I’m always reminded of the advertising campaigns initiated by Jean Claude Biver when he was running Blancpain in the 1980s, in which the brand declared: “Since 1735, there has never been a quartz Blancpain. And there will never be.”
This is always something good to remember when thinking about the ladies watches from Blancpain, because it is sometimes necessary with other brands of a similar prestige level to enquire if a watch you’re looking at from them is a quartz watch. Not that I’m against quartz in any way, but I’ve always wondered what the point was to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a quartz watch from a prestige brand, with a mass produced technology that is destined to stop working in a few decades due to the lack of circuit boards and old batteries.Thankfully, there are no such worries with Blancpain and it’s nice that everything, even the impossibly small ladies watches from the brand, are mechanical.This is the reason why the new calibre 510 from Blancpain is such a nice addition to the brand’s movements, and evidence that they still care about making ladies watches the proper way.
The “Valentine’s Day 2020” is a limited edition watch of 14 pieces in celebration of Valentine’s day, but also a notable showcase of the brand’s new form movement, the rectangular and skeletonised calibre 510.On the outside of its rectangular white gold Art Deco style case sit a row of 84 diamonds, sometimes in superposed rows, including two marquise-cut gems. It also has a mother-of-pearl dial inlaid with two hearts, and adorned with two brilliant-cut diamonds and two precious butterflies made of diamond and ruby hearts.All well and good, but it’s the movement that is perhaps the bigger story here. At 12mm wide and 25.2mm long, it might not be the smallest movement in the world, but it is a new one and it comes with an impressive set of features. For example, it has a good 52-hour power reserve, which is surprising given the small size of the movement. Because of this, the barrel does take up a large proportion of the space at the top of the movement, with the relatively large free sprung balance wheel dominating the space at the bottom.It is surprising that the movement is also open-worked, and most of the going-train, the barrel ratchet wheel as well as the keyless works being visible, although as visible as can be given the small amount of space that was available to work with
While the Saint-Valentin 2020 does stand alone as an intriguing piece of horology, what might be surprising is where the inspiration for this watch came from.The art-deco and rectangular case was inspired by a watch that was owned by Marilyn Monroe, and made by Blancpain in the 1930’s. Inside, there is a form mechanical movement with 17 jewels that bears the Rayville signature because this was before the brand was renamed Rayville-Blancpain in 1933 after the death of Frederic-Emile, the last of the Blancpain family. At that point, the business was take over by his assistant – and the first woman to run a Swiss watch company- Betty Fiechter, who would go on to have a long and storied career with the brand. Blancpain purchased the watch at a Julien’s Auction in 2016, after it had been put up for sale as part of the Estate of Lee Strasberg, Marilyn’s acting coach, who received the watch upon Marilyn’s death in 1962.Now that does make the new “Valentine’s Day 2020” something a little bit more special, and it does make it a memorable way to launch the new calibre 510. There is no doubt that more ladies watches from Blancpain will feature this exceptional movement in the future.