Of all complications, the perpetual calendar might just be the watchmaker’s darling. By that, I mean the essence of what a certain brand or effort represents is often very well captured by their perpetual calendar offering. The complication requires immense skill not just mechanically, but in how to arrange such a wealth of information. I’m not sure there is a watch which more captures Jean-Claude Biver and Jacques Piguet’s audacity through the early to mid 90s, when they ran ads proclaiming ‘since 1735, Blancpain has never produced a quartz watch and we never will.’ That’s an attitude I can rally behind. So too, is the aptly-named platinum 5495 ‘masterpiece’.
In 1991, the Blancpain team slowly revealed what we today call ‘the six masterpieces’: an ultra-thin, calendar moonphase, qp, minute repeater, split seconds, and flying tourbillon. All were manufactured in 34mm platinum cases. This was a celebration of mechanical excellence, make no mistake. That collection eventually spawned the Villeret line, named for Blancpain’s home village, which celebrates traditional Swiss styles through the Blancpain lens. This automatic perpetual calendar with leap year indication, from that era, boasts an ultra-slim 3.28mm thickness. The calibre 953 is, indeed, a technical masterpiece which allowed an overall platinum case height of just 9mm. The dial is highly legible with Roman indices, sans-serif font, and a leap year indication integrated in the 12 o’clock register. I particularly love the elegant touch of railroad indication along the moonphase.
Blancpain have since been under the direction of Swatch and taken to a slightly more commercial approach. The era of infinite ambition and mechanic celebration lasted nearly until JCB’s departure in the early 2000s. Even with the recently surge of neo-vintage specific collectors, this era of Blancpain is only just becoming appreciated for what it was: Le Brassus with unbridled vigor for elegance.
This case is quite full, with deep hallmarks and only hairlines on its exterior. Its dial is undamaged and beautiful in its opaline clearness. The tritium applications are perfectly aged. It comes from a well-regarded London retailer.
Find this 5495 here from Watch Brothers London for 16950 GBP.