Blancpain Villeret Quantième Phases de Lune
Last year, Blancpain introduced the Villeret Quantième Phases de Lune for ladies. In the segment of the industry where quartz movements and solid case backs dominate, the watch is a rare breath of fresh air with its automatic movement visible through a sapphire crystal case back. On top of that, it is equipped with not one, but two complications, again a rarity as women’s watches tend to be time +/- date only. This year, Blancpain re-introduces the Villeret Quantième Phases de Lune with several small but impactful changes.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The most apparent change to greet the new Villeret Quantième Phases de Lune is in its case size. Formerly a dainty 29.2 mm in diameter, this year’s novelty measures 33.2 mm – a 4.0 mm increase. The effect this has on the watch should not be underestimated, for it is the whole difference between a strictly classic and a contemporary ladies watch. Indeed, with the size increase, we feel that the Villeret Quantième Phases de Lune is now more in-line with current trends while still maintaining its impenetrable air of elegance. The other aspects of the case (design and finish) remain unchanged.
The dial has also seen only minimal changes. The moon phase display is still the highlight of the dial. A little trivia: the moon phase indication was a complication that had almost vanished from the scene until Blancpain reintroduced it back in the early 1980s; since then it has become somewhat of a signature of the manufacture. Visible through a bosom-style aperture, the moon on the disc is graced with a feminine face with an artificial mole or “beauty spot” (also known as a mouche for its similarity to a fly). Appearing at the corner of its smiling mouth, it was regarded in 18th century France as symbolising a playfully teasing attitude. Mouches were used by ladies of the court as a message to their suitors that differed according to where these coquettish signs were placed.
The second feature on the dial is the radial date display indicated by a red crescent-tipped hand. Where previously it was punctuated by dots (replacing even number dates), every single date of month is now printed on the dial. Another subtle difference is that the date track appears to be on a different plane to the main dial resembling a shallow trench. The hours are marked by applied Roman numerals (for 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock) and diamonds, the same as last year’s reference. The hour and minute hands, while still leaf-style, are now hollowed, while the seconds hand, formerly lancet-style, is now leaf-style as well and counterbalanced by Blancpain’s ‘IB’ logo.
Collectively, these changes have subtly modernised the watch and added an extra layer of sophistication to the design and aesthetics of its visage. The outcome is positive, but that doesn’t mean its predecessor is left in the dust – it too has its appeal and together they offer option to the brand’s clients.
Powering the Villeret Quantième Phases de Lune is the 246-part, 20-jewel Calibre 913QL.P. The in-house movement has a power reserve of 40 hours and is wound by means of a red gold oscillating weight engraved with the manufacturer’s marquee. It is equipped with a glucydur balance wheel with gold micrometric regulating screws, as well as a balance spring in silicon. As seen through the sapphire crystal case back, the Calibre 913QL.P is attractively finished, featuring Geneva waves on the surface of bridges, polished chamfers on edges, polished screw heads, and perlage on the base plate.
The Competitive Landscape
In a sea of jewel-encrusted, quartz movement fitted watches, the Villeret Quantième Phases de Lune is the lighthouse showing the way forward for ladies’ timepieces. The watch, in red gold and with a diamond-set bezel, is priced at a reasonable SGD29,500 (SGD31,700 with a deployant buckle). While the market for complicated mechanical timepieces isn’t quite as saturated as for men, the Villeret Quantième Phases de Lune does face competition from the fine creations of other brands.
One excellent example is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-vous Sonatina. While the watch is at the cusp of being oversized for the average ladies’ wrist at 38.5 mm x 10.59 mm, it is well-proportioned. And given the complications that it houses, we’d say it’s fair game. The watch boasts not just a day/night indicator, but also an alarm function. Functional and sophisticated, the Sonatina is perfect for the collector who wants more than just a pretty face on her wrist. The dial, which is expertly hand-decorated with engine-turned guilloché, carries a star which is moved around the dial by the second crown to mark the time of the appointment. At the appointed time, the watch releases a delicate strike to remind the owner of her rendezvous. The Sonatina in rose gold is priced at SGD42,500.
Then there’s the A. Lange & Söhne Little Lange 1, perhaps the overachiever of the bunch. This year, the illustrious young German brand launched new variants of its mini-Lange 1s in three striking colours, with guilloche dial and the updated Lange 1 movement. The watch is essentially the same as the legendary Lange 1 except for its smaller case size of 36.8 mm. It features an instantaneously jumping outsize date and a power reserve display laid out in the famous asymmetrical format of the Lange 1. Unlike the movements inside the Sonatina or the Villeret Quantième Phases de Lune, the Calibre L121.1 powering the Little Lange 1 is manually wound. Another significant difference is in the standard of movement finishing; it is objectively superior to both the Blancpain and the Jaeger-LeCoultre. The Little Lange 1 is priced at EUR32,500 or about SGD50,000.
In spite of a larger case and a few minor design tweaks, the Villeret Quantième Phases de Lune continues to ooze class and elegance. More importantly, it is evident that Blancpain is in-tune with its female clientele, not necessarily because of its introduction of a new mechanical timepiece for the demographic, but the fact that it had committed to making aesthetic changes to a year-old model.