What could be purer or nobler than a white Grand Feu enamel dial? All the elegant watches presented by Blancpain at this year’s Baselworld radiate such pristine faces – an ambitious choice in that there is nothing simple about producing such an exquisitely refined element. This type of dial immediately ranks a watch within the category of precious yet discreet timepieces. The theme pervading all these new additions to the Villeret collection is the fundamental concept of the range: elegance, elegance, and yet more elegance. But Blancpain has also endowed them with other high-quality virtues. They all share the same 42 mm diameter; they feature hand-painted Roman numerals swept over by cut-out sage leaf-shaped hands; and all are available in platinum or red gold. Yet behind this same spirit, the individual executions range from utter simplicity to extreme complexity.
The base of this ‘pyramid’ is a three-hand Villeret, the most uncluttered of them all. Inside beats the self-winding 1335 calibre with its eight-day power reserve, but discretion forbids it from revealing anything of its inner workings. One notch up is the Villeret ref. 6659 with a perpetual calendar and moon phases. As we have come to expect from Blancpain, it features date correctors hidden under the lugs so as not to perturb the beautifully smooth profile of its case.
Moving further upscale we find the Villeret Carrousel Moon Phase model with a five-day power reserve and a carrousel visible through an opening at 12 o’clock. This rotating escapement system is an exclusive Blancpain development akin to the tourbillon and the brand is indeed a past master in both these mechanisms – as confirmed by ref. 66240. The latter’s flying tourbillon, also visible through a broad opening in the Grand Feu enamel dial, is integrated into a brand-new self-winding calibre. Its extremely large barrel guarantees it an autonomy of 12 days – an exceptional length matched by only a handful of movements and which duly deserves to be specifically mentioned on the dial of this pared-down model.
Nonetheless, alongside all this white, Blancpain also introduces a splash of black with the ceramic case of the new Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Chronograph. An extension of the range introduced last year, this uncompromisingly sporty model enjoys another key asset alongside its technical appearance: it is driven by a chronograph movement making its debut in the Blancpain collections. Self-winding Calibre F385 operates at the exceptional frequency of 5Hz, meaning 36,000 vibrations per hour, and is thus capable of indicating 10ths of a second, as well as offering a flyback function. This mechanism is indeed making a noteworthy stage entrance, since alongside this sporty model, it is also housed in a… Villeret case with a Grand Feu enamel dial, the Villeret Flyback Pulsometer Chronograph. Since Calibre F835 is both large and thick, this watch with a diameter of 43.6 mm is somewhat larger than its peers launched this year. This aesthetic choice is however entirely justified, since it was a matter of preserving its harmoniously balanced proportions.