The early 2000s saw the start of some influential new trends in the world of wristwatches, one of them being the constant increase in size. Today’s subject goes beyond the simple enlargement of a classic, let’s take a closer look at the Leman reference 2850.
40 is the new 38
The Leman/2100 series started in 1994 with what was the standard gents watch size at the time: 38mm. In the early 2000s the trend of larger watches had already been established, so the 38mm Leman needed an adjustment.
The challenge with enlarging a brilliant and timeless design is to keep the balance and not distort the aesthetic quality. Not every component should necessarily grow by the same ratio, what we perceive as visual harmony doesn’t work that way, it’s a lot more complicated.
You also want to have a clear distinction between the two sizes, each should be recognized intuitively on its own merits. This can be further enhanced by applying a slightly different configuration for some key models.
Well, it worked pretty well with the transition from 38 to 40mm with the Leman line. The Flyback chronograph received a large double window date, the Double Time Zone received a very distinct dial with applied Arabic numerals, filled with SuperLuminova.
The base model, reference 2100 in the 38mm size, received a large double window date, too. The Roman numerals are replaced with faceted applied indices, the JB logo at the 12 o’clock position remained the same.
The applied indices are actually the same size between the 38 and 40mm Leman Ultra Slim. This has the effect that the new dial appears even larger than the nominal size difference, an effect that is countered a bit by the really large double window date at 6 o’clock.
The Grande Date
Speaking of the oversized date displayed in two windows, this detail is a lot more innovative than you may think on first sight.
Large date indications have been a trend since the mid 1990s, starting obviously with the famous Lange 1 but also with the Panorama date of Glashütte Original. A lot more brands offered variations of big date displays (including Blancpain in the Villeret line and also in the 2100/Leman reference 2150). But all of them had one thing in common: the date change took place gradually over a rather long time, in most cases between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m., and during that time the date was actually not or only barely readable.
With the Leman references 2850 and 2885F Blancpain changed that game in 2005. This Grande Date jumps within the blink of an eye, a very impressive innovation that required a sophisticated technical solution. You can read all about it in Jeff Kingston’s article ‘Jumbo shrimp’ featured in the Lettres Du Brassus No 5.
Some distinct variations within one reference
The most well known example for reference 2850 is the Aqua Lung Grande Date, made in a quantity of 2005 pieces for the stainless steel version, commemorating the year it was introduced.
The watch has a satin brushed stainless steel case and a black dial with applied Arabic numerals and indices, filled with luminous material.
Alternatively the Aqua Lung Grande Date was available as a non limited watch executed in satin brushed red gold. No doubt this version is an amazing blend of luxury and purpose driven functionality.
The Aqua Lung Grande Date came on a special rubber strap closely attached to the case or a fully brushed X-71 bracelet for the steel version, but not for the red gold watch..
Next to the Aqua Lung Grande Date there were two 2850 references closely linked to the 2100 of 1994: a black dial version, available in a polished stainless steel or satin brushed red gold case, and a white dial 2850 available only in combination with the polished stainless steel case.
The black dial 2850 of a fellow enthusiast who kindly allowed me to use some of his excellent photos for this essay. Please note that the watch features the ALGD bracelet, as you can see from the fully brushed execution of the X-71.
And here’s the white dial Leman Ultra Slim Grande Date in comparison, again showing a different character and adding to the variety within one reference.
In addition to these watches the configuration was used for various 2850 in precious metals with gem setting, with some really impressive timepieces among them.
Finally a display case back
The 40mm Leman collection had one more significant change compared to the preceding 38mm watches: a sapphire case back so that one can take a close look at the movement.
The 2850 is powered by caliber 6950, which is basically a cal 1150 with a module for the double window date.
The power reserve is reduced from the 1150 typical 100 hours to 70 hours, that’s the compromise that had to be made for allowing enough power for the immediate date jump at midnight.
The movement is beautifully finished with heat blued screws (rather untypical for Blancpain) and an 18ct white gold rotor with a blue lacquered Blancpain signature.
We don’t need to talk extensively about the Aqua Lung Grande Date, this watch is clearly recognized as a signature model for Blancpain and possibly one of their most famous timepieces.
The two other main versions, the black and white dial 2850 in polished stainless steel, have undoubtedly stood in the shadow of the Aqua Lung Grande Date despite offering the same qualities and probably being even more rare.
In my personal opinion the polished finish suits the 2850 case better than the satin brushed finish. The perfectly rounded shapes of the case are more emphasized when being polished, one could argue that a brushed finish gives the watch more of a sporty look.
Anyway, today the Leman Ultra Slim Grande Date is no longer part of the Blancpain catalogue.The large double window date however is a widely found feature in the various model families, most frequently found in the Villeret line. Here is the overview on the Grande Date timepieces on the Blancpain website.
Part 2 of my Leman anthology dealing with the 40mm second generation can be found here, the beautiful Villeret Grande Date Jours Retrograde has its own essay here and the Fifty Fathoms Grande Date can be found here in the blog.
I hope you enjoyed this Flashback essay and the photos!