Am I right in saying that a Villeret is one of the most underrated items among classic timepieces? Maybe it is, it is actually quite a strong claim to make and it is not even based on figures, my personal professional experience, however, has taught to me that every claim needs to be supported by evidence and by rational economic figures rather than by simple data. Let’s say that, if I were to collect the opinion of five people with a basic knowledge of real watches and asked them what would they go for if they were to purchase a classic timepiece, I am pretty sure that I would get lots of different answers but none of those would involve a Villeret, simply because most people do not know this particular watch at all, in my humble opinion.
Try not to open any newspapers, try not to look at watch commercials featuring famous sportsmen or models and try to avoid Instagram profiles with fake followers; here is where you start to understand which horological world a Blancpain Villeret Quantieme Annuel GMT actually belongs. After reflecting on the images that I took personally of Blancpain watches along with examining the pictures taken by my photographer this year, I am of the opinion that a sports watch like the Bathyscaphe was perhaps the best timepiece to start from this year and I started, infact, with a Bathyscaphe. When it comes to the Bathyscaphe, you can easily say that, when compared to all the other models released by other brands, it is one of the most “understated” sporty timepieces ever launched but it is also the very first watch that comes to mind when you are looking for something to wear on a daily basis. If you start taking a good look at classic timepieces with complications, instead, items that have been superbly design in every little aesthetic and mechanic detail, you must most definitely take a Villeret into consideration.
For the very first time, the Blancpain Villeret Quantieme AnnuelGMT is available with a stainless steel case, a particular choice that makes this complicated watch from the Villeret collection (slightly) more accessible and less serious. On top of things, this year it is as if all brands had secretly agreed on making stainless steel a luxurious metal.
Before starting to talk about this timepiece’s characteristics, I would recommend you to get your hands on the Blancpain's catalogue; it is among the most interesting and almost as big as a book and the manufacturer usually distributes it around from its stand in Basel. That special “book” explains two basic concepts; Blancpain’s leadership in crafting some of the most compact complicated movements on the market and the brand’s trademark to use useful patents rather than trivial ones. I am talking in particular about the annual calendar’s correctors, unlike on other timepieces, these are not located on the case middle and they are not round-shaped either but they are actually small slides hidden underneath the lugs.
At one o’clock lies the corrector that can be used to set the day, the corrector located at 5 o’clock, on the other hand, allows the user to set the month. This particular type of operation, when the watch is used on a regular basis, needs to be performed once a year and only when the month changes from February to March. It is the very only correction that you need to perform on a caliber that doesn’t feature a perpetual calendar complication and that could, therefore, run smoothly until 2100. All the other functions, GMT, date and hour are managed through the crown; there are not too many manufacturers around that are able to create calibers whose complications can be managed solely through the crown. The small 24-hour-counter is entirely devoted to the reference hour while the central hands are devoted to the setting of the time-zone where you find yourself while you are wearing your Blancpain Villeret Quantieme Annuel GMT.
Blancpain are very careful and their designers are extremely light-handed when it comes to sketch a model of the Villeret collection (possibly with the sole exception of the Chinese calendar.) That was the exact case for instance with the Demi-Fuseau Horaire and no matter what the complication is, it always tends to occupy the entire surface of the dial and to uniformly spread across the indicators and the three windows of the calendar. The aesthetic logic concept behind the Blancpain Villeret Quantieme Annuel GMT is clearly to make its style as close as possible to the style of an uncluttered three-hand-timepiece and the appearance of this calendar resembles that of Saxon horlogerie’s timepieces but the rounded applied Roman numbers that match the three-step-bezel.
The dimensions of this timepiece are 40mm by 11mm and, particularly concerning the first one, I would have no reservation at all. The Blancpain Villeret Quantieme Annuel GMT retails at 30,000 euro, it is a workshop-made complicated and an irreducible classic timepiece that doesn’t fit any trends, not even the current fashion that calls for the come-back of classic manual calibers and that a Villeret, without taking anything away from caliber 6045F, would definitely deserve.
(Photo credit: Horbiter's proprietary photo-shooting by Entropik)