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Depth of Field: Laurent Ballesta talks to Yacht Style about what makes him and his Blancpain X Fathoms tick

Laurent Ballesta with his Blancpain X Fathoms

Conservationist, photographer, deep sea diver and Blancpain friend of the brand Laurent Ballesta gives Yacht Style the low down on what makes him (and his watch), the best in their fields.

Depth of Field: Laurent Ballesta talks to Yacht Style about what makes him and his Blancpain X Fathoms tick

It appears from your photographs that you operate with little regard for your own safety. What’s the biggest risk you have taken in pursuit of the perfect shot?

Appearances are deceptive, since risk management is in fact the main priority! For example, during the most recent Gombessa Expedition in Fakarava, which ended this summer, it might be that the images give the impression that we take undue risks amidst the sharks, but one must bear in mind that we have been doing these dives for four years. In the beginning, we kept our distance from the animals and didn’t dare get close to the pack, especially when they got going. Little by little we understood that we were simple obstacles rather than targets. We were jostled but never attacked. The only condition is to keep one’s cool and leave the sharks to get excited without getting excited oneself. This is how I was able to take pictures as close as possible to scenes of hunting involving the fastest, most violent behavior of my entire career as a diver. So I do not have the feeling that I took unnecessary risks and one must remember that we clocked up more than 2,000 diving hours with these sharks. Had there really been any major risk during these 2,000 hours, sooner or later we would have been bitten…

In the Gombessa book, there’s a lot of photography that showcases the humor and camaraderie surrounding your conservation work. How important is showing off this side of your work?

My key values during my expeditions are an authentic approach, relevant aims, legitimacy of activities conducted, and the honesty of the story that we will tell. It goes without saying that I am aware of wanting people to dream, but I want their dream to be based on the reality we experience! This is why we often see these moments of fellowship, it is the reflection of a reality: the Gombessa team is a group of people that I have pulled together through encounters, people who have become friends and with whom we experience loads of adventures, far more than the few ones we show in a film.

I don’t want us to be taken for insensitive professionals, because we are first and foremost people with a passion who have had the opportunity of transforming this passion into a profession. We are attempting to do things “in a serious manner but without taking ourselves seriously” so we might as well make that clear, and this human approach assists in transmitting conservation messages. That’s what I believe, at any rate.

Speaking of which, how are the efforts to conserve the coelacanth going?

The tracker that we put on the coelacanth’s back eventually reappeared to the surface after nine months on its back as planned. We learned a lot from it, including the fact that the coelacanth tends to be sedentary and didn’t travel at any time during this period. That’s a powerful argument for reinforcing the rules for the preservation of the protected area off the coast of Sodwana, because these coelacanths appear to live here and nowhere else!

What’s your opinion on correcting people from a scientific perspective? For example, when people equate the coelacanth with dinosaurs, do you correct them?

In the beginning I liked the idea of calling the coelacanth the “dinosaur fish”. I was well aware that it was biologically incorrect. The coelacanth is an osseous or bony fish, not a dinosaur nor even a reptile but that didn’t bother me as long as helped remembering it. By the same token, I liked calling it “the oldest fish in the world” which is also incorrect. The coelacanths I encountered were modern coelacanths of our era and it is likely that the largest specimens I saw were around my age or even younger. But once again none of these misnomers bothered me until I came across the disingenuousness and bald-faced lies disseminated by certain proponents of the creationist ideology that is so powerful in many countries, starting with the United States. Creationism is even taught in many schools. I consider their arguments to be scientifically incorrect and even fraudulent. Moreover, one should never forget that behind several creationist stances lies the darkest side of conservatism: questioning evolution and advocating the stasis of living beings can serve as the first step in dissuading man miserable from birth from liberating himself and hoping for some kind of social advancement… Ever since I grasped the secret motivations driving some of these creationists, I have taken it seriously. I reaffirm that we have animal origins and that the first terrestrial tetrapods came from fish that left the water 370 million years ago. The coelacanth of today is just a modern fish that belongs to this ancient group of which some evolved into these terrestrial subspecies. Observing and researching the coelacanth of today is a means of understanding who these famous ancestors were who successfully conquered land. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Could you please tell us about your latest Gombessa Project challenge?

After the coelacanth quest came the annual gathering of groupers in Polynesia involving the challenge of a 24-hour dive amongst them. Then there was Gombessa 3, involving the discovery of polar ecosystems in Antarctica, with the deepest dives ever attempted in polar waters and under the ice floe. We have just returned from Gombessa 4, where we went to research the nocturnal hunting habits of sharks in the Fakarava Atoll. Gombessa 5 will take place next year in 2018 but that’s still a bit confidential!

