Why Blancpain Is Not Modernising The Art Of SkeletonisationWritten by Alvin Wong
The naked ambitions of several watch brands appear to have been recalibrated of late. Once niche, skeleton watches now enjoy mainstream popularity. Today, they feature prominently in both regular collections, as well as hyped-up ‘star pieces’. Not overwhelmingly so, we hasten to add, but enough to suggest that skeleton timepieces are finally showing some long overdue commercial potential.
Much of it has got to do with their recent ‘modernisation’. Before, skeleton watches were classical and ornate; sought after, we imagine, by collectors who favour Mozart over Maroon 5. Today’s variants, though, tend to exhibit minimalistic and muscular qualities. They brandish a mix of industrial chic and sculptural form, which lend themselves equally well to both boardroom and club.
While the new-gen skeleton watches express the same craft-focused ethos as their forebears – that is, to shed as much excess metal on the movement as possible, so that collectors can admire a mechanical watch’s beauty by not only looking through the watch, but also into it – they veer away from fastidious decorative work. On traditional skeleton watches, the remaining bits of skeletonised metal are beautifully engraved to the last millimeter to anchor the timepieces with decorative flourish.
For purists who prefer their skeleton watches to remain as canvases for fastidious engraving techniques, there is always Blancpain. Or more specifically, its Villeret range, which is renowned for championing for handcrafted traditions.
A fine specimen that pays homage to how it was done back in the day is the Squelette 8 Jours. The watch bares its hand-wound, skeletonised movement the old-school way – with a little metal as possible, accompanied by lots of hand-engraved and finishing details. In fact, even its sensibly sized 38mm white gold case harks back to days where timepieces didn’t have to struggle for space under one’s shirt cuffs.
And like the skeleton watches of yore, the Squelette 8 Jours demands inspection at close quarters. The interplay of transparency (one can literally look through the bottom half of the watch) and painstaking engraving work is simply breathtaking.
Almost every inch of the movement’s bridges is adorned with swirly Arabesque motifs, accentuating the triple-barrel hand-wound movement that offers up to eight days of power reserve. The watch’s mechanism’s solid performance belies the its fastidious, delicate beauty. And it is this combination of strength and sophistication that makes the Squelette 8 Jours hard to beat – whether in the category of old- or new-style skeleton watches.
Alvin promises not to be a douche when talking about watches. He may have scoured the Basel and Geneva watch fairs for the past 15 years, and played an instrumental role to the growth of Singapore's pioneering horological and men's lifestyle publications, but the intrepid scribe seeks to learn something new with each story he writes.