First introduced in 2011, Blancpain’s Villeret Annual Calendar with GMT is, as you’d expect from the refined Swiss brand, an elegant take on an often cluttered complication. It’s an interesting design too – with the date apertures occupying the right-hand side of the dial, something you rarely see. It might look odd initially, but this positioning actually makes reading the date very intuitive. Couple this with the subsidiary second time zone and you’ve got yourself a perfect watch for the aristocratic traveller. The latest version, released at Basel, sees this dressy number given a steel body for the first time. And we have to say that this new, non-precious 40mm case adds something special to the watch. It doesn’t overly detract from the dressy appeal, as the dial is still pretty as a picture, but the simpler case does give the watch a more casual flavour. The Villeret Annual Calendar is still powered by the Calibre 6054F, with a yellow gold guilloche finished rotor. The calendar mechanism only needs manual adjustment once a year, at the end of February. But if you let your watch wind down and need to change the date sooner, it’s a cinch with Blancpain’s unobtrusive… Read More
Last year we spent a lot of time talking about, and looking at hi-res pictures of, the Ocean Commitment Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph. There was something about the combination of gunmetal grey ceramic case and blue sunburst dial that just had us hooked. But with only 250 pieces coming off the production line, the chances of being able to strap this underwater beauty onto our wrists were slim. So imagine our joy at Baselworld when we discovered that Blancpain had released a time only Bathyscaphe in the same grey ceramic, and with the same blue detailing. This was the watch we had been waiting for,featuring the clean modern lines of the Bathyscaphe, now with the awesome brushed ceramic case and a sumptuous dial that shines so brightly in its simplicity. It’s early in the year, but already the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe in grey ceramic is jostling for a top spot in our favourite divers of 2016. And the best news? It’s a regular production piece with an Australian retail of $16,050.
Editor’s Note: Since 2008 Blancpain has been publishing the world’s best underwater photography in Edition Fifty Fathoms, each year showcasing 12 pictures from four leading photographers as part of the Blancpain Ocean Commitment project. Dietmar Fuchs is the editor of this annual publication, and today he shares the chance encounters, fateful moments and poignant stories from the photographers behind twelve of these beautiful pictures. Blue in Profile — Anacapa Passage, California, 1981 Ernest H. Brooks II — Edition Fifty Fathoms 2008 “It was in early 1981 when I was going out nearly every day to take pictures of seals that I realised, that on all my dives with the seals, a lonely blue shark was circling us far in the distance. In the following days he came closer and closer until one day he was close enough for me to start using him as a photo model. It didn’t scare him and he stayed with me during the whole dive, so we became friends – in my mind at least. I named him Blue and he was with me the whole summer. This shot was taken at the end of a dive while I was ascending to the surface, and Blue… Read More
Ocean Commitment is Blancpain’s signature program that aims to raise awareness and help preserve the marine environment, through exhibitions, scientific expeditions and special watches like this Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph. This watch doesn’t just look good, it does good, too. When it was announced back in 2014, we thought a mistake had been made on the press release. This handsome blue chronograph couldn’t genuinely be cased in ceramic, could it? Surely it was brushed titanium or steel? It wasn’t until we held the watch in our hands at Baselworld this year that we appreciated just how amazing this case is. It’s what we’ve since started referring to as ‘stealth ceramic’ – the grey gives it a metallic look, and the brushed finish completes the illusion. But get in close and the similarity to metal disappears. The bezel and the angles on the lugs look like Oscar Niemeyer-esque monumental architecture. The crown and chronograph pushers are also in ceramic – but don’t go thinking this is purely for desk divers. The chronograph is a functional diving tool, safely operable at up to 300 metres, with no fiddly unscrewing of pushers required. What we like most about the watch is how well the… Read More