And now a little bit about watches… You’ve stated your preference for a mechanical depth gauge rather than digital one. Why is that so?

I dive with a closed circuit rebreather involving an electronic analysis of the breathing mix which has to be connected to a wrist computer which manages all the parameters of the machine and the dive. In my work, for diving, my mechanical watch is my backup, my rescue, in the event of all the electronics that are key to life would somehow end up failing, enabling me to exit the water safely. With the Blancpain X Fathoms, I have the time and depth, the two elements essential to achieving one’s decompression in the event of an electronic failure. In addition, the analog depth gauge gives me an idea of my speed when ascending by watching the speed of the watch pointer, which an electronic depth gauge doesn’t do. It didn’t take long for me to appreciate that little extra something that this one-of-a-kind mechanical watch offers.

You obviously care a great deal about how the information you present is used. How does the partnership with Blancpain help you get the word out in a positive manner?

It’s a long-term partnership. The expeditions that they enable me to achieve each year are ambitious. There is a scientific mystery to solve, diving challenges to take up, and the hope of unprecedented animal images, although there’s no guarantee of that! But optimism and innovation are values that we share, and they play the game and support me despite the uncertainties. That’s part of the adventure. My approach has at least one unshakable guarantee: namely authenticity, a value that is also important to Blancpain. Our relationship is both professional and based on friendship, because Blancpain is a human-size company and the people with whom I deal are the actual directors. There is a very strong sense of family, we see each other on various occasions, we share commun memories, and it goes without saying that they support me financially. In addition to this, they also help me promote my work abroad thanks to the events that they organize in different big cities across the world.

What impresses you with regard to the story of the Fifty Fathoms watches?

So many pioneers were part of the history of the Fifty Fathoms… starting with the first military divers of all time who wore the very first Fifty Fathoms. Finding myself in the forefront of this adventure today makes me both very proud as well as placing a great degree of responsibility on me: I never lose sight of this all-pervasive, sometimes obsessive idea of doing my utmost to be worthy of this saga.

What is your relationship with the time?

Time under water is counted in minutes and yet I accumulate a lifetime of memories. Time under water expands with the depth and this is no simple poetic expression, it is a physiological reality: four minutes at 120 m is equivalent to one hour of decompression at 6 m during the ascent! Time on the bottom comes at a premium, but being able to explore the twilight zone that only one percent of sunlight reaches is a rare privilege, a veritable treasure. Those minutes are diamonds and they should only be measured with an instrument worthy of this time that is more precious than gold.

What’s the deepest dive you’ve ever made and what watch were you wearing at the time?

My greatest depth reached was 201 m. At the time, I didn’t have a mechanical watch, a main computer and a second backup, which was an undeniable lack of etiquette !

Let’s discuss climate change for a bit. What signs have you personally experienced of the changes facing the planet, and the dangers facing us as a species?

When you visit a new ecosystem for the first time, it is always presumptuous to make pronouncements on changes, precisely because you haven’t had a chance to make comparisons. So I can only talk about the places I have been going to for a long time, or even since childhood in the south of France in the French Mediterranean. I must admit that in my region I have seen species adapted to warm conditions – such as gecko, the blue shark and the barracuda – begin to appear, while others adapted to cold conditions like the basking shark have become scarcer. Over the years I have also noticed fresh water becoming scarcer and rivers changing color from translucent blue to opaque green. It is so obvious and also so easy to see – one doesn’t need to be a specialist, it just requires paying a little attention to the wild surrounding us. I therefore simply cannot understand the dogmatic skepticism of climate change skeptics. The change is undeniable.

23 Watches Offering Multiple Complications

Whether for increased functionality, to uphold tradition, or just because, an extra serving of complex mechanics always delights the connoisseur. Here, we take a look at several timepieces that will make you do a double take.

Chronograph + Calendar

Breitling Navitimer 01

Breitling Navitimer 01

Mention the chronograph, and a sporty timepiece invariably comes to mind. It’s an easy association to make, since the complication has played pivotal roles in the tales of derring-do that have taken place in cockpits, race cars, and even outer space. Its contributions in less thrilling situations may be oft overlooked, but aren’t any less significant. Doctors in the past, for instance, relied on chronographs with pulsometer scales to quickly and accurately determine their patients’ heart rates. The chronograph’s myriad uses make it one of the handiest complications to have on the wrist – even today – whether in a robust, sporty timepiece designed to brave the elements, or a dressier one meant for the office. So what better complication to pair it with, than another perennially useful one – the calendar?

