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Blancpain: 2019 novelties

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For me, things are very clear: Blancpain was the most convincing brand of Time to Move, the event organized by Swatch Group to present the novelties of its high end brands. In fact, little by little, Blancpain seems to find its way after going astray in strange strategic directions like the launch of the L-Evolution collection. Blancpain relies on two fundamental pillars of its catalog (Fifty Fathoms and Villeret) and does so with reason. On one side, casual chic watches with a neo-retro trend. On the other, the incarnation of the purest classicism of Swiss watchmaking. Blancpain is known for that, so it was useless to explore areas that the brand didn't master. The 2019 collection thus corresponds to this desire to rely on its strengths. The 8 novelties are distributed in these two collections and in a capsule "Specialités" to host the flagship watch of the year: the Air Command. I propose you to browse these novelties.

Fifty Fathoms

Fifty Fathoms Automatic reference 5015

The reference 5015 includes 3 novelties, two that join the permanent collection and one released in a limited edition. This reference is characterized by its imposing diameter (45mm) and its consequent thickness (more than 15mm). In this context, the titanium version has my preference between the two unlimited versions for better wearing comfort thanks to its lighter weight and the canvas strap which is always very pleasant. The rendering of the brushed titanium case is attractive and makes the watch less ostentatious. I really like the reflections on the dial and the sapphire bezel always gives a more refined and stylish side. The strength of this watch, beyond the quality of its finishes, lies in the performance of the automatic caliber 1315 which offers a power reserve of 120 hours for a 4hz frequency. Its presentation is quite correct and flawless (the movement is visible) and Blancpain adapts it according to the case materials. The winding mass is thus in gold on the red gold version.

It was also this red gold version that had my preference. It must be said that it doesn't disappoint because of its beautiful blue dial and the rendering of the brushed case which is very elegant. But given the size of the case whose volume is felt on the wrist, I prefer the more discreet version.

The 5015 Nageurs de Combat "Combat Swimmers" differs from previous watches by its solid and decorated bottom, a very slightly bigger thickness (15,7mm) and especially a different dial: the figures and indexes are replaced by painted indexes of different shapes: rectangular , round and reverse triangular for the index at the top of the dial. Note the very discreet 7 on the dial, reference to the maximum depth of 7 meters that could reach military divers breathing pure oxygen. The brushed steel case is also very successful and I appreciate, because of the change of dial, the style of this watch. On the other hand, I'm less pleased with its size and despite its seductive details, this 300-piece limited edition watch is not my favorite novelty from Blancpain.

Each of these watches is water resistant to 300 meters. The 5015 titanium is available at a price of 14.670 euros including VAT, the red gold one at a price of 33.430 euros  and the "Nageurs de Combat" at a price of 14.470 euros.

5015 Titane:

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5015 Red Gold:

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5015 Nageurs de Combat:

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Barakuda

I was totally under the charm of this Barakuda released in the context of a limited edition of 500 pieces. This watch has a more reasonable diameter (40.3mm), is thinner (13.2mm) and has a case more in line with what I expect from a neo-retro watch while maintaining an interesting water resistance (300 meters). I really liked the presentation of the dial which offers a different aesthetic from what we see in the current Fifty Fathoms collection. The color codes pleased me and it emerges from this watch an elegant and relaxed atmosphere. The shape of the glass contributes a lot to the visual appeal of the dial. The movement that animates the Barakuda is the automatic caliber 1151 which also offers a generous power reserve of 100 hours for a 3hz feequency. The movement is simply and carefully decorated. It is visible through the see-through caseback.

The watch comes with a tropic rubber strap (the one in photo was using a canvas strap) that suits it very well. The Barakuda is a favorite for me thanks to its aesthetic success, its size and its neat presentation. Its price is 13.180 euros TTC.

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Specialités

Air Command

The star of the year for Blancpain is undoubtedly the Air Command chronograph released in a limited edition of 500 pieces. It is in fact the recipe of the Barakuda that is applied in another context. The finish of the Air Command is neat, its design is faithful to the original watch and successful and the watch turns out to be very comfortable on the wrist.

Of course, and this is the limit of the neo-retro approach, it is not very original. But the black sunray dial is really well done and the watch, despite its diameter of 42.5mm is balanced. The thickness of the bezel and the inner flange that support the tachymeter reduce the perception of size and I was pleasantly surprised by the fineness of the inscriptions.

