0033 Blancpain Manual Minute Repeater
It’s pretty brazen to name a collection, ‘The Six Materpieces’. That’s like McLaren naming their track car the Senna. Or a restaurant I once visited in San Diego that had a Cioppino called ‘The Bourdain’. Generally speaking, it’s best practice to let someone else declare your work a masterpiece. And if you choose to declare it to the world first instead, you’d better be damn sure you’re right. Unlike the McLaren which looks like a Transformer vomited on a 620 or the restaurant who used my idol’s name in vain for a metaphorically and literally tasteless stew, Blancpain were right. It just took us all 20 years to notice that ’90s Blancpain is a distinct beast entirely, from all of horology. And the minute repeater might be the most attractive out of the lot, for sheer subtlety.
The Six Masterpieces (an ultra-thin time-only, calendar moonphase, qp, minute repeater, split seconds, and flying tourbillon) were slowly revealed over the early 90s, an era where Blancpain, under Jean-Claude Biver, were making a defiant statement of dedication to mechanical art. They were all classic-leaning in design, executed in 34mm cases, and razor thin. That collection eventually spawned the Villeret line, named for Blancpain’s home village, which celebrates traditional Swiss styles through the Blancpain lens. But they were at their best in original, platinum, flavor.
There may be no more romantic complication than the minute repeater, giving a mechanical object a voice is truly incredible. It is also inarguably the most technically challenging complication, as it requires both ‘reading’ and computing the time to chime it out, as well as a mastery of acoustics to make the ring sonorous. The calibre 33 Blancpain developed for this project is gorgeous, one of the smallest and thinnest minute repeating calibres ever made, and took over 10,000 hours to develop. It was by far the most expensive masterpiece in period and is today hardest to hunt. The exhibition caseback is worth it though, with gongs, three finger bridges, and a kind of attractively rough côtes de Genève. Better yet though, from dial-side you might never know the horological depths lurking underneath, just a simple calatrava even. Even the slide is recessed in the case flank, its completely discreet. This masterpiece unquestionably represents many arts that have kind of been lost under Swatch’s direction of Blancpain since, but that last one might be the best of them.
This example is in fantastic condition overall. I see light hairlines consistent with delicate wear and that’s about it. The dial is perfect and it is said to be running well. It comes with service papers from a well-regarded Shanghai retailer.