Date And Time
Omega Speedmaster White Side of the Moon

Omega Speedmaster White Side of the Moon

The calendar is the most relevant astronomical complication for daily life, bar none, which explains its ubiquity in watches. Combine it with the chronograph, and a winner emerges. On the technical front, this isn’t particularly difficult, since calendar modules can be stacked onto an existing movement relatively easily, if it doesn’t already have a date indicator. There are also plenty of choices, depending on the desired level of complexity for the watch, as well as the considerations for its dial design.

The most straightforward option is, of course, a simple date indicator that requires an adjustment at the end of every month with less than 31 days. Most integrated chronograph movements will already include such a complication, since it doesn’t take up much space, requires few parts, and is simple to accomplish. The Breitling Calibre 01 used in the Navitimer 01 is one such example, with the date display at 4:30 on the dial. Omega’s co-axial Calibre 9300 is another; its date window sits at six o’clock to maintain the symmetry of the watch’s bi-compax layout, as shown in the Speedmaster White Side of the Moon.

Zenith El Primero Winsor Annual Calendar

Zenith El Primero Winsor Annual Calendar

Annual Affair

To kick things up a notch, the chronograph can be paired with the annual calendar, which requires a manual correction just once a year at the end of every February. The added complexity of the complication is apparent on the dial, which now displays the day of the week and the month. This can be managed in different ways. In the Annual Calendar Chronograph Ref. 5905P, Patek Philippe began by doing away with a running seconds hand, thus removing a sub-dial entirely. The hour totaliser was also excluded to leave a single counter at six o’clock, which marks the elapsed minutes, to further reduce clutter. Zenith, on the other hand, removed just the hour totaliser (arguably the least used portion of the chronograph), but kept the small seconds sub-dial on its El Primero Winsor Annual Calendar.

Good Till 2100
IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Edition "75th Anniversary"

IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Edition “75th Anniversary”

If the annual calendar isn’t enough, there’s always the perpetual calendar. The usage of this complication moves the watch into high watchmaking territory, and creates an interesting dichotomy at the same time. As long as the watch is kept running, the perpetual calendar requires no input from its wearer (at least until 2100), so having a chronograph function encourages him to interact more with it – start-stop-reset, start-stop-reset.

Presenting the information from a chronograph and a perpetual calendar becomes even more challenging with the inclusion of a leap year indicator. For Hublot, this necessitated the combination of multiple indicators into each sub-dial, as the Big Bang Chrono Perpetual Calendar shows. The counter at nine o’clock, for instance, combines the month, leap year, and chronograph minute totaliser, with the information displayed in three concentric layers. The brand also organised the information with distinct visual cues – white arrow-tipped hands for the calendar, red-tipped hands for the chronograph, and plain stick hands for the time. The thoughtful layout has even enabled Hublot to sneak in a moon phase indicator.

Hublot Big Bang Chrono Perpetual Calendar

Hublot Big Bang Chrono Perpetual Calendar

IWC, on the other hand, took a different route by utilising digital displays in its Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Edition ‘’75th Anniversary’’ watch. By confining the date and month to two such displays, the manufacture could free up valuable real estate on the dial for an airier design. The chronograph sub-dial reinforces this by merging the minute and hour totalisers, which also allows elapsed time to be read like a normal watch, rather than the more common 30-minute counter.

Time Zones + Alarm

Vulcain Aviator Cricket

Vulcain Aviator Cricket

The world timer was created to allow its wearer to keep track of multiple time zones at a glance. From this came the simpler GMT complication that Rolex developed for airline pilots, to provide them with an easy reference for Greenwich Mean Time, the basis of all flight operations. These complications didn’t remain the exclusive domain of businessmen and aviators though. Globalisation, best exemplified by the democratisation of air travel in the mid-20th century, made both the world timer and GMT complications popular with a far wider audience, and has kept them relevant even today.

Ringing Reminder
Hublot Big Bang Alarm Repeater

Hublot Big Bang Alarm Repeater

Of course, one could use a little help if he has multiple time zones to keep track of. A rotating bezel could work – just align the 12 o’clock marker to the important time, and it will serve as a reminder. Why not go one step further, though, and use an actual alarm? Archaic as it seems, a mechanical alarm does offer benefits over its digital counterpart that’s available on a smartphone. For one, it’s integrated with the watch, which never leaves its wearer’s wrist, so it cannot be misplaced. There’re also no concerns with battery life either. Since the complication is powered by a separate mainspring that’s wound up manually, keeping it ‘charged’ is a nonissue.

