Blancpain Le Brassus
Blancpain stunned the world when it presented the world’s thinnest self-winding chronograph and the smallest minute repeater of its time, when it re-launched in 1987 under the leadership of JC Biver.
n 1991, Blancpain presented the most complicated wristwatch in the world at the time: the 1735 Grande Complication. This exceptional timepiece featured a one-minute tourbillon, a perpetual calendar with moon phase, a co-axial split seconds chronograph and a minute repeater. Only 30 pieces wre made between 1991 and 2009.
Capitalizing on the brand’s rich heritage and the technical mastery, in 2006 Blancpain launched a special timepiece with just the perpetual calendar as a complication.
It is this extremely rare Blancpain Le Brassus Quantième Perpétuel GMT Reference 4277-3446-55bda limited to 150 pieces only.
There are a few watches that bridge the gap between vintage and modern. Old school aesthetic, with modern reliability. This magnificent timepiece does just that.
It is crafted in a 42mm platinum case which is fairly slim at just 13.3mm in thickness, with a doubled-stepped bezel. It offers a 100m water resistance, which is quite impressive for a perpetual calendar.
What stands out at first instance is the beautiful Havana dial, which acts as a backdrop for the neatly laid out functions on the dial.
The perpetual calendar is easy to read with the months and leap year indicator within a sub-dial at 12 o’clock, date at 3 o’clock, moonphase indicator at 6 o’clock and the days of the week at 9 o’clock. The GMT / 24HR ring encircles the sub-dials, just under the roman hour markers in white gold, and all functions marked in white, on a rich brown sunburst backdrop. The patented correctors for the functions are hidden under the lugs. All of the hands are crafted in white gold, adding to the richness of this beauty.
Seen through the case-back is the F. Piguet / Manufacture Blancpain calibre featuring 2 mainsprings offering a 100hr power reserve and a hand-engraved winding mass. The finish on the movement is impeccable with mirrored anglage on every edge.
Offered on a brown alligator leather strap which is soft, yet sturdy to hold the watch firmly on the wrist while offering great wearer comfort. It comes with a platinum deployant clasp.
Blancpain was founded in 1735, in Villeret by Jehan-Jacques Blancpain, and is considered to be the oldest watch brand in the world.
The brand was continuously in operation and within the Blancpain family for almost 200 years, until in 1932 when the 7th generation heir Frédéric-Emile Blancpain passed away and the business was bought by two of his closest staff members, who continued the operations through both World Wars.
The legendary ‘Fifty Fathoms’ was launched in 1953, making it the world’s first modern diving watch with three patents including the innovative double sealed crown system, the caseback seal system and the unidirectional bezel with a blocking mechanism which would prevent accidental rotation of the bezel.
In terms of aesthetics, Fifty Fathoms is one of the most iconic timepieces today.
In 1961 Blancpain merged into the largest Swiss watch group of the time, the Société Suisse pour l’Industrie Horlogère (SSIH), joining Omega, Tissot and Lemania, and was producing over 220,000 watches annually by 1971.
The brand was put into hibernation during the quartz crisis and in 1983, it was bought by the legendary Jean-Claude Biver.
In the late 80’s, it made a solid comeback by launching back-to-back complications include a triple calendar with moon phases, a perpetual calendar, a minute repeater, a split-seconds chronograph and a tourbillon.
The resurrection was so strong that the SSIH (now Swatch Group) bought back the brand and has had it under its portfolio ever since.
You know us at Monochrome-Watches, we love complicated watches and Haute-Horlogerie. We love exotic displays, we crave for independent watchmakers and their audacious creations, we could barely cry in front of a grande complication. With the watch we’re going to test today, we found something that can easily fulfill our needs: a one-minute carrousel (a sort of tourbillon) and a minute repeater together with a superbly finished skeletonized dial and an automatic winding. Here is the Blancpain Carrousel Minute Repeater Le Brassus, one of the most complicated timepieces of the manufacture.Forget about the massive 45mm x 15.3mm case. We’re not talking about a daily beater like a Rolex Datejust here. We’re into passion and demonstration of advanced watchmaking skills. Wearability and legibility are not the important facts here. We’re not requesting such a watch to be practical. It’s heavy and massive. Whatever, it is not made to be hidden under a cuff. And the size is not a result of a showy design, but comes from the movement itself and the need of space for the chimes. The hands do not clearly pop out. Yes, true, but who cares. You’re not going to dive with it and need it to have contrasting super-luminova. What we have here is pure dream and pleasure.Visually, the Blancpain Carrousel Minute Repeater is indeed not the smallest or the most discreet watch we’ve experienced before. The case is large and heavy but still wearable. It is made of 18k red gold. However, the alloy used by Blancpain remains (hopefully) quite soft in its colour. It comes with a 2-step bezel, a classical design, typically Blancpain (a similar design can be found on the Villeret Chronographe Pulsomètre). The lugs are short and curved enough to balance the watch on the wrist. The dial is partially opened in the middle and comes with a white enamel chapter ring, with applied gold indexes for the hours. This central aperture offers a superb view on the mechanical elements: all the levers and gears that actuates the minute repeater and the hands are visible.All the elements are finished by hand with straight or concentric graining, beveled angles or mirror polishing. The main plate, made of the same metal than the case, comes with a fine perlage. Alongside the finish, 3 elements are especially noticeable. First, the gears with their specific design (close to a car’s wheel), a typical Blancpain feature that is also part of the Bathyscaphe Chronograph Flyback. Then, the multiple levers on the top of the dial. You can see them moving when actuating the minute repeater and feel the mechanic working. Finally, the carrousel that is located at 6, always very pleasant to look at.From the sapphire caseback of the Blancpain Carrousel Minute Repeater we can also see some very interesting features. The visual aspect is quite special and unique, with these deep engravings (no Geneva Stripes or graining here) and the bridges and rotor made in red gold. Then come the finishings, with the same level of details than the dial: hand chamfered bridges or polished screw heads and slots. The movement is built around two main components: a special tourbillon and a minute repeater.
The minute repeater is using two hammers (visible on the back side, made of steel and engraved as the rest of the movement) and 2 cathedral chimes, longer than normal chimes, to produce a clearer and louder sound. In a normal minute repeater, the gongs cover around 1.5 times the perimeter of the movement. When they exceed that length, they are called “cathedral gongs” and create two sets of chimes. It means that the work of the watchmaker, in order to adjust them to the desired tone, is way more difficult.The regulating organ is what Blancpain likes to call a “one-minute flying carrousel.” Like the tourbillon, the carrousel counteracts and neutralises the effects of gravity, as it rotates on itself in one minute. With a tourbillon, the carriage is linked to the barrel via a single gear train. The carrousel is connected to the barrel by two gear trains: the first delivers the energy required for the operation of the escapement, while the second controls the carriage rotation speed. Thus, it requires more components. The movement is composed of 444 parts and boasts 65 hours of power reserve. Last feature: the movement is secured as the gongs cannot be activated when the crown is pulled.The Blancpain Carrousel Minute Repeater is part of these extremely complicated and expensive collections that we can find in several catalogs. It may be seen as marketing, in order to promote the most classical and profitable collections, such as the sports watches or usual dress timepieces, by demonstrating the knowledge of a manufacture. In a sense, it is true, but every industry linked to luxury goods is doing the same (concept cars from BMW certainly help to sell the 30k 3-series). Putting aside these material considerations, we won’t blame a brand such as Blancpain for doing this type of watches. It may be priced north to 300,000 Eur and limited to 30 pieces, it’s an object of pleasure and passion. And we love it. Blancpain Le Brassus Watches