Tested: Blancpain Villeret
written by A.Morgan - 9th Jan 2012
In the world of less is more, there is little to hide behind – so can Blancpain’s Villeret reside in the halls of classical design masterpieces or is it as exciting as a blank piece of paper pinned to a polar bear in a snowstorm?
There’s no denying that Blancpain has the experience needed to make a fine watch; they are in fact the world’s oldest watchmakers, having taken root in 1735 under the command of Jehan-Jacques Blancpain, on the top floor of his house no less. And where was that house? Villeret, Switzerland of course, thus being the inspiration for the line of classically designed traditional timepieces in the modern-day Villeret collection.
The Villeret is the antithesis of the modern watch. It is more than certain that big, bold, and impressive has its place, but sometimes it is nice just to take things right back to basics, to enjoy a modest purity without any kind of madness and eccentricity. Perhaps the idea is more simply explained like this:
A rollercoaster is like the modern watch; the high g-forces, the immense speeds and acceleration, and the overwhelming sense of adrenalin and excitement are all great fun, however this kind of thing can become tiresome very quickly. An evening spent under the setting late summer sun is, however simple and unexciting, an experience that never gets old, and neither does classic, simple design.
Of course, condensing an emotion so complex and mysterious into a pile of metal and glass around the size of a £2 coin is never going to be easy, especially without any fancy gadgets or complications to justify potential shortcomings on. This particular model, the Ultra-Slim Power Reserve, houses the Frederic Piguet Cal. 1153 handwound movement that boasts only a rather handy one hundred hour power reserve (making the power reserve indicator pretty much a necessity), leaving the dial clear and clutter free for the most part and the watch as a whole exposed to judgment without distraction.
For some it may be that bit too clean, but if plain and simple is your mantra, then the Villeret achieves it with a sense of luxury and quality that stands up to microscopic levels of inspection. The hands, for instance, do not have the usual hole in the middle where they push-fit on, instead they are capped off, with the surrounding edge raised and chamfered, whilst the enamel dial has a finely ridged hour track that catches the light on its almost metallic surface.
Everything about this watch is exquisitely sculpted and manufactured with not a single detail out of place. The strangest thing is that, despite the styling being extremely classical, it does not feel outdated or prissy. Of course it doesn’t come across as super-modern either, but rather it has a certain timelessness to it, a balance that reveals the skill evident amongst the watch designers at Blancpain; their eye for detail and their penchant for perfection.
You can have and you can enjoy your Panerais, your Hublots and your Grahams, and I sincerely hope you do, but for those occasions where the need for something pure, honest and most of all, simple, comes a-calling – and it will – you’ll struggle to find much better than the Blancpain Villeret.