Blancpain Leman Réveil GMT

Blancpain Leman Réveil GMT

Although the mechanical alarm isn’t a common complication, some manufactures do offer it in watches that track multiple time zones. Vulcain is one of them, as the brand was already producing watches equipped with mechanical alarms for Swissair pilots in the 1950s to help them with the important milestones in a flight. The spiritual successor to those watches is the Aviator Cricket, which pairs the world timer with a mechanical alarm. Operating the watch is easy: The alarm is set by positioning the central red-tipped hand to the desired time. Blancpain and Hublot have similar offerings, albeit with the GMT complication instead of a world timer. Blancpain’s Leman Réveil GMT has a sub-dial for the second time zone at three o’clock, with the alarm set like Vulcain’s timepiece. Rounding up the trio is Hublot’s Big Bang Alarm Repeater, which allows the alarm time to be set to the minute through a separate sub-dial at four o’clock.

Hybrid Theory
Jaeger Le Coultre Master Geographic

Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Geographic

What other complications can a GMT or a world timer synergise with? With each other! Strange as it sounds, the two actually complement each other perfectly. Consider this: The GMT complication is intuitive to use, but tracks just one other time zone; the world timer, on the other hand, sacrifices some legibility to display far more information. Therefore, a hybrid can offer the best of both worlds by showing a selected time zone prominently, while the rest is available on demand.

Breitling for Bentley GMT Light Body B04 S

Breitling for Bentley GMT Light Body B04 S

Fusing the GMT and world timer complications can be done in several ways. For the Breitling for Bentley GMT Light Body B04 S, the red GMT hand continues to track home time, as the hour hand is set when one moves to a new time zone. To read the times in other cities, its user needs only to turn the bezel to align the home city on the inner flange with the GMT hand.

In A. Lange & Söhne’s Lange 1 Time Zone, local time is indicated by the larger sub-dial at nine o’clock. The smaller one at five o’clock has a triangular arrow that points at the city ring on the flange, and displays its corresponding time. Actuating the pusher at eight o’clock advances this city ring, and changes the time in the smaller sub-dial accordingly.

A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1 Time Zone

A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1 Time Zone

Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Geographic works similarly, with the crown at 10 o’clock responsible for changing the city at six o’clock. The time for the chosen city is then displayed accordingly in the sub-dial immediately above it. Granted, these three examples are not world timers per se. They do, however, have the ability to offer the time in more than 2 cities with just a little extra effort.

IWC Timezoner Chronographer

IWC Timezoner Chronographer

IWC’s Timezoner Chronograph, a 2016 novelty, deserves a special mention here. The timepiece displays the time of just a single city – the one at 12 o’clock on the bezel – in both 12- and 24-hour formats. Turn the bezel, however, and the white and red central hands that indicate the hours will jump accordingly, with the corresponding date correctly displayed at three o’clock. It’s both a GMT and a world timer watch, yet paradoxically it is also neither.

Perpetual Calendar + Moon phase

Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar "Terraluna" requires an adjustment for its moon phase dispaly just once every 1,058 years.

Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar “Terraluna” requires an adjustment for its moon phase dispaly just once every 1,058 years.

The perpetual calendar was covered earlier as a pairing option for the chronograph. On its own, however, this complication has almost always been paired with the moon phase display. For the man on the street, an indicator showing the current phase of the moon has about as much use as one that tracks the equation of time. This hasn’t stopped manufactures from including it in their perpetual calendar watches though, and for good reason – the moon phase display is the perfect feminine balance to the masculine perpetual calendar and its practical concerns with accuracy. Besides, it also lends a poetic touch to the dial that might otherwise be cluttered with hard information like the month and the day of the week – one certainly can’t argue against this, if he still appreciates wearing a mechanical watch in this day and age.

IWC Big Pilot's Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun

Integrating a moon phase display into a calendar complication is easy. The period of the lunar cycle is roughly 29.53059 days, so a wheel with 59 teeth is commonly used. This wheel is advanced by a finger once every day, just like the rest of the calendar’s displays. The tiny difference between the two accumulates over time though, so a correction of one day is needed every 2.64 years. For the perfectionists out there, there’s good news – alternative gearing ratios for the moon phase do exist, and can drastically increase the complication’s accuracy. The A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar “Terraluna”, for instance, has a moon phase display that requires a correction just once every 1,058 years.

Montbalnc Heritage Spirit Perpetual Calendar Sapphire

Montbalnc Heritage Spirit Perpetual Calendar Sapphire

Technical details aside, the way the moon phase indicator meshes with the perpetual calendar’s displays also bears some study, and Vacheron Constantin’s Patrimony Perpetual Calendar is about as classic as it gets. Three sub-dials for the perpetual calendar’s full array of information, balanced by the graphical moon phase indicator. To reduce clutter, the manufacture merged the month and leap year into a single hand at 12 o’clock, which makes a complete revolution just once every four years. This reductionist approach extends to the simple aperture that shows the moon phase.

Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Perpetual Calendar

Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Perpetual Calendar

Montblanc’s Heritage Spirit Perpetual Calendar Sapphire has all its information sorted into the same positions on the dial, but looks far more contemporary because of its smoked sapphire dial, and the more elaborate sub-dial for the moon phase. IWC’s Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun is another variation on the theme, with the information presented in a slightly different arrangement. The highlight here is the double moon indicator at 12 o’clock, which simultaneously displays the moon phase as it is viewed from the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Glashütte Original Senator Perpetual Calendar

Glashütte Original Senator Perpetual Calendar

Finally, there’s Glashütte Original, which has stripped things to the bare minimum on the Senator Perpetual Calendar. The central hour and minute hands remain alongside a sweep seconds hand. All other information is shown via five apertures on the dial, including a single coloured dot that indicates the leap year.

Minute Repeater + tourbillon

It’s impossible to talk about the minute repeater without bringing out the superlatives. The complication remains the most revered among watchmakers and collectors alike, not least because of its complexity; a ‘simple’ minute repeater watch consists of over 300 parts that must all be finished, assembled, and adjusted. What’s more, there’s no room for error in several of the steps, like the removal of material to tune the gongs, as they are irreversible. It’s little wonder then, that the minute repeater remains the last bastion of high watchmaking that’s still well out of mass production’s reach. Its rarity is just part of its charm though. There’s nothing quite like listening to a minute repeater ‘live’ as its chimes announce the time down to the exact minute.

Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater with Flying Tourbillon

Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater with Flying Tourbillon

Spins & Strikes

Although minute repeaters frequently display their inner mechanisms through transparent case backs or open-worked dials, to admire them is to, above all else, have an auditory experience. As such, what better complication than the tourbillon to pair it with in order to create a multi-sensorial experience?

Jaeger- LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon

Jaeger- LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon

The tourbillon was conceived to even out a balance’s positional errors by constantly spinning it through all its possible positions. It might be an unintended consequence, but the rotating tourbillon carriage is mesmerising to watch, to say the least. Franck Muller was the first to recognise this and designed a movement where the device was first visible from the dial side of the watch, to create a constantly moving spectacle on the wrist. Combining the minute repeater with the tourbillon results in a timepiece with both audio and visual interest in spades.

Breguet Tradition Minute Repeater Tourbillon Ref.7087

Breguet Tradition Minute Repeater Tourbillon Ref.7087

Several manufactures offer such a match currently, but their executions differ widely from each other. Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Ultra Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon has its tourbillon prominently displayed at six o’clock, but keeps the minute repeater hidden when the watch is viewed from the dial side. Cartier’s Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater with Flying Tourbillon, on the other hand, has its gongs and hammers in the same position, while its tourbillon is moved to 12 o’clock to provide balance instead.

Girard Perregaux Minute Repeater Tourbillon With Gold Bridges

Girard-Perregaux Minute Repeater Tourbillon With Gold Bridges

Those who want even more visual details will do well to consider either Breguet’s Tradition Minute Repeater Tourbillon Ref. 7087, or Girard-Perregaux’s Minute Repeater Tourbillon With Gold Bridges. In each watch, the movement design allows large portions of the minute repeater mechanism to be visible from the dial side. These components only come to life when the strike train is activated though, which leaves the tourbillon as the star attraction normally.

Patek Philippe Ref.5539G-001

Patek Philippe Ref.5539G-001

Patek Philippe’s Ref. 5539G-001 deserves special mention here. Ever the stalwart of tradition, the manufacture has kept the tourbillon on the back of the watch, with the only hint of its existence being the text on its dial at six o’clock.

Story Credits

Text by Jamie Tan

This story was first published in World of Watches.

Blancpain Great Wave: BaselWorld Epilogue

At a quiet moment after my last presentation at BaselWorld 2016, I found myself as usual at the Blancpain booth, where the bar is always open and the company is good. This remains the last place one can still have a cigar (or cigarette, as you please) inside the fair and it was just too cold to try to finish a cigar outdoors this year. Anyway, I was nursing an unnamed Swiss wine and taking a moment after looking at the Blancpain novelties to contemplate the chocolate boxes from the brand, to which there is a sad tale. To begin on a happy note though, here is the Blancpain Piece Unique, Villeret Metiers d’Art “The Great Wave” wristwatch. Only one watch will be made and it is very special, though not because it is extremely mechanically complicated. Indeed, it is a time-only proposition, with the 8-day power reserve manual-winding calibre 13R3A.