The case, simple, offers a good compromise between elegance (due in particular to the shape of the lugs) and character. The F388B automatic movement is visible through the see-through caseback. I remind you that this movement has a 5hz  frequency (for a power reserve of 50 hours) and it is a pity that Blancpain doesn't communicate more about this high frequency. It occupies the space generously which is a good point. Its presentation is sober and flawless. I really like its architecture. However, I was less seduced by the winding mass with its propeller blades that gives me the impression of being a kind of gimmick. I would have liked more simplicity.

This detail is however minor compared to the overall quality of the Air Command which is one of the most striking watches not only from Blancpain but also from the Swatch Group this year. Once put on the wrist thanks to the Barénia calfskin strap, it immediately seduces thanks to its charm and the quality of its execution.

The Air Command is available at a price of 18.460 euros.

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Villeret

Ultra-Plate (Ultra-thin)

This is the pleasant surprise of the Villeret collection this year. Blancpain ticks all the boxes with this simple model: its size is acceptable (a bit too big perhaps for the style) with a 40mm diameter, its case height is thin (7,4mm), the purity of the dial suits it perfectly and the movement is manual winding. The latter is visible through the see-through caseback and there is a lovely detail: it displays the power reserve. This display is useful because the power reserve is large (95 hours) for a 3hz frequency. This Villeret Ultra-Plate is therefore successful thanks to its simplicity and its quaint charm. The watch is available in steel at a price of 9.480 euros including VAT and in red gold at a price of 16.970 euros.

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GMT / Date

I was less seduced by the Villeret GMT / Date. Certainly Blancpain, despite the complications, kept a 40mm case. The position of the second timezone display is clever and the watch has the merit to exist in red gold and steel. Let's say it is a matter of taste. I don't like the mix between the peripheral Roman numerals and the Arabic numerals. I would have removed the date window but it is however in its place in such a watch. The 5A50 automatic movement, which has a power reserve of 100 hours for a 3hz frequency, is correctly finished with a gold winding mass. It seems however a bit lost in the case. This Villeret GMT / Date is not unpleasant but I think it lacks something to be truly attractive. It is available in steel at a price of 11.180 euros TTC and in red gold at a price of 18.660 euros TTC. Note that a mesh bracelet can also be used.

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Dame Date (Lady Date)

This nice classic watch takes advantage of a central second hand that animates its dial nicely. The oval shape of the date window brings an extra feminine touch. The size is well thought (33.2mm) because the watch gives the impression of being a little larger. It is animated by the 1151 automatic movement (like the Barakuda). Its 100 hour power reserve is a great idea for a women's watch because the watch can't be worn for several days and still running. Prices range from 8,690 euros (stainless steel) to 18,160 euros (red gold with set bezel).

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The 2019 Blancpain collection pleased me overall. I find it very well thought and especially it releases some key pieces like the Barakuda or the Air Command. In addition, it is important to remember that Blancpain is one of the few manufactures which regularly offer long power reserves which is a significant asset. By focusing on Fifty Fathoms and Villeret collections, Blancpain adopts for me the right strategy. It may be necessary to subsequently adjust the marketing message because I have trouble seeing the link from now on with the involvement in motorsport.

Fr.Xavier

Comments:
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Mach June 23rd, 2019-13:32
Thanks for the great report! I’m looking forward to the day the Air Command makes a smooth landing onto my wrist.😜
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foversta June 23rd, 2019-13:36
ah ah ! Well said! ;-)  
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MichaelC June 23rd, 2019-13:36
Great report, Fx. Thanks for your insight. I really like the Kuda and the Air Command. These will surely be quite popular.
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foversta June 23rd, 2019-13:41
Thanks! I would say that there is a global agreement about these two pieces.  
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Izhik June 23rd, 2019-13:38
thanks for the great report and fantastic photos.... Blancpain has played it perfectly this year with those releases....
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foversta June 23rd, 2019-13:41
I agree! Thanks for your message.  
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amanico June 23rd, 2019-13:59
Thanks for this presentation. The Barakuda is the one which sings the loudest to me.  
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foversta June 24th, 2019-12:06
yes, me too in the end. Thanks!  
Boris June 23rd, 2019-22:32
Great report, comme d'hab' Not sure what Blancpain is tryig to achieve with the 5015, being bigger than a Panerai Luminor. They probably didn't get the memo that people are moving back to humanly sized watches. The Barakuda, on the other hand, is very, very nice. Great size / aesth... 
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foversta June 24th, 2019-12:07
Thanks Boris. Yes as a high end diver, it is a very valuable option... and a charming piece!  
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Report of the Jaeger-Lecoultre event in Paris

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