The Blancpain Villeret Annual Calendar GMT In Steel Men's Watches
The Blancpain Villeret Annual Calendar GMT Watch was a Baselworld 2016 novelty, and when it was introduced at the show it generated a lot of interest thanks to the combination of its case material (steel), its user-friendliness (considerable), and its delivery of bang for the buck (lots, at least, in relative terms). I finally managed to get my hands on one and spent a few days with it, to find out whether or not the initial positive impression stands up to longer exposure.
The annual calendar is a surprisingly recent innovation in watchmaking; the very first wristwatch annual calendar wasn't patented until 1996, by Patek Philippe. The annual calendar does most of what the perpetual calendar does, but with less complexity and fragility; it will always show the correct date, in any month ending in either 30 or 31 days, and only needs to be manually set at the end of February.
The Blancpain Annual Calendar GMT in steel, is a bid to make a very elegant but also extremely practical watch.
That slight inconvenience is more than made up for by the generally greater resistance of annual calendars to damage, and their greater ease of use (to say nothing of, in general, their lower price). While there are still some diehard traditionalists who think of the annual calendar as nothing more than a dumbed-down perpetual that no self-respecting haute horlogerie maker should have anything to do with, they're steadily becoming more popular (though they're still relatively uncommon).
The Swiss Designer Watches Online delivers a lot of information, but in a very understated way.
The Blancpain Villeret Annual Calendar GMT is, in a lot of respects, classic Blancpain. The general composition of the dial reminds me a lot of Blancpain's overall aesthetic in the early 2000s, which was pretty minimalist in orientation. As was true then, the current Villeret Annual Calendar GMT isn't afraid to use a lot of negative space to let the dial breathe. The home time indication is in a sub-dial at eight o'clock, which is simply defined by the numerals and markings, without any other outlining decoration or other physical feature. The day, date, and month are displayed in an arc of three windows between one o'clock and four o'clock, and there's no minute or hour track – just the funky Roman numerals for the hours.
One of the nicest things about the design of the watch, and something which really adds to its daily-wearableness, is that Blancpain has omitted just about everything unnecessary from the design; most conspicuously, there's no "annual calendar" written anywhere and the watch is much better for it. George Daniels famously wrote that one of the great dangers in designing complicated watches is that it's hard to avoid making them look like a "gas meter" and that pitfall is one to which the Blancpain Villeret Annual Calendar GMT does not fall victim. The slight asymmetry of the date indication windows with the placement of the GMT dial gives you a little much-needed dynamism as well; without it this sort of thing can end up being rather static. Blancpain used to do a lot of this and still do it better than most.
The dial composition manages to be balanced and dynamic at the same time.
The movement is Blancpain's caliber 6054F, which is an automatic movement with a 72-hour power reserve. The architecture gives away its origins as an F. Piguet design (Frederic Piguet has been renamed Manufacture Blancpain for some time now). A 32mm movement, it looks a little small through the display back (the Annual Calendar GMT is a 40mm watch), but as is always the case with Blancpain, finish and general appearance are quite handsome, and the guilloché finish on the gold oscillating weight adds a little warmth and helps keep the whole thing from seeming too austere.