The Hands of Time
Classic Watches Are More Than Just Timepieces--They're Works of Art for the Wrist
From the Print Edition:
Danny DeVito, Winter 96
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Blancpain prides itself on never having made a quartz watch. Instead, this marque is best known for its slim-line, round-cased automatic and mechanical wristwatches. In the early '80s, Blancpain capitalized on it reputation and introduced the Ultra-Slim, seen by some as the apotheosis of the elegant, understated dress watch, with a simple round dial with Roman numerals and two slender, "sword" hands. This year, Blancpain will unveil its first watch with Arabic numerals on the dial. To those outside horological circles, it may seem insignificant, but for Blancpain it is monumental change.
Along with the five-pronged coronet that decorates the Rolex, the Maltese cross of Vacheron Constantin is one of the watch world's most recognizable symbols. Vacheron Constantin has long been known as a producer of exquisite and extremely expensive watches and, along with such marques as Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe, they frequently are featured in the prestigious auction catalogs. Recently, Vacheron Constantin revived the shutter watch, a design that first became popular during the 1930s. The originality of this striking design lies in a system of shutter blades that cover the dial of the watch, much in the way that the radiator grilles of early Rolls-Royce motor cars were used to protect the engine. Just as Jaeger-le Coultre came up with the idea of the Reverso to shelter the then-fragile watch crystal from breakage, so Vacheron Constantin made the shutter watch. A refined version of this model, known as the Jalousie, now recalls the spirit of Deco days; the shutter blades are operated by a small slide set with a cabochon sapphire. Wear it in pink gold with white gold shutters or in white gold set with diamonds.
Nick Foulkes is a freelance journalist and broadcaster in London with a passion for wristwatches.
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