One of the best watches I saw last year from Blancpain at Baselworld – (remember this was in 2018 when the Swatch Group was still there) – was the Villeret Tourbillon Heure Sautante Minutes Retrograde.
This was a watch that, as the name describes, has a Tourbillon, Jumping Hour and Retrograde Minutes, a trio of complications that on the surface, is surely enough to tempt one in for a closer look. Yet when the watch was placed in my hands, I was amazed. Why? Because the reason for its appeal was something beyond what it had technically.
Let me put it this way – if the appeal for a watch can be quantified with the head and the heart, the Villeret Tourbillon Heure Sautante Minutes Retrograde satisfies both to the extreme. No one can complain about what it brings to the table technically – I’ve already listed the complications after all – yet what it brings aesthetically, is so sublime, so balanced and so clean, that one is left utterly speechless.
There are a rare few watches that make me remember them after I’ve spent a short time with them, and this was one of them. I immediately hailed it – to whoever would listen – as one of the best watches released in Baselworld that year (2018). And given the fact that my appointment with Blancpain was necessarily short in that little window of a packed schedule, I was hoping to have a closer look at the watch again when it would arrive in boutiques later in the year.
But that was not to happen? Why? Apparently I was not the only one who had been mesmerised, and so any pieces that were produced were immediately spoken for.
That is until a recent Blancpain event, when it happened to be on the wrist of a senior executive from the brand, who was in Singapore to introduce the 2019 Novelties.
Yet I did not know this to be the case, until in a conversation with someone from the brand when I exclaimed that the Tourbillon Heure Sautante Minutes Retrograde was a watch I had been so impressed by last year but never saw again. She instantly replied, “Oh, but we have one here today.”
And here it is.
In its pride of place at the 12 o’clock position is the flying tourbillon that notably uses a transparent sapphire disc for its lower bridge which makes the tourbillon seem to float. This is more obvious when seen from the rear view of the movement.
As we move back a little to take in the view of the movement from the back, we see the hand-guilloché pattern on the bridges and even the ratchet wheel which has been skeletonized. Note as well the guilloché decorated wheel that serves as a power reserve indicator for the watch which comes in at a very healthy 144 hours (6 days).
The main content of the dial design is all down the central axis with the Flying Tourbillon above and the time display below. The time is told by a combination of an hour window – which holds the jumping hour, and a minute track that goes from 0 to 60 and then jumps back (retrogrades). The symmetry of the dial is beautiful and one even forgives the fact that this is not a watch that one can quickly telling the time with. Although with a watch like this, that is a secondary consideration.
The inclusion of a Grand Feu enamel dial elevates the clean design, imparting another layer of purity to the overall aesthetic. Yet it also adds another layer of difficulty, since the dial design is quite complex, needing additional steps to account for the holes in the dial and the diamond polished rings for the tourbillon and the hour window.
On the wrist, what you see is a model of simplicity and symmetry, with the dial elements floating in a sea of white. Wrist presence is of course very nice, and with the 42mm 18K red gold case case, the watch wears well due to the relatively short lugs that slope down from the case.
Overall, I was glad to see this watch again in the flesh and to photograph it in more detail. There are watches that leave a lasting impression and this was certainly one of them. In execution, it is my perfect elegant Blancpain and one that I can probably live with for the rest of my life if I were lucky to afford one.