increasingly frantic targeted ads in my Instagram feed for fancy underwear and/or chocolate are anything to go by, Valentine's Day is just around the corner. Well, if you're reading this and have left your extravagant-show-of-affection-giftstravaganza run a little late, don't worry. We — or rather Blancpain — have your back. Say hello to the Blancpain Villeret Valentine Women Quantième Phases de Lune, a delightful limited edition made with Valentine's Day in mind. Of course, there's the expected mix of mother-of-pearl dial and liberal sprinkling of sparkly stones in the 33mm red gold case, but what really elevates this from regular fancy women's watch to lust-worthy Valentine's Day gift are the little touches. Sure, there's a passionate red-strap option, but look closer and you'll see the tip of the pointer date has skewered (much like Cupid's arrow) a plump red heart. Speaking of arrows, the seconds hand is actually shaped like one. And then there's the moon, which is sporting a little beauty spot, a très cute touch. Finally, the golden rotor continues the Cupid motif. All told, this is a delightful package, and one that leaves a dozen long-stemmed roses in the dust. It's also something of a… Read More
The story in a second: A classy calendar for the life aquatic. Expanding on a dive watch collection — especially one with such a rich history as the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms —is a challenge at the best of times. Do you stick to classic tool watch roots? Do you step outside the box with a complication or design with more commercial appeal? Do you start toying with unorthodox case materials? There are a lot of ways to go here, and as we've seen year after year, the results can be fantastic, just as easily as they can be questionable. We've seen Blancpain take some interesting approaches with the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe collection recently, including the blue ceramic-cased flyback chronograph Ocean Commitment II, but for 2018 we were presented with a couple of very unexpected dive watches from the longstanding brand. The most curious is the annual calendar moonphase (Quantième Annuel Phase de Lune, per the brand), taking the classic 43mm satin-brushed Bathyscaphe case, and fitting it with a very vintage-y dressy-feeling triple calendar moonphase complication. It's weird, it's confusing, it's the first and only diver with this complication, but it also makes the mind roam to the much-loved phrase: "That's… Read More
Named after Blancpain's picturesque Swiss village home, the Villeret collection represents the spiritual heart and soul of the brand. Marking the point at which the Maison's centuries-old elegance meets modern-day innovation, with each model designed with pure lines, slim case profiles, and clean dials that embody the enduring respect Blancpain holds for traditional watchmaking. The latest addition to the Villeret family is the Grande Date Jour Rétrograde, which, if your French happens to be tres magnifique (and much, much better than mine), you may already recognise as a classical Villeret with both a large date and a retrograde day display. The very first time we've seen a retrograde indicator used for the day of the week in the Villeret collection, the display fans out from 9 to 7 o'clock, snapping back from Sunday to Monday with the beginning of each new week. While sitting asymmetrically, just opposite, are dual Grande date windows that, along with the blue hand of the retrograde display, instantaneously change at the turning of each new day. This off-centred look adds a degree of interest to an otherwise cleanly styled opaline dial, with golden hour markers fashioned in the familiar Roman numeral style that's found throughout… Read More