This month Breguet and Blancpain, two luxury watch brands founded in the 18th century, launched their new offerings at events in Switzerland. Both rolled out watches for men and women from the simple to the complicated, dressy to sporty.
First up is the Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Squelette. Classique GrandesComplications is a distinct Breguet collection with a classic aesthetic and watches that do more than just tell the time.
Tourbillon refers to an accuracy-improving device patented by the brand’s founding father, Abraham-Louis Breguet, in 1801. Extra-Plat means ultra-thin—the watch is 7.70mm thick and squelette means skeletonized—removing the dial and metal from the movement while maintaining structural integrity and optimum functioning. This watch, in either rose gold (US$218,000) or platinum (US$233,600), is both a technical triumph and a visual treat.
The Classique collection also includes two watches for women—one is white gold and one in rose gold; both have mother of pearl dials and 88 brilliant cut diamonds on the lugs and bezel. (Breguet has not provided prices for its other new offerings.)
Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Squelette in platinum
In 1812, Breguet created one of the world’s first wristwatches for Caroline Murat, the Queen of Naples and sister of Napoleon. This year’s versions of the Queen features one with a steel case, off-center hour and minute hands, outsized white numerals, and a luscious blue lacquer dial. The other has a white gold case, white mother of pearl dial, and red numerals.
And in 1815, Breguet became the maker of sea-going clocks and watches for the French navy. One of the brand’s most impressive collections is La Marine, sports watches with designs inspired by those 19th t century timepieces.
This year’s Marine models boast titanium cases and bracelets and slate-gray dials. The simplest model is time only plus the date; next comes a chronograph (a watch with a stopwatch function) also with the date. The most complicated new La Marine includes a second time zone, the date, and an alarm.
Queen Of Naples with steel case
Also in this year’s La Marine collection are two new watches for women. La Marine Dame watches are time only plus the date in either steel or rose gold. The rose gold version sparkles with 56 diamonds.
Like Breguet, Blancpain is part of the Swatch Group, Switzerland’s biggest watchmaking operation. Blancpain also gathers its watches into collections. One is called Villeret, after the Swiss village where Jehan-Jacques Blancpain became a watchmaker in 1735.
This year’s Villeret watches are exercises in simplicity. The Villeret Extra Plate is a time-only watch, 7.40mm thick with slender hands and roman numerals. Two versions are available: a red gold case matched with an opaline dial (US$18,200 with alligator strap, US$39,100 with red gold bracelet), and a steel case paired with a white dial (US$10,100 with alligator strap, US$12,500 with a metal bracelet).
The second new Villeretwatch, the GMT Date, maintains the simplicity but adds two complications: the date and a second time zone. The watch is available in red gold or steel with a leather strap or matching metal bracelet (US$21,600-US$40,800).
Blancpain also added a woman’s watch to the Villeret collection: a red gold time-plus-date model with an opaline dial, roman numeral and diamond hour markers, and 48 brilliant-cut diamonds on the bezel. (Price upon request.)
Villeret Women Date.
In 1953, Blancpain unveiled the Fifty Fathoms, a dive watch that would become the brand’s most famous model. While today, most divers wear wrist computers, some still strap on watches as back-up (though most dive watches never approach a body of water deeper than a bathtub). The continuing appeal of the Fifty Fathoms, though, is explained by its robustness and a rugged, handsome look equally at home with a suit or jeans and a T-shirt.
Four new models hit the market this year, and all are time plus date. The smallest of the quartet is the Barakuda at 40.30mm in diameter and 13.23-mm thick (US$14,100). The case is steel, the dial is black with beige-and-white markings, and the strap is rubber.
The other three models are all big, 45mm in diameter and 15.40mm thick. There is the Automatique: titanium case black dial with luminous markings and a sail canvas strap (US$15,700). Next is the snazzy Automatique Céramique, with a red gold case, blue-ceramic dial, and a leather/rubber strap (US$35,000). The final member of the group is the Nageurs de Combat…