There is something unusual about that movement but first, feast your eyes on the dial here. Obviously, the scene depicted is the “Great Wave” in question; it is in fact a meticulous recreation of the Hokusai woodblock print called the Great Wave off Kanagawa. The dial material is actually a first for Blancpain, Mexican silver obsidian. The Great Wave design is in white gold, which is created on a Shakudo base. To obtain the patina you see, this base is immersed in a rokusho salt bath. Gold is famously non-reactive but this bath actually oxidizes it, according to the presenters who showed us the watch, which means this must have a been an alkaline sodium bath. Now what you see has different levels of polish to it, which lends the depiction of the wave lifelike qualities, and this has been painstakingly executed. Finally, the Shakudo base is removed and the white gold engraving is affixed to the Mexican silver obsidian base.

Blancpain Villeret Great Wave Metiers dArt dial

Adding to artisanal spirit here, the brand has opted to modify the standard 13R0 movement to move the power reserve indicator from the dial to the bridge side, so it can be viewed via the caseback and not interfere with the beauty of the dial. As you might imagine, this watch calls for a superlative strap and it has just such a strap, in calfskin handcrafted by a Swiss artisan. Honestly, the only thing that keeps this from being my favorite from Blancpain is the fact that there is only one and that the Villeret collection features one of my favorite complications, the annual calendar with GMT (in steel no less!).

That said, The Great Wave is a contemplative watch, one you could spend hours pondering, which brings me back to that chocolate. For years now, these chocolates have been a comfort here at the Blancpain booth (the ones at Longines, Breitling and Rolex are also excellent and consistent) but this year, the aftertaste is bittersweet.

Blancpain Villeret Great Wave Metiers dArt caseback

Benoit Violier passed away under tragic circumstances earlier this year and this occasion at BaselWorld is the first time since the news broke that I have come into contact with anything bearing his name. For me, this was the truly somber moment of the fair but it was also great to see his work and name live on, especially since his restaurant was recently declared best in the world. The artisanal touch he brought to the chocolates will always remind me of the unique pieces that Blancpain creates.


  • Dimensions: 42mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, power reserve indicator
  • Power Reserve: 8 Days
  • Movement: 13R3A, manual winding
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Material: Platinum
  • Strap: Artisanal calf leather
  • Unique Piece

10 Ways to Wear Asia on Your Wrist

The most sublime artistic watches of 2015 are replete with motifs dear to Asia. Our friends at WOW curated this list of the 10 best examples, featuring a showcase of artisanal techniques in watchmaking such as champlevé enamelling but also incorporating outside crafts such as Aka-e painting.


Travel back in time to ancient Kyoto with the 39.5mm Slim d’Hermès Koma Kurabe watch (pictured above), named after the famous millennial-old horse race at the Kamigamo Shrine. Fine French porcelain is further exalted with the Japanese art of Aka-e painting, under the expert brush of master Buzan Fukushima from Kutani in the Ishikawa Prefecture. One of the rare artisans who still practice this technique, Fukushima deftly paints on subtly graded shades of red and ochre, which he coats with a fine layer of gold before firing it three times. The watch also features the mechanical self-winding H1950 movement.

Jacquet Droz-r50


Honouring the Chinese Year of the Goat is this Petite Heure Minute Relief Goats, which features three goats carved out of white gold springing from the summit of an imaginary mountain. In the backdrop is a stylised dial evoking the motif of the plum blossom through champlevé enamelling of white and Jaquet Droz’s signature blue, with the finished result resembling an exquisite piece of Chinese paper cutting. 
This 41mm timepiece is endowed with a self-winding mechanical movement.



Also paying homage to the Chinese zodiac, the Altiplano Enamelled Cloisonné Goat watch displays the talent of world-renowned independent enamel artist Anita Porchet, who created this Grand Feu cloisonné enamel dial in soft shades of grey. The tones on the magnificent buck were painstakingly graded from intense to lighter nuances, while the ethereal background brings to mind a cloud-streaked sky over a mountain range. Housed within the 38mm watch is the Piaget 430P mechanical manual-winding movement.



A work of superlative savoir faire and craftsmanship, this Palais de la Chance Carpe Koï high jewelry bracelet watch is a tribute to Japanese culture, of which the koi is a symbol of love, life, and serenity. Requiring 3,450 hours of meticulous work, it is set with 8,000 colored stones that includes diamonds, spessartite garnets, and yellow sapphires for the body; black spinels for eyes; and Paraiba-like tourmalines and diamonds for the water motif. The bracelet of this watch, which is powered by a quartz movement, is unfastened by pressing on the koi’s tail.



Beautifully captured on the dial of the Lumières d’Eau Parure 11 watch is the elegance and grace of the carp, which in Chinese mythology is a symbol of success for its ability to transform into a dragon. It features four fish made of engraved yellow gold with blue sapphires for eyes, gliding across softly swirling water represented by a cream-colored lacquered dial set with brilliant diamonds for ripples. The long tails of the fish extend out over part of the bezel, the rest of which is set with 183 brilliant diamonds. The piece is powered by a Swiss mechanical self-winding movement.



