Hands-on: Blancpain Villeret Quantième Perpetuél 6656-3642-55B Watch

By Harlan Chapman-Green

New for Baselworld 2018 Blancpain unveiled to the world a whole collection of new watches and updates to existing models, as well as the third generation Fifty Fathoms Ocean Commitment watch (which you can read about here). At the presentation of that watch, we also got to see some new timepieces coming to the market soon, and today we’ll show you the Villeret Quantième Perpétuel 6656-3642-55B. Before this goes any further I should point out that the watch you see in the photos is a prototype made for the press, which is why there’s some writing on the rear crystal above the movement, the watch was fully working and not a dummy.

Let’s start by saying that this is one of the most agreeable complicated dress watches on the market today. You’d have to be a little bit dead on the inside to find nothing about this watch attractive; it’s well proportioned, not overly fussy yet it shows off the perpetual calendar complication with style and grace. Blancpain’s Villeret collection has been very popular for the company because of its classy, refined looks. As the oldest watchmaker going today (founded in 1735), Blancpain has a long history to draw upon, so like its main rival and Swatch sister Breguet, it keeps to what it knows in terms of design. That means classically inspired touches, such as the stepped bezel which makes the dial look larger, or the face engraved onto the moonphase disc make an appearance on this watch, too. You also get Blancpain’s long, thin hands, some of which are blued as is the case for the subdials, while the hands for the hours and minutes have the centre cut out of them to give an elegant appearance.

The dial is not enamel but lacquered very nicely so it can appear to be enamel under certain lights, such as those you’d see in a boutique. I think if Blancpain wanted to go the ultimate subtle route it could quite easily scrap the running seconds hand from the dial, leaving us with a sleeker feel than we get with this. At the same time, though, lots of people don’t like having to wait to see if it’s still working, because taking it off the wrist to check the balance is oscillating is so uncouth these days.

Surprisingly for such a classic watch, it’s very well thought out concerning ease of use. In fact, I’d say that Blancpain ranks up there alongside Rolex and Jaeger-LeCoultre when it comes to making its watches as user-friendly as possible. We couldn’t talk about this watch and pass up on mentioning their brilliant adjustment system for this watch. You see, nearly every other calendar watch requires a unique pusher tool or a cocktail stick to depress dimples in the sides of the case. Those tiny little pushers actuate the different parts of the perpetual calendar like the day of the week indicator or the moonphase display for example. That’s okay if you carry around a cocktail stick all of the time, but I reckon someone in Blancpain’s home of Le Brassus realised that people don’t generally carry cocktail sticks with them. To get around this shocking fact, Blancpain developed little pushers which sit next to the lugs on the underside of the case. They don’t need any kind of tool to operate, and are very easy to use, even when you’re limited for time.

The movement inside the watch is Blancpain’s calibre 5954, which has modern touches such as a silicon hairspring, a 72-hour power reserve and 32 jewels. It’s neatly decorated, though not overly ornate, as is the entire watch. The automatic rotor is made of solid gold with a beautiful engraving. I’m not entirely sure what the name of this pattern is, so we’ll call it honeycomb style for now.

Going back to the ease of use part I mentioned earlier, the other thing Blancpain does well is the folding clasp. Unlike every other folding clasp ever, this one doesn’t rely on a small pin locking into a clip to secure the watch. Instead, a piece of metal is folded inside the arms of the clasp, and it uses only the strength of that metal to hold the watch on. That makes it much easier to remove. Unfortunately, to keep this secure in place, the clasp needs to be screwed to the leather strap, meaning if you need to resize it you’ll need a screwdriver and some skills to avoid mangling the golden screw holding the strap in.

This watch comes in 4 variants of two metals, we only photographed the rose gold version on the leather strap, but it also comes on a solid red gold Mille Mailles bracelet with the folding clasp. Surprisingly, Blancpain also launched a stainless steel perpetual calendar with the same strap options. The reason for this is because they realise their target market is younger than before, and they can be more careful with money when they don’t know what you are buying. If you think about it, Blancpain isn’t a mega-popular name in the watch community (yes I know it has it’s place there), so offering attractive watches with good prices might just be the incentive some buyers need.
The watch we tested and photographed costs $45,000 new, and is surprisingly lightweight considering it is solid 18K red gold. It’s also devilishly handsome and exceptional watch, a Blancpain is something that will strike up a conversation with random strangers who are also watchaholics, and that’s a good thing indeed.
Case Diameter: 40mm
Material: 18K red gold
Leather strap
Proprietary Blancpain folding clasp
Calibre 5954 with 72 hours of power reserve, 32 jewels and a silicon hairspring.
Price: $45,000

Overall thoughts:

A fantastically well-made timepiece that is attractive and easy to use. You need to bring a loupe to appreciate the details of this watch, non-magnified vision doesn’t do it justice. Regarding buying, Blancpain’s depreciate so keep that in mind, the steel version could be a good alternative and makes for smart buying if you can get it from them at the right price. Visit Blancpain here.