The decade of the 1970s was the most painful and difficult period in the history of Swiss mechanical watchmaking. Inexpensive quartz watches flooded the world’s markets, driving out before them fine mechanical timepieces. In an effort to compete with the tide of economical quartz watches, the mechanical watch industry desperately sought to reduce the cost of their products. Complications developed over the preceding century and which represented the pinnacle of watchmaking art were systematically removed from watches in order to lower costs.
Of course a mechanical watch could never cost as little as a quartz watch. So, the price war was a struggle that the great mechanical watch houses were destined to lose. In the early 1980s, Blancpain discovered the answer to the dilemma facing mechanical watchmaking. It was not to compete with quartz by making mechanical watches cheaper; the solution was to make mechanical watches more interesting. So, instead of taking traditional complications out of its watches, Blancpain did the reverse by putting them in!
Its initial entry into the market was Calibre 6395, which brought back the complete calendar moon-phase complication. These wonderful elements of watchmaking art had all but disappeared from the mechanical watchmaking stage when Blancpain debuted Calibre 6395 in 1983. The combination of separate windows for the display of the day of the week and the month, a dedicated date-hand, with days numbered on the outside perimeter of the dial, and a moon-phase window with a face on the moon, all recalled a nearly forgotten watchmaking heritage.
But Calibre 6395 was more than a tribute to watchmaking tradition. It also broke new design ground. As it led the way for the entire watchmaking industry to follow – re-introducing complications and interest in mechanical watches – Calibre 6395 set a record as having the smallest complete calendar moon-phase plate of any watch in history. Blancpain’s watchmakers have not been content to rest on the achievement of the 6395.
Since then, they have revisited their pioneering design several times to evolve and improve it. The greatest advance came with the debut of Calibre 6763. Still retaining the charming layout of moon-phase and date displays of the original 6395, the 6763 featured the extraordinary 100-hour power reserve of Blancpain’s Calibre 1150 automatic base movement.
|Villeret Phase de Lune (ref. 6263-3642-55)|
The 2003 Basel Fair was the occasion to celebrate 20 years of innovation, dating from the first pioneering moon-phase movement, with the introduction of a special 20th Anniversary edition moon-phase watch. Two limited editions, one in rose gold and the other in platinum, paid homage to the introduction of the moon phase 20 years earlier, with a treasure trove of special finishing details, such as a hand-carved “Man in the Moon” winding rotor, traditionally heat-fired blued screws and a 20th anniversary inscription around the moon-phase display. Rounding out the package, all of this was presented in a hand-cast metal box, simulating the surface of the moon.