The Hindu god of Ganesh is superbly immortalized on the dial of this Villeret Shakudo watch. Shakudo, which is a historical technique Japanese in origin, refers to an alloy principally composed of copper and gold that acquires a dark patina between blue and black. The 45mm timepiece also features engraving and damascening, which is another old technique that involves inlaying precious metals, in this case gold, into a base metal. It is endowed with the manual-winding Calibre 15B mechanical movement.

De Bethune-r50


Named after an ancient Mesoamerican feathered serpent, which is a deity of the summer winds and a protector of artisans, the DB25 Quetzalcoatl flaunts a solid gold dial sculpted by engraver Michèle Rothen. The head of the coiled snake at the center points to the hour, while its tail indicates the minutes. The hour markers resemble a series of temples viewed from the sky, while a circular guilloché motif makes the watch glow. Beating at the heart of this 44mm watch is the manual-winding Calibre DB2005.



The watchmaker’s legendary linear movement is paired up with a mythical creature, the dragon, to give us the audacious Golden Bridge Dragon. Immaculate hand-engraving work taking more than two weeks transforms a mold-poured piece of white gold into an incredibly detailed, three-dimensional piece of art. The dragon’s sinuous silhouette, which wraps around the movement without actually touching it, is covered with tiny depth-effect scales, and given impressive claws and a pearl-tipped tail. Encased within the 34mm x 51mm watch, with a bezel and lugs adorned with baguette diamonds, is the CO113 manual-winding movement.



The ancestral damascene technique is used on the dial of this Rotonde de Cartier 42mm to depict the amazingly life-like and detailed head of a majestic panther, which represents ferocity and strength to the Chinese. Wires in rose, yellow and white gold were hammered into troughs cut into a gold base, while the feline’s nose and spots 
were painted with black lacquer. Black onyx forms the background of the watch, which is equipped with the manual-winding mechanical movement 9601 MC.

Story Credits

Text by Yanni Tan

Illustrations by Irene Arifin

Jewellery Time 2014: Updates!

As we inch closer towards Jewellery Time 2014, Cortina Watch has revealed more details about the biennial luxury watch showcase. For the readers who might have forgotten, the seventh edition of Jewellery Time will take place from 25 September to 5 October, 11am to 9pm daily at the main atrium of Paragon in Singapore.Jewellery Time 2014 Updates 3

Beyond our initial report which previewed some of the timepieces that will be on display, we now also know that the event will be housed within the purpose-built Collector’s Mansion. Said mansion has been designed in a style reminiscent of the Renaissance, while its white mesh structure juxtaposes modernity with old-world charms. Within the mansion, the contrast continues as contemporary furnishings meet Art Deco elements, topped off by chandeliers hanging from its ceiling.

Jewellery Time 2014 Updates 7

Setting aside, other details have also emerged. The showcase, which is open to the public, will feature over a hundred jewelled timepieces curated by the twelve participating brands: Audemars Piguet, Blancpain, Bulgari, Cartier, Chopard, Corum, Ebel, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Omega, Piaget, Vacheron Constantin and Zenith. Taiwanese model-actress Sonia Sui has also been revealed as the face of Jewellery Time 2014. Sui has over a decade of experience in the modelling, film and television industry, and will be in attendance at Jewellery Time 2014’s official opening party on 25 September.Jewellery Time 2014 Updates 1

To celebrate the occasion, Chopard has created the Imperiale Automatic Full Set, a pair of watches combining haute joaillerie and haute horlogerie. Conceptualised and designed as a unique set, the timepieces are entirely paved with diamonds save for the bezel, which has been set with multi-coloured baguette cut sapphires. The beating hearts of the watches are Calibre 01.03-Cs that run at 28,800 vibrations per hour and feature 60-hour power reserves. These movements are in-house developed and manufactured by Fleurier Ebauches, a company under the Chopard group that was founded to reinforce the brand’s vertical integration in watch production. The watches come in one unique piece of white and pink gold each, and will be delivered in a special box bearing an engraved plaque with “Cortina Watch” celebrating the occasion.

Blancpain flagship store Shanghai

Blancpain opens its largest ever boutique in Shanghai

Blancpain Shanghai

Luxury Swiss watchmaker Blancpain – owned by Swatch Group – has opened its largest boutique in the world, in the Xintiandi district of Shanghai, China. The store is the brand’s eighth in China.

