Let me try to provide a comprehensive overview on what has been undoubtedly one of the most important watch families made by Blancpain, the Leman series. The overview is split in three parts, we start with the first collection introduced in the mid 1990s under the name 2100 and characterized by a variety of 38mm timepieces.
The overview will not feature all existing timepieces, since the variety of iterations and limited editions would warrant a book instead of a few blog posts. So in this first part I will concentrate on the standard collection.
The beginning of an incredible success story
In 1994 Blancpain introduced a new timepiece in contemporary 38mm size, the well known and instantly successful reference 2100.
Designed as a watch that fulfills multiple purposes and combines the virtues of a sports watch with the elegance Blancpain was exhibiting since 1982, it features a screw down crown and a solid case back to insure water resistance of 100m. The case shows its origins proudly on the crown opposite side with a bold BLANCPAIN engraving, a design element that always got controversial feedback, I for my part always loved it.
The sporty yet elegant case with the characteristic double ring bezel was combined with beautiful multi layered dials, featuring applied roman numerals and the Blancpain logo in gold, in addition we find unique sword hands in crafted in gold with luminous material in the tips. Alternatively all early 2100 models came with a so-called military dial, showing printed luminous arabic numerals.
The domed crystal had antireflective coating on both the inside and outside, allowing for spectacular transparency, so you thought you could actually touch the hands and dial.
And if that would not be enough, the 2100 also received an excellent movement: calibre 1150 with 4 days or hundred hours of power reserve, beating at 3Hz and with automatic winding.
I did elaborate on the first 2100 a bit more to illustrate how exciting and ground breaking this timepiece was at the time it was introduced. Not only Blancpain succeeded to give its signature aesthetics a modernized and timeless new case, they also offered a plentiful of high quality components and additional horological value.
A new age chronograph
The second watch in the series was the reference 2185, a chronograph with all the same virtues as the 2100 but powered by the famous calibre 1185, designed by Henry Capt for Frederic Piguet.
The 2185 was available in stainless steel or precious metals and with white, opaline, blue sunburst and black dials.
The 1185 also built the base for calibre F185 featured in the probably most iconic Blancpain aside the Fifty Fathoms and 1735: reference 2185F, the famous Flyback Chronographe with a stunning ebony black dial and often ordered on the well known X-71 bracelet, but looking excellent on any kind of strap.
This 38mm column wheel vertical clutch flyback chronograph became Blancpain’s best seeling watch in a hurry, and it has not lost any of it’s appeal until today. The watch was also available with an opaline dial.
This was no doubt THE sports chronograph of the late nineties. A perfect all rounder, which later was also available in titanium, albeit without a bracelet option., and a so-called Aqua Lung version in brushed steel.
The calendar pieces…
Let’s start this section with reference 2763, the triple calendar with moonphases, another signature configuration of modern Blancpain.
This reference became very successful for Blancpain, it was available in many variations, again with a military dial option and also in precious metals. Some limited versions of the triple date moonphase, like the Renaissance or the Half Hunter got recognized as some of the most beautiful Blancpain watches of all time. Those will be covered in part 3 of the Flashback report.
To satisfy the need of having multiple time zones indicated in a globalized world, the 2100 Time Zone, ref 2160, was added to the catalogue:
This reference also uses a movement based on calibre 1150, so it provides full 4 days of power reserve. The time Zone displays all necessary information in a clear way, either on the traditional or the military dial.
The pinnacle of the standard collection was the Flyback Quantieme Perpetuel, reference 2585F, a perpetual calendar and flyback chronograph in a 38mm case, so practically a grand complication watch for everyday use.
The 2585F was crafted in different metals and with different dials, often released as limited editions locally for a authorized dealers or special occasions. This was a quite usual practice for Blancpain in the 1990s.
The steel version however remained to be the core of this reference, both on strap or the X-71 bracelet.
There also was a non Flyback 2585 perpetual calendar chronograph, carrying the classic dial design language:
The last pieces of the 2100 series
Two watches, both interestingly based on the very first model that started the 2100 series, came out around the millennium, and they actually resemble the last iterations of the very successful 38mm model line, at least in the standard line up.
In 1999, a new interpretation of the watch became very popular, the 2100 Aqua Lung:
This watch brought a stealthy look to the series with its satin brushed finish, it also featured a sapphire case back as a first in the regular collection. Although… actually the Aqua Lung was a limited edition, but with 1999 pieces made it can safely be added to the catalogue of standard models.
And then there was the watch that ended the 2100 series with 38mm diameter, the 2100 Big Date, ref 2150.
When Marc Hayek took sole responsibility after Jean-Claude Biver had left Blancpain, the story is that he did not really like this execution of the large date and initiated what became the one of the most iconic Blancpain Leman timepieces, the Aqua Lung Grand Date. But that’s a story that will be covered in part 2 of the Leman Flashback. As usual, reference 2150 was available in different variations:
So shortly after the millennium the 2100 line got its new name, Leman. And with that the second chapter of this signature family of watches started, which will be covered here soon in part 2.
I hope you enjoyed the Flashback so far, stay tuned and follow the blog for the second and third part. Part two will focus on the 40mm Leman collection and part three shall feature the Haute Horlogerie pieces and limited editions of both generations between 1996 and 2016.
An important remark regarding the photos used in this post: as you know I always prefer to work with my own photos only. In this case I had to rely on pictures from the web, and excellent photos of the watches described in the report are very rare. Since the source of the used photos is mostly unknown, I herewith give full credit to all those people that took them and pass on my “thank you” for making this post possible.