Blancpain Villeret Ultraplate 6605
The horological arms race has never been more intense. You’ve seen chronographs that not only split seconds, but also minutes and hours. You’ve heard minute repeaters that not only sound crystal clear, but also have gongs made of crystal. It’s a never-ending pursuit when it comes to pushing the boundaries of watch complications. But once in a while, it’s good to go back to basics, back to when the watch was just about telling time. That’s what Blancpain – itself a master of watch complications – has done this year with the release of a new, time-only Villeret Ultraplate reference. The brand has taken its existing Ultraplate line and distilled it to an even more essential form. Here, we bring you the details and our thoughts on the new Villeret Ultraplate 6605.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
As its name would suggest, the new Villeret Ultraplate is an elegantly slender watch. At only 7.39 mm in thickness, it slides effortlessly under any dress cuff. In fact, it is 1.6 mm thinner than its predecessor, the Ultraplate 6104. The 40 mm case is available not only in utilitarian stainless steel, but also in red gold. The most defining feature of the case – apart from its thinness – is the double-stepped bezel that adds plenty of nuance to an otherwise simple timepiece.
The Villeret Ultraplate 6605 comes in two different dials depending on the case material – the red gold variant comes with a warmer opaline (sort of off-white) dial, while the stainless steel variant has a cool white dial. Printed onto it in black are the company marquee and the inscription “SWISS MADE”. The only other elements on the dial are the applied Roman numerals for markers, and two openworked feuille hands that indicate the hours and minutes respectively. Yes, indeed this latest iteration of the time-only Ultraplate has even done without the seconds hand, which was present previously. The result is a dress watch that is exceedingly pure (although some would argue its 40 mm case diameter is slightly heretical) and free of distractions. The Villeret Ultraplate 6605 displays only the most essential function of the watch, and that is the time in hours and minutes. Make no mistake, one of the most difficult things to do in watch design is to make a simple timepiece stand out from the ordinary. Suffice to say, Blancpain has done a fantastic job with the watch, as it possesses enough features on the case and dial to be memorable, and yet leaves nothing superfluous on them.
Driving the Villeret Ultraplate 6605 is the 21-jewel, 131-part Calibre 11A4B, which is based on the renowned Calibre 1150. The movement measures only 2.80 mm thick and 27.40 mm in diameter, allowing it to fit inside a slender case. In contrast to what the conservative size of the movement might suggest, the Calibre 11A4B boasts a praiseworthy 100 hours of power reserve while beating at a stately 3 Hz. Blancpain has also thoughtfully included a discreet power reserve display – indicated by a flame-blued hand – on the movement.
The Calibre 11A4B is finished to excellent standards. The top surface of the bridges is adorned with even Geneva waves, while the edges have been chamfered and polished. While there are no inward angles to be seen, there are plenty of outward and rounded ones to enjoy. The screw heads have been polished to a perfect sheen and the main plate finished with tight perlage. All in all, the movement is very easy on the eyes.
The Competitive Landscape
Designing a good looking time-only watch is a difficult task. The truth is, due to the simplicity of the timepiece, every single design element is laid out in the open – there is virtually nowhere for flaws to hide. Designers of the Villeret Ultraplate 6605 have got it right; it is a balanced timepiece with just the right amount of white space for a clean look, and the right amount of embellishments to keep things interesting. The gold version of the watch is paired with brown alligator strap, while the steel model comes with a black alligator strap. They are also available on a mille mailles mesh-type bracelet corresponding to the case material. The Ultraplate 6605 in stainless steel is priced at CHF9,500 with leather strap, and CHF11,700 with bracelet. Meanwhile the red gold model is priced at CHF17,000 with leather strap, and CHF36,500 with bracelet.
When one ponders about thin watches, one does not immediately think of the Germans who stereotypically prefer to overbuild and over-engineer. Well, times have changed, and one of the most gorgeous ultra-thin dress watches available in the market today is none other than the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin 37 mm. Its build is a purist’s wet dream. The watch measures a classic 37 mm in diameter and only 5.9 mm in thickness. Compared to the Ultraplate 6605, the Saxonia Thin 37 mm is even more austere in design, which is another point for purity. This is not to say that the watch is without flair, for its movement is decorated to extraordinary levels. In fact, the Calibre L093.1 is finished to a standard beyond the Calibre 1150, adorned with gold chatons and floral hand engraving, among other things. Currently priced at EUR15,500 (or around CHF17,000), the Saxonia Thin 37 mm in pink gold is priced identically to the Villeret Ultraplate 6605 in red gold. While the latter features a more nuanced dial and case, it bears mentioning that the former perhaps offers better value for money given its superior finissage. The ultimate bang for buck does lie in the steel model of the Ultraplate 6605, but it’d be unfair to compare it to the Saxonia Thin, which is only available in precious metal.
Coming back to Switzerland, one of the most iconic ultra-thin watches that one should never overlook is the Breguet Classique 5157. The watch comes with all of Breguet’s signature design elements, including the fluted case band, the straight lugs, the clous de Paris dial, the heat-blued open-tipped hands, and of course, the secret Breguet signatures just above the company marquee. The Classique 5157 may be the most ornate piece of the lot, but it is a total class act. At 38 mm in diameter and 5.4 mm in height, it is similar to the Saxonia Thin in size. The finissage applied onto the Classique 5157 and its movement, the Calibre 502.3, certainly gives the Villeret a run for its money as well. Priced at around USD22,000, the Classique 5157 in gold is the priciest of the trio. This pricing could perhaps be justified by the fact that it has the most well-adorned case and dial, and also that it is self-winding. In the end, after all is said and done, there are only winners amongst these three haute dress watches.
Blancpain succeeds where many have failed: in designing a beautiful, ultra-thin, two-handed dress watch. The Villeret Ultraplate 6605 is clean, as a dress watch should be, but has enough adornment on the front and in the back to keep us coming back for more. The watch is also sensibly priced for what it offers.
A fancy, high-complication watch is where a manufacturer showcases its watchmaking talent, but a time-only watch remains the ultimate proving ground for design know-how. In the Ultraplate 6605, Blancpain has passed the litmus test with flying colours.