Xintiandi is one of Shanghai’s most popular districts, a place where people love to stroll along the open streets lined with boutiques as well as cafés and restaurants with terraces.

Blancpain flagship store Shanghai

The 600 square-metre Xintiandi flagship, spread over two floors, presents the brand’s finest creations and for the first time offers a range of additional services.

Blancpain store Shanghai

The new boutique offers an integrated customer service centre as well as a lounge bar where traditionnal Swiss-made foods can be enjoyed on the terrace overlooking the Xintiandi district.

Blancpain store Shanghai lounge bar

Blancpain Villeret Collection 2012

Baselworld 2012: Blancpain Villeret Collection

Blancpain Villeret Collection 2012

In 2012, the Blancpain Villeret collection welcomes its first model featuring a beautiful flinqué lacquered dial.

Several layers of translucent blue lacquer applied to the dial create a rich depth effect, while preserving the pure lines of its most classic collection.

The watch is housed in a 40mm white gold case, powered by the ultra-slim Blancpain Calibre 7663Q, a new self-winding movement.
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Blancpain Saint-Valentin 2012

Blancpain Saint-Valentin Chronograph 2012

Blancpain Saint-Valentin 2012

Faithful to its annual rendezvous, Blancpain once again presents an exclusive creation for Valentine’s Day, the Saint-Valentin Chronograph 2012 .

This limited series of 14 watches, each set with 2.95 carats of precious stones, offers a fresh take on the refined aesthetics of the Blancpain Women collection.

With its diamond-set bezel and lugs, caseband set with four diamonds and a heart-shaped ruby, crown adorned with a diamond and pushpieces covered with cabochon-cut rubies, the white gold case sparkles with dazzling splendour.
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Blancpain X fathoms watch

Blancpain X Fathoms Dive Watch

Blancpain X fathoms watch

Renowned Swiss watchmaker Blancpain has unveiled the X Fathoms dive watch, the most high-performance mechanical diving watch ever produced.

The waterproof masterpiece was launched on Tuesday (25 October) in the depths of the Aquarium at the Dubai Mall in the U.A.E.

The new watch provides professional divers with all the accuracy of an electronic device, while employing the traditional skills of the Swiss mechanical watch industry.
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billboard luxury diamond watches

Luxury watchmakers follow the money to Asia

piaget commercial China

A measure of any Asian businessman is the time he keeps and, far more importantly, the watch he wears to mark it.

A handshake can be soft or firm but will likely soon be followed by a glance to the wrist to see the watch wrapped around it, especially in China.

A heavy slab of gold could be a marker that the person is from an inland city. A more expensive, understated watch could be a sign that they’re from the coastal cities of Shanghai, Shenzhen or Beijing.
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Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Blancpain Edition

To celebrate the partnership between Lamborghini and luxury watchmaker Blancpain, the Italian automaker has just announced a new limited edition series of Gallardo LP570-4 Blancpain Edition cars

The two marques are also behind the Super Trofeo racing series, which Lamborghini claims is the fastest spec racing series on today’s circuits

The car features a revised engine cover, a massive rear spoiler and Skorpius wheels which cover yellow brake calipers that clamp onto carbon-ceramic discs.
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Swatch Group founder Nicolas Hayek dies at 82

Nicolas Hayek, chairman and former chief executive of the giant Swiss watch-manufacturing firm Swatch, has died. He was 82.

As chairman of the Swatch group, Hayek cut a high profile in the world of Swiss watch-making and was one of the most well known Swiss business leaders.

In the 1980s, he transformed two Swiss watchmakers struggling to cope with Japanese competition into what would become Swatch, owning brands such as Breguet, Blancpain, Omega, Longines in addition to its eponymous Swatch line.
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Three most luxurious watch brands revealed

According to a survey published April 27 by New York’s independent Luxury Institute, Blancpain, Vacheron Constantin, and Breguet are considered the three most prestigious watch brands by ‘high net-worth consumers.’

Despite not being widely known outside of timepiece connoisseurs, Swiss manufacturer Blancpain stood out as the most luxurious brand of the 33 featured in this study, with the highest ratings for all four measures.

They were defined as ‘consistently superior quality,’ ‘uniqueness and exclusivity,’ ‘making the customer feel special across the entire experience,’ and ‘being consumed by people who are admired and respected.’
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Blancpain Spécialités Tourbillon Diamants

Blancpain has announced the newest Spécialités Tourbillon Diamants, a 40mm men’s model with more than 20 carats of diamonds.

Diamonds are clearly the theme of this over-the-top luxury timepiece—a theme that Blancpain takes with the utmost seriousness.

The white gold three-piece case is set with 571 stones totaling 14.15 carats, and the dial adds another 164 diamonds and 5.17 carats.
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