For the last few years Blancpain has been one of the more curious high-end Swiss watch brands from one of the major groups. It was Mr. Jean-Claude Biver who built the brand up to what it is, and since selling it to the Swatch Group it has moved around a bit in terms of who is running it. Today Blancpain is headed by Marc Hayek, the younger son of the late Nicolas Hayek senior. Marc currently oversees a few brands including Jaquet Droz and Breguet as well as Blancpain. Where he has taken the brand is… well interesting.
If you look at what Blancpain Perpetual Calendar has become today it feels like a combination of what people expect from the brand as well as the things Marc is currently into. He can’t really mess with Breguet as it has a more or less tried-and-true formula. Jaquet Droz also has a DNA which needs to be adhered to. But with Blancpain being a watch manufacturer and high-end mechanical workshop, Hayek apparently feels he can play around with the brand’s product line. In a sense, Blancpain has turned into his workshop for experiments and creating pieces to go with the activities that he likes – one of those being racing Lamborghini cars. Actually I can’t complain, because Blancpain’s diving watches (both sober and wild) are my top picks for the brand.
Marc Hayek does in fact race and enjoy the motor sport lifestyle. While Blancpain 1151 doesn’t exactly sell Lamborghini-branded timepieces, these L-Evolution sport “Super Trofeo” models are as close as it gets. Even the subsidiary seconds dial is shaped like the Lamborghini shield logo. Traditionally I haven’t been a fan of these models from a design perspective. The quality was there, but I just didn’t “get” what they were going for. There are actually some non-sport L-Evolution models that are nice, but they seem to have little to do with Lamborghini or auto racing. Then I was able to check out this L-Evolution Split Seconds Flyback Chronograph and I finally found a Blancpain L-Evolution sport model that I really liked.
The watch was released in combination with the debut of the Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Super Trofeo Stradale (God there are a lot of Gallardo versions) super car. Apparently it is based on the race car from the Lamborghini Blancpain X Fathoms Super Trofeo race (yes, an actual Blancpain sponsored race featuring Lamborghinis). While the Gallardo LP570-4 Super Trofeo Stradale car is limited to 150 pieces, this is not a limited edition.
From a branding perspective it can be difficult to see how all of these things are connected, but trust me they are. The sneaky world of high-end brands wheeling and dealing (literally) is most always highly complex and confusing when it comes to these types of unique products. Anyhow, so let’s talk about this rather cool watch beginning with the movement. As I said, Blancpain is a serious watch movement maker and this L-Evolution Split Seconds Flyback Chronograph watch has an in-house made movement which by the name of the timepiece should already be rather obvious to you in terms of its functions.
Inside the watch is the Blancpain How To Pronounce caliber 69F9 automatic. It is actually quite complicated being made of 409 parts, using a very cool design. Too bad that the automatic rotor is so large, being designed to look like the wheel from some Lambo cars. The 30 minute chronograph features split-second and flyback complications. Construction-wise, the chronograph uses a column-wheel as well as a vertical clutch. All those features together make it one robust and highly sophisticated mechanical chronograph mechanism. The movement of course has the time, as well as a big date indicator located at 6 o’clock. Not sure why, but I quite enjoy the “digital” font used on the date discs. It is a fun detail and helps ensure that you know Blancpain doesn’t take themselves too seriously when it comes to this collection of timepieces.
Manufactured in-house by Blancpain, the Blancpain Moonphase Villeret Quantieme Annuel GMT watch contains the grade 6054F automatic movement – whose gold rotor is very nicely decorated. While the movement structure is decidedly modern in its aesthetics, you still see a whole lot of haute horology hand-finishing. The motion has some extra interesting elements which merit discussion. These include being produced from 367 parts, using a silicon equilibrium spring (for accuracy) and employing Blancpain’s brilliant “under lug correctors.” Look carefully under the lugs and you will notice small pushers that you can working with your palms. All these have a few benefits. First is that the watch doesn’t have to rely on unsightly inset pushers on the side of the case. Second is that you don’t require a particular tool in order to correct the GMT or calendar configurations. On most watches with in-set pushers, you want a stylus to operate them – and if you use a metal, then you risk scratching the watch. This is just one of the numerous little ergonomic marvels you see far too rarely in the world of high-end watches.As you can see, the relative simplicity of this Blancpain Villeret Quantieme Annuel GMT watch hides some attractive details as soon as you take a good look. That isn’t true with all Blancpain versions, but Blancpain is a new which tends to be pretty poor at explaining its own best virtues (therefore we try our very best to do it to them when possible).On May 5, 2016, CH Premier and Blancpain will be hosting an evening cocktail reception and talking engagement with Blancpain US Brand President, David Gely, where he’ll talk about the brand’s longstanding link to the underwater world and its commitment to preserving and protecting the planet’s oceans. Blancpain along with CH Premier invite watch fans from the Santa Clara, California place to attend.The Blancpain Ocean Commitment will be on display at the exhibition together with a special selection of vintage Fifty Fathom timepieces which date back as early as the group’s creation in 1953. Again, the display will run from April 29 to May 17 and here’s the information for the May 5th cocktail occasion.
The L-Evolution Split Seconds Flyback Chronograph watch case is very nicely detailed and available in either lightly (satin) brushed 18k red or white gold. I think a titanium case option would have made a ton of sense. The case is 43mm wide (water resistant to 100 meters) and includes a carbon fiber bezel to match the carbon fiber dial and carbon fiber elements in the strap. This is the first time in a long time (perhaps ever) that I have seen something like carbon fiber being matched with gold. Unlike some of the wildly unbalanced dials of some of the other Blancpain L-Evolution sport watches, this one is relatively balanced and attractive. So much that the curious large “9” and “12” o’clock hour indicators aren’t that off-putting.
Because it seems to make sense, the chronograph start and stop pusher is in red. It actually helps visually balance out the red colors of the hour indicators on the dial. The dial has a lot of lume and even though the hands are skeletonized they aren’t tough to read. Attached to the Blancpain Repair (reference 8886F-1503-52B or 8886F-3603-52B) L-Evolution Split Seconds Flyback Chronograph is an Alcantara leather strap with red contrast stitching and hexagonal openings with a view of the carbon fiber inserts. At the end of the day I think the watch is pretty cool, but it leaves me questioning what it is. Is it a sports watch? High complication watch? Racing watch? Luxury lifestyle watch? I don’t know. It certainly satisfies Mr. Hayek’s lifestyle for sure being a high-end sport-style watch that a discerning watch lover wouldn’t be ashamed to wear for having a silly movement. All at a price of about $55,000.