Dress watches have something mystical. At a first sight they are often quite straight forward: round case, light dial, two hands and a leather strap. Their size is modest, and there is hardly anything that screams for attention. True connoisseurs, however, are never fooled by this and know from experience that some dress watches have more to them than meets the eye. Hidden qualities that set them apart from the pact reveal their true nature and show that underneath that formal outside there is an exotic inside!
This is especially the case for this Blancpain Villeret. With its 32mm round case, and Blancpain’s signature “double ring” bezel, it really represents the essence of Blancpain, much as in the same ways as the 2100 did this for Blancpain’s more sportive watches. Quite tour de force when you think about it. Long before he introduced the “Big Bang” and “The Art of Fusion” as CEO of Hublot, Jean-Claude Biver gave Blancpain its old glory back by purchasing the rights to the name of this old brand for CHF22.000,-. He built the brand back up from the ground with the help of his business partner Jacques Piguet, of the respected movements manufacture Frederic Piguet. Biver’s two major pillars underneath Blancpain’s strong DNA where the fact that the brand has never built a quartz watch, and that all its watches are round.
With a Piguet involved it doesn’t really come as a surprise that the movement inside this Blancpain is also a Piguet-caliber. Although they are in a sense already quite exotic, this caliber is even more so. Blancpain fitted Frederic Piguet caliber 71 in this Villeret. The ultra thin, automatic movement has one major feature and that is the full size, off-center rotor. This makes the watch quite unique, since most off-center rotors are micro-rotors. Blancpain themselves highlighted this by putting a display back on the watch. This sounds these days pretty standard, but in the 1990’s Blancpain considered it an understatement to use closed case backs. When they went through the trouble of adding a display back, and this is a tradition they still uphold, the rotor should always be made of gold. But to add a little modesty they rhodium plated the one on this Villeret.
Caliber 71 is also not often used in other watches as a time-only movement. Besides Blancpain Breguet also has equipped some of its watches with this automatic movement, but mostly with modules fitted on top to add complications. The best example is probably the stunning ref.3330 from Breguet.
But this Villeret has more to offer then an exotic heart, and that is very pretty face! Blancpain didn’t just use a white dial, but have used something they call “opaline”. This is a very rich, deep cream color that is slightly matted. In essence it just brings out the right, warm hue needed to complement the case and hands, which are of a gold color that holds the middle between yellow and pink gold. This dial also has quite some details, starting with the Roman numerals that seem to have been sculpted out of the dial, and habitat their own periphery on the dial. Quite classical, but they go very well with the leaf hands. Yet the best detail still is the designers’ restraint by not adding more details or needless text, which would ruin the clean balance of the dial.
So there is quite more to this Blancpain than one would expect at first sight, yet in that sense it also embodies the true power of a dress watch; overstated details, design and technology presented as an understatement.