Precision Travel: Blancpain Villeret Half-Time-Zone Watch

Are you sure this isn’t a German watch? Yes, it is in fact Swiss. What surprises me is that Blancpain – one of Switzerland’s oldest watch makers – has developed a timepiece that is so straight forward in its unapologetically functional design, and has such a niche, yet useful complication. I tend to typically regard the utility minded watch makers in Germany as those who focus on such precision oriented features. What am I talking about? Well this watch allows you to adjust the time zones in half hour increments versus full hour increments.

Why? If you were not already aware, a sprinkling of countries around the world do not adhere to the standard 24 hour time zone system that most countries rely on. Most notably is India, the local custom is that time zones can differ by 30 minutes, versus a full hour. This little fact throws a wrench into the function of almost all “world time” watches out there that rely on a simple 24 time zone system. If using one of these standard “GMT” watches, you’d have to compensate by either adding or subtracting 30 minutes from the time on your watch. For 2011 in their Villeret collection, Blancpain has developed a watch to tackle this problem.

With the luxury being mostly the ease of use and straight forward function, the Blancpain Villeret Half-Hour-Time zone watch dial features a main time and a smaller reference time dial. The dial also features a day/night indicator for the reference time (because it is displayed in 12 hour format), the date, and a power reserve indictor for the movement (that has 72 hours of power reserve). The watch therefore presents all the necessary information a traveler would need know about the time where he or she may be – as well as the time at home.

Adjusting the watch is exactly the same as any other GMT watch – done via the crown. If and when you need to adjust a time zone in half hour increments, a simple press on the pusher that is located in the tip of the crown is all that is required. This advances the time by one half hour on the main dial (and also adjusts the time by the same amount on the reference time dial). In addition to being quite easy to use, Blancpain has preserved a high level of legibility while keeping this a high-end looking item.

Luxury appointments start with the 40-mm wide 18-karat red gold case, as well as the guilloche machine engraved dial and red gold applied Roman numeral hour markers and hands. Blued steel hands are used for the day/night indicator as well as the power reserve indicator to add a splash of color. What I love is how the back of the case pops opening like the rear of a pocket watch to reveal the movement (behind a sapphire crystal). The automatic in-house made Blancpain calibre 5254DF movement is flanked by ring of perlage polish on the caseback of the watch. The rotor for the automatic winding system is also engraved and in solid red gold.

It is tough to predict who this timepiece will appeal to most. Most certainly to elite travelers who frequently visit or live within India, as well as collectors who enjoy the practical considerations this traveler’s timepiece has considered. Price: TBD.

Captions for image points:
1. 40-mm wide 18-karat red gold case
2. Reference time dial
3. Day/Night indicator for reference time
4. Power reserve indicator
5. Caseback pops open like pocket watch rear

Ariel Adams is the Haute Living Watch Editor and also publishes the luxury watch review site

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