I’ve had the chance to spend some time lately revisiting the current offerings of Blancpain, and getting re-familiarized (or perhaps just familiarized, period) with their pretty extensive catalog. If one wasn’t already keyed in to the fact that Blancpain is a serious watch Manufacture, viewing their outstanding lineup certainly gets you up to speed. Since being revived by Jean-Claude Biver in the 1980’s, the ancient brand whose origins date back to 1735 has produced a steady output of really remarkable watches – after all, it was the introduction by Blancpain of the complete calendar with moonphase that is credited in good part, for the revival of interest in fine mechanical watches, which seemed doomed to extinction by the early 1980’s. Blancpain’s intimate partnership with movement specialist Frederic Piguet resulted in the production of an extremely fine series of column-wheel controlled chronograph movements which to this day represent an enviable balance between horological craft and technological sophistication. Since the early days with the “Six Masterpieces” watch series, perpetual calendars, minute repeaters, tourbillons with bounteous power reserves, split-second chronographs, and Grand Complications (the amazing 1735) have all found their way from the tiny workshops of Blancpain in Paudex and Le Brassus, onto the waiting wrists of fortunate watch fanatics all over the world.
Therefore, it seems understandable that within the ranks of Blancpain cognoscenti, the introduction this past year of a new, designed-from-the-ground-up, manually wound 8-day movement would definitely stir up excitement. Though I’ve not personally had a chance to examine one yet, Blancpain’s first watch to house this new calibre looks to be very, very nice, as one would naturally expect from Blancpain. The limited-edition Blancpain Le Brassus 8-Jours watch is cased exclusively in 950 platinum, and is a wonderfully elegant watch that will appeal strongly to classicists. The Blancpain 13RO Calibre, as it is called, displays some very high grade elements, such as a free-sprung Breguet overcoil hairspring, three mainspring barrels, (two of which “feed” the third, resulting in a consistent power transfer to the escapement, and thus ideal isochronism) and a unique titanium balance wheel whose inertia is controlled via 4 gold screws on its rim. The date mechanism looks really neat as well, and it has a built-in device that precludes any damage should the user inadvertently attempt to set the date backwards. Needless to say, the finishing of this new Blancpain movement is exemplary, both in places visible to the viewer, and places that only the watchmaker typically sees. Ron DeCorte of Timezone, has written an excellent and very informative article on the new Blancpain Le Brassus 8-Jours watch, complete with pictures of the impressive new Blancpain 13RO movement in various stages of dissasembly; there are also some amazing Blancpain animations shown that give a truly in-depth view of the the details and construction of this movement.