Editor’s Note: In the middle of last century, the exploration of the ocean’s hidden depths became possible due to two key developments: reliable underwater breathing apparatus and effectively watertight watches. In a special story, Dietmar Fuchs, Editor of Blancpain’s annual Edition Fifty Fathoms, discusses how the availability of these technologies led to a rise in popularity of the underwater world and consequently to our awareness of the need to preserve it. The predawn era Many people associate the birth of sport diving with the explorer, filmmaker and scientist Jacques Yves Cousteau and his famous AquaLung, but nine years before Costeau’s The Silent World Austrian scientist Hans Hass had already conquered the depths using modified military gear – his first film, Humans and Sharks, premiered in 1947. Through books, cinema and television Hass showed the world the beauty and importance of the oceans. 1953 An important year in the history of sport diving, 1953 saw Swiss watch manufacturer and CEO of Blancpain Jean-Jacques Fiechter develop the first modern diving watch with French combat diver Captain Robert Maloubier. Not only did they construct a watertight and pressure-resistant watch case, they also invented the dive bezel lock in the form of the the… Read More
The story in a second: With one of the most impressive ceramic cases we’ve seen, the only problem with this Blancpain is that it’s limited to 250 pieces. Ocean Commitment is Blancpain’s signature program that aims to raise awareness and help preserve the marine environment, through exhibitions, sponsoring scientific expeditions and releasing limited edition watches like this Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph. Proceeds go directly to Ocean Commitment projects. So this watch doesn’t just look good, it does good, too. The case When this watch was announced back in 2014, we thought a mistake had been made on the press release. This handsome blue chronograph couldn’t genuinely be cased in ceramic, could it? Surely it was brushed titanium or steel? It wasn’t until we held the watch in our hands at Baselworld this year that we appreciated just how amazing this case is. Because this is what we’re calling ‘stealth ceramic’ – the grey gives it a metallic look, and the brushed finish completes the illusion. But get in close and the similarity to metal disappears – the bezel and the angles on the lugs look more like Oscar Niemeyer-esque monumental architecture. The crown and chronograph pushers are also in ceramic… Read More
Patina is fast becoming a meaningless word in watchmaking. This is because it has been highjacked by marketing and R&D departments. Patina is now shorthand for an off-white dial, yellowed lume or a distressed leather strap. Patina is a commodity. It sells watches. Like a ceramic bezel, a silicone escapement, a NATO strap; it’s an aesthetic trend, and a really good one, we can’t get enough and we hope it’s not over yet. But this is not what patina means. This is pretend patina. When you see genuine patina, which is wear, tear and the effects of time on a watch, it stands out. In fact it makes you recoil a little bit, because real patina is a lot less visually attractive than the artificially aged. Case in point, this image. If I could sum up the Blancpain event in one image it would be this one; of the saltwater and sweat bleached strap of Laurent Ballesta’s 500 Fathoms. Ballesta is a marine biologist and one of the world’s leading underwater photographers. He handed the watch to me to try on at a table on the rooftop of the Intercontinental in Double Bay. It was perfectly appropriate (not to mention pleasant, take that Monday)… Read More
The highlight of the Blancpain Ocean Commitment event at Icebergs in Sydney was a speech from underwater photographer and marine biologist Laurent Ballesta, who, it must be said, is not unpopular with the ladies. If you like your marine biologists on the Hollywood side, you may enjoy meeting him face to face. “You had all better sit down,” he said, when he took to the lectern. Which did not bode well. There was a ripple of nervous laughter. No-one likes a long speech, even from a ridiculously good looking scientist slash artist. “Not because I will be boring, but because I am going to tell you a story, like when you were small.” The kaleidoscope of colour, creativity and mother nature’s creations that followed, both on the screen – James Cameron MUST buy the rights to Ballesta’s entire life, can somebody help arrange this? – blew the room’s mind, collectively. The barmen stopped serving drinks and turned their backs to the crowd, who were also entranced. 8 REASONS DIVING INTO LAURENT BALLESTA’S WORLD WILL BLOW YOUR DAMN MIND (AND MAKE YOU WANT A BLANCPAIN) Ballesta has played chicken with lots of sharks. As in underwater, Mexican-Stand-Off style staredowns There are more occupational hazards… Read More