Blancpain are arguably best known for dive watches — a reputation embodied in their popular Fifty Fathoms reference, first launched in 1953. That being said, the fine Swiss watchmaker has plenty of other underrated gems worth consideration; with many of the best releases concentrated in the Villeret collection. Steeped in the heritage of the brand’s eponymous manufacture, Villeret watches are the purest expression of classical Blancpain design codes. Distinguished by uninterrupted lines, clean opaline dials and double stepped cases, these models are ideally suited to business executives who prioritise functionality and value. Naturally, the market for mechanical dress watches in Hong Kong is bigger than ever; and Blancpain are capitalising on it with the launch of not one but two new Villeret references in 2018.

Villeret
Blancpain’s new Ref. 6676 Villeret incorporates a technologically superior iteration of the complete calendar/GMT hybrid first launched in 2002.

The first of these is the Villeret Quantième Complet GMT (Ref. 6676), updating three signature complications that the manufacture first debuted in 2002. Meanwhile, the Villeret Quantième Phase de Lune (Ref. 6126) reimagines Blancpain’s most whimsical complication at the heart of a haute joaillerie design, culminating in a women’s release that sparkles with its charm. Regardless of which model you prefer, for those who gravitate towards elegantly styled automatic watches — complete with in-house movement — the new Villeret releases are well worth your time. Let’s take a closer look.

Villeret
Like its male-focused counterpart, the Quantième Phase de Lune is available in red gold or steel. As standard, both versions feature bezels decorated with 48 brilliant-cut diamonds.

Three times a complication

Since the early 1980s, complete calendar moonphases have been a Blancpain signature. Although the Ref. 6676 is technically an all new watch (debuted at Baselworld this year) the complete calendar GMT it utilises has existed since 2002. For this release, Blancpain has optimised the aforementioned two technologies for international travel: incorporating new under-lug correctors which accentuate the model’s shape; and make adjustment of the model’s various calendar functions easier than ever. The Ref. 6676’s visual and mechanical elements work in conjunction with one another, translating into a dressy timepiece that is surprisingly user-friendly when it comes to functionality.

For watches which house multiple complications, legibility is always a crucial concern. In the present case, Blancpain has done a good job ensuring that the dial’s visual elements coalesce together. Think of the Ref. 6676 as possessing a four part radial plane: the outermost area (i.e. chapter ring) is encircled by a 31-day indicator; the second section displays the primary timezone (via Roman numerals); the third section enables you to track a secondary timezone (via 24 hour scale); and the centre houses the moonphase and day-date displays.

Villeret
The new Ref. 6676 releases clock in at a versatile 40mm in diameter; and are available with both alligator leather straps or the distinctive Milanese (a.k.a. “rice bead”) bracelet.

This dial’s execution could easily have been bungled but Blancpain opted (wisely) for a controlled approach: Arabic numerals are characterised by proportionate size and font; whereas appendages used to read the chapter ring and secondary timezone are visually distinct from one another. Endemic of Swiss watchmaking, the red-tipped GMT hand is used to track home time; while the monthly date is indicated by a blued serpentine arm (the latter being another common motif across Villeret models). Taken separately, these details seem a little trivial but each makes a tangible contribution to the watch’s overall “on wrist” impact; ensuring it’s capable of being read easily and quickly, while appearing stylish to bystanders in the process.

Villeret
Hardly flamboyant by modern watchmaking standards, Blancpain’s calibre 67A5 is decorated with the house’s distinctive Geneva striping and clocks in at a delicate 6mm thickness.

Beneath the bonnet, the Villeret Complete Calendar GMT is powered by the Blancpain calibre 67A5: an in-house movement which incorporates a variety of technological updates. Thanks to energy saving components like its silicon mainspring, this calibre possesses a 72-hour power reserve which makes it ideal to sub out over the weekend. In combination with a respectable level of finishing — including Geneva striping and solid gold rotor — the 67A5 is a perfectly solid movement, well suited to powering this new GMT flavoured release.

Say hello to Madame Moon

For its other big Villeret themed release this year, Blancpain are targeting female watch enthusiasts via the Ref. 6126 — a 33mm model highlighting the manufacture’s signature moonphase calendar. Though they bear a passing resemblance to the above mentioned GMTs, these bejewelled timepieces possess a number of distinguishing traits, bound to please devotees of the traditional decorative arts.

Villeret
Relatively uncluttered in comparison to the male-centred Ref. 6126, the new Villeret moonphases are available in red gold or steel.

For starters, whilst applied Roman numerals do make an appearance on the Ref. 6126, three quarters of what would otherwise be numeric markers have been replaced with diamond settings. If the eight gems on the dial don’t satisfy your icy craving, fear not — the bezel studded with 48 brilliant cut diamonds ought to do the trick. The moonphase aperture is equally worthy of attention: wearers who look closely will notice its ladylike visage is decorated with a single diminutive mouche (i.e. artificial mole). That Blancpain would incorporate a reference to 18th century beauty accessories illustrates just how whimsical their approach is. Evidently, they’re not above a little humour during the design process.

Villeret
Note the ladylike visage of the moonphase aperture (at 6 o’clock), decorated with the whimsical historically accurate mouche — a kind of artificial beauty spot popular in Europe during the 18th century.

Powered by the automatic calibre 913QLP, the Ref. 6126 continues Blancpain’s rich tradition of creating exclusively mechanical timepieces for women. Built upon Blancpain’s robust calibre 953, this movement’s power reserve maxes out at 40 hours, making it ideal for daily wear.

The Blancpain Quantième Complet GMT is available now in red gold (HK$213,500) or stainless steel (HK$127,500). Models equipped with Milanese bracelet vary in price.

The Blancpain Phase de Lune is available now in stainless steel (HK$127,500) or red gold (HK$183,500). Models equipped with Milanese bracelet vary in price. 

For more information, visit Blancpain online

Randy Lai
Watches Editor
Having worked in the Australian digital media landscape for over 5 years, Randy has extensive experience in men's specialist categories such as classic clothing, watches and spirits. He is partial to mid-century chronographs and a nice chianti.