A new design idiom for Blancpain’s unique combination of gravity defying constructions.
Is one indulging in anthropomorphism to project a generous dose of humanity upon fine watches? No matter, for watch connoisseurs know for certain that watches are alive with vibrant personalities and dispositions. Watches are deliberately conceived to be so. From the moment of that first glance and onward over years of ownership, a well-made timepiece will speak and assert its individuality. It will announce who it is. To witness just how strong and unique personalities can be, place side by side the Tourbillon Carrousel of 2013 next to the new L-evolution C Tourbillon Carrousel. The core ideas of the two movements are the same, combining a one minute flying tourbillon and, a Blancpain exclusive, a one minute flying carrousel in a single timepiece (but, caution, as we shall see in a moment, these are two very different movements whose main components have been entirely redesigned for the L-evolution C). Notwithstanding the commonality of general construction, they speak and express themselves in radically different ways. The original Tourbillon Carrousel is the aristocrat. Politely, it puts forward its ancestry, its understatement, its classicism. It is, after all, a Le Brassus, bred traditionally. It conjugates all of its verbs perfectly. The L-evolution C Tourbillon Carrousel is a brash commando. It struts and flexes its crisp, muscular angles. Without mentioning the past, it announces its place in the present. Its verbs are just fine left as infinitives.
Even before turning to the movement with its bold, unflinching slants and corners, the case declares its departure from all previous modern Blancpain designs. Whereas, for the past thirty-five years, Blancpain’s fidelity to round cases in the Men’s collections has been unswerving, the new C model breaks from the rule and introduces muscular bulges at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock in the brushed platinum case. Further accentuating the new shape are the crisp angles where the lugs join the case sides. Even the strap attachment punctuates the new design idiom with its seamless integration into the case.
But for all the power of the new design language of the case, lugs, and strap attachment, it is the new aesthetic of the movement that dominates the visual presence. Blancpain’s movement design engineers have architected sharply angular open-worked bridges that are displayed through the exterior dial ring. Of course, there are large apertures showcasing the tourbillon and the carrousel, but other key components of the gear train and barrels are placed in frontal view as well. Although the L-evolution C Tourbillon Carrousel echoes the same combination of a seven day tourbillon and seven day carrousel fitted into a single manual wind movement which was found in the Tourbillon Carrousel of 2013, the movement for the L-evolution C Tourbillon Carrousel called upon Blancpain to redesign essentially all of the principal elements.
New aggressive finishing details abound. The edges of the main plate and bridges, in keeping with the sharp angles and open-working, are crisply squared off and given a finely grained sandy finish known as grenaillage. There is an amusing connection of this boldly contemporary look with watchmaking traditions of two centuries ago. During the late 1700s and through the 1800s, grenaillage finishing using gold and mercury was commonly used on plates and bridges to provide robust anticorrosion protection. Today, sans gold and, certainly, sans mercury, grenaillage looks thoroughly modern, particularly with the dark color produced through a galvanic process. There is another fresh finishing detail brought to the movement aesthetic, the form of the screws. In place of classically round screw shapes, the screw heads are hexagonal in shape and actually resemble the form of nuts.
Not only do the dramatically different shapes and finishes of the main plate and the bridges underscore just how different this movement is from the first Tourbillon Carrousel, the tourbillon and carrousel components themselves have been thoroughly reimagined. Unlike any tourbillon or carrousel that Blancpain has built, the key top structural brushed steel arms of both cages have been open-worked. The angular openings resonate visually with the openings of the bridges and provide enhanced visibility of the components that lie beneath. There is one new and novel finishing detail on the carrousel. There is a finely laser-cut lyre which has been placed upon the cage of the carrousel. Bearing the Blancpain signature “JB”, this is the first time that a component of such miniature dimensions and delicate detail has been produced using this process. As for the two identically sized balance wheels, they have been given a dark color treatment known as “Black Or”.
Reinforcing the visual theme of this new movement, both the tourbillon and the carrousel are elevated 1.35 mm above the top surface of the movement’s bridges; both seem nearly at the height of hands... which of course they could not touch! The visual effect is startling, as the two rotating cages appear to float just below the surface of the crystal and actually are at a level above that of the exterior dial ring.
These design changes, of course, do not take away the functionality of these two timekeeping elements or the way in which they work together. Both the tourbillon and the carrousel rotate their respective rate keeping components...their balance wheels, spirals and escapements...every 60 seconds, which serves to cancel out rate errors caused by gravity when the watch is in a vertical position. Although both the tourbillon and the carrousel are demanding to design and construct, particularly as both are fashioned with “flying” cages, meaning that there is no top bridge and all rotation is supported by ceramic ball bearings below on the side of the main plate, the core notion lying behind is simple. If there are some vertical positions in which the watch, by reason of gravitational pull, would tend to run slightly fast and others where it would tend to run slightly slow, by constantly rotating the rate keeping elements over a full 360 degrees, these errors cancel themselves out. As well, the outputs of the two are combined in a differential which averages their rates for the running of the watch. Thus, to take a hypothetical example, if the carrousel were running 2 seconds per day fast and if the tourbillon were running 2 seconds per day slow, the resulting output from the differential would be plus-minus 0, which is the mathematical average of the two.
For more detail on the construction of the tourbillon and construction of the carrousel and how these two timekeeping elements differ from each other, please see the article on the Tourbillon Carrousel in Issue No. 14.
There is commonality with the previous Tourbillon Carrousel in the winding system. As with the predecessor, the movement employs two barrels, one to power the tourbillon and the second to power the carrousel. When winding through the crown, there is a large exterior ring, supported by four ruby bearing assemblies topped with steel disks (three strategically placed at the points of the greatest stress, the fourth adjacent to the staff of the crown), that engages both barrels so that they will wind simultaneously. The construction of the barrels themselves, however, is new as they have been opened up for view from the dial side of the watch, and fitted with a cover that resembles the à jante shape of Blancpain’s wheels.
The dial, in the form of a narrow ring, secrets its complexity which is only revealed as the owner spends time with his watch. The ring is, in fact, subtly angled inward, as its profile is trapezoidal. The applied indexes and numerals, thus, incline toward the exposed movement components below. There is an understated bicolor treatment as well. The body of the dial ring is dark gray, while the elements bearing the numerals are black. There is another hidden surprise in the numerals and indexes themselves. They are filled with a novel formulation of Super-LumiNova. During the day, the color appears conventionally off-white. At night, however, the color is transformed and they glow blue.
The case diameter of this new timepiece is 47.4 mm and it is fitted with an alligator strap.
The L-evolution C Tourbillon Carrousel is destined to be an ultrarare piece for connoisseurs. It will be produced in a highly limited series of but 50 examples.
A traditional Japanese craft.