A reflection on the 2020 novelties

This year has been quite a challenge. A global pandemic has disrupted our lives significantly, and it obviously also influenced how we live our joint passion for watches: less gatherings of like minded enthusiasts and the way we learned about news from the manufacturers and dealerships being only two examples. Well, we almost made it (and 2021 will hopefully bring back a more joyful environment), so it’s time to take a wholistic look back at the 2020 Blancpain novelties.

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The Swatch Group prestige brands fair Time to Move had to be canceled because of the emerging pandemic, so we learned about the new watches over a stretched period of time, in a new format solely focusing on online releases through the Manufacture and watch media. I was lucky enough to see every novelty in the metal and capture it in photos for you, nearly all of them in time for the official launch.

A different theme than last year

The 2019 Blancpain novelties were clearly dominated by some outstanding heritage pieces, with the Air Command, the Fifty Fathoms Barakuda and the Fifty Fathoms Nageurs de combat it was a truly exceptional lineup.

This year was driven by new versions of existing references, with a lot of new color combinations involved. Let’s start with the more „monochrome“ novelties, though.

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Two essential 38mm Villeret references were the last ones to adopt the current style insignia of the Villeret line. With the new references 6224 and 6264 we got the now typical roman numerals and the honeycomb rotor in the classic size of 38mm, suitable for both ladies and gentlemen. These two are quintessential Blancpain, subtle, pure, timeless beauty. Find my hands-on report on the new 38mm Villeret pieces here.

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Since it’s release in 2017, the titanium Fifty Fathoms 5015 had overwhelming success, with only one thing left to be desired by many owners: a titanium bracelet. Well, this year brought exactly that, for both FF 5015 titanium versions and the Fifty Fathoms Grande Date 5050. The bracelet features a new underside adjustment system, so the lateral view on the bracelet is no longer „disturbed“ by the adjustment screws. Personally, I think the Fifty Fathoms titanium on bracelet is elevating the watch even further. You can find detailed impressions of the titanium bracelet here in the blog.

Striking new colors

Blancpain is all about purity and timeless design, which can be witnessed throughout the collections from Fifty Fathoms through Villeret to the Metiers d’Art pieces. And sometimes a slightly more colorful approach adds some spice to it.

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The first releases of 2020 have been two new 40mm Villeret watches, references 6651 and 6654, in red gold with midnight blue dials. Those two utterly beautiful timepieces brought an element of elegant flamboyance to the Villeret line. Find many more photos of these two beauties here in the blog.

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The same color code is used for the new Bathyscaphe Sedna gold with a blue sunburst dial. Being only the second Sedna gold watch in the collection, this one is a beautiful alternative to the black dial version or the 2019 Fifty Fathoms 5015 in red gold with a blue ceramic dial. The new Sedna gold Bathyscaphe is featured here in the blog.

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And then there’s the debut of green dials in the Blancpain catalogue: it started with the surprising Bathyscaphe Mokarran, limited to only 50 pieces and the US market. It took Blancpain a while to come up with a green dial watch, but it was well worth the wait since this sunburst finished Fume dial is a class of its own. Find an introductory post on the Mokarran here and an extensive hands-on report here in the blog.

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For those not to be under the lucky 50 owners of the Mokarran Blancpain later launched the Bathyscaphe Chronographe Flyback in the same combination of a black ceramic case and a gradient green sunburst dial as a regular collection model. You can find impressions from my first encounter with this timepiece here.

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Just a few weeks ago another green dial timepiece was introduced, the Villeret Extraplate 6651, featuring the first yellow gold case since quite a while. This stunning timepiece is covered extensively here in the blog.

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And then there are the colors yellow and brown in the Bathyscaphe Day Date Desert Edition, inspired by Death Valley and the Manufacture‘s connection to the famous photographer Ernest H. Brooks II. This limited to 500 pieces edition is covered with live photos here in the blog.

As a late year surprise Blancpain has introduced another timepiece with a splash of color, the Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC for HODINKEE. This watch stands in the tradition of limited 40mm Fifty Fathoms and at the same time continues the theme of the 2019 novelties with the Air Command, the Fifty Fathoms Nageurs de combat and the Fifty Fathoms Barakuda.

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A first quick look with the official press photos and some initial thoughts can be found here in the blog.

And let’s not forget the two exceptional pieces introduced first and last this year: In January Blancpain presented their first rectangular watch in the modern age, reminiscent of the Cocktail watch that belonged to Marilyn Monroe. And just prior to Christmas the latest edition of the Villeret Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel for the Year of the Ox was introduced.

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A solid novelties lineup in a difficult year

In hindsight, Blancpain’s approach to round out the collection with compelling new variations of existing models made a lot of sense in a „subdued“ year, although this has probably not been the thought behind it since the watches were designed way ahead of the pandemic.

New variations can be rather boring, or they can be exiting and adding substantially to the recognition of certain model lines like in this case. The beautiful new color combinations in the Villeret and the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe collections are building on existing virtues, yet they offer a fresh view on those.

Picking favorites from this year’s lineup is not an easy choice. Personally I find the green dial timepieces (particularly the Mokarran and the Villeret Boutique edition) outstanding, as are the two red gold Villeret references with midnight blue dials. And I have no doubt the titanium bracelet for the 45mm Fifty Fathoms will be a huge success. One that also stands out to me is the Bathyscaphe Day Date Desert Edition, with the exciting backstory of photographer Ernest H. Brooks II, who sadly passed away recently. But in the end, they all look really great.

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Is there anything left to be desired? Sure: a quick fine adjustment in the clasp of the titanium bracelet would have been a significant leap forward. Should the Mokarran have been made in a larger quantity than 50 pieces with distribution in all markets? Absolutely! And I actually expected a fourth Ocean Commitment timepiece, which should have been due this year. But seriously, why focus on those things that did not happen when there’s plenty to be positively exited about.

I hope you enjoyed this rear view mirror overview on the 2020 releases, you find all novelties here on the Blancpain website.

Cheers

Henrik

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