Flashback: the Leman series (part 2)

With the new millennium Blancpain decided to give their sporty yet elegant timepieces a new name: from now on they were called Leman series. And this change came along with a remarkable makeover of the collection, offering a broad variety of 40mm timepieces.

A superior start into a new chapter

In 2002 the first 40mm Leman timepiece was introduced and it came with a bang: the Leman Flyback Split Second, ref 2086, was the ultimate casual sports chronograph, powered by calibre F186 and produced in stainless steel only.

Leman Flyback Split Second

One year later the next sensational Leman model was introduced: the GMT Reveil, ref 2041, Blancpain‘s take on the perfect travel watch, powered by calibre 1341 which was a  joint development with Breguet.

The GMT Reveil was available in stainless steel and white or red gold. Two different dial layouts were used at the same time for some years, with the titanium and titanium/red gold versions with so called Aqua Lung dials being nice alternatives:

Leman GMT Reveil

Around 2011 Blancpain changed the dials of the GMT Reveil watches in precious metals to emphasize the elegant aspects of their character:

Redefining some classic timepieces with significant enhancements

With the Flyback chronograph having been the most successful model in the 1990s, Blancpain had to find a way to not only enlarge the case by 2mm but to create something special. And in 2005 the Leman Flyback Grande Date, ref 2885, was introduced, delivering on that goal.

Leman Flyback Grande Date

This reference was available with two different dial layouts, just like we have seen it with the first generation Flyback chronographs.

In the same year the successor to the 2100 base model from 1996 was found in ref 2850, also with the instantly changing large date.

And this timepiece was available in a version called Aqua Lung Grande Date, limited to 2005 pieces in stainless steel and unlimited in brushed red gold.

Leman Aqua Lung Grande Date

Leman Aqua Lung Grande Date

The instantly changing large date, introduced in the Leman series with references 2850 and 2885, subsequently became a highly appreciated feature in a variety of Blancpain timepieces.

Also the iconic triple date moonphase calendar found its place in the new Leman collection, the Quantieme Complet, ref 2863, was available in stainless steel or red gold with white, opaline or black dials. And, like with the Flyback chronograph, Blancpain put special emphasis on this new watch: it featured the fantastic under-lug correctors for the calendar functions, an industry first innovation. This not only made the setting process a lot easier, it also was a significantly more aesthetic solution.

Leman Quantieme Complet

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The model makeover was concluded with two additional calendar pieces: the Leman Double Time Zone, ref 2860, and the Leman Flyback Chronographe Quantieme Perpetuel, ref 2685.

Leman Double Time Zone

Leman Flyback Chronographe Quantieme Perpetuel

Some conclusions on the Leman series

Let me address some general thoughts on the Leman series now that two of the three parts of the overview are released… and I start with a question and my personal answer to it:

Why was this series so well received and successful in both the 38mm and 40mm versions?

I think the Leman series quickly became the showcase for Blancpain’s unique talent to combine lasting innovation with timeless design. The watches had a classic size, they featured all those little details Blancpain enthusiasts enjoy so much, like multi layer dials, perfectly shaped cases and nice domed crystals that made you believe there is no glass at all due to the antireflective coating.

The Leman series offered all basic complications and it also saw a number of world premieres like the Flyback Chronographe or the GMT Reveil. Still, it was always considered the entry level collection of Blancpain… actually, with hindsight, it maybe undersold itself at times.

Especially the second generation of the Leman was most probably ahead of its time. It had to compete with all sorts of modern designs and a trend to larger watches in a highly dynamic period.

Parallel to the development of the L‘Evolution series at the beginning of the 2010s with a new eight day Automatic calibres based on the 1315 (which was based on the 13RO), the Leman series slowly got de-emphasized. It lasted with the last remaining references 2885 and 2041 until late 2018/early 2019 , when it was officially taken off the Blancpain catalogue and the new website.

The L‘Evolution did not fill the (large) shoes of the Leman and got discontinued in early 2019 as well.

Now, why did the Leman series not survive?

I personally think there are multiple aspects to be considered:

  • The internal competition through a broadened Villeret collection
  • People got used to it and were exploring new designs, leaving the Leman not meeting sales expectations
  • The trend to larger watches in the first decade of the 2000s
  • The internal competition through the Bathyscaphe
  • The failure of the L‘Evolution to be a well received successor

 

I seriously believe that had the L‘Evolution used the traditional Leman dial designs, it would have been a worthy successor to the Leman. Let’s face it: other than the controversial dials, the L‘Evolution watches were actually better in every aspect. The case was a piece of art, the eight day movements a huge step forward. And exactly this evolution would have been necessary for the Leman line to continue its existence. But hey, where’s the point in saying „if only…“?

Those that miss the Leman can still find almost all models in the secondary market. And for that reason I do not join those mourning the Leman… it is still there! If you buy a pre-owned, have it serviced by Blancpain and you end up with a new like Leman timepiece to enjoy.

Stay tuned for part three of the Leman Flashback. The last part will concentrate on a variety of special editions and some Haute Horlogerie pieces.

In case you have missed it, here you find the first part of my Leman overview. Follow the blog for receiving email alerts anytime a new blog post is released.

I hope you enjoyed the second part of the Leman Flashback report!

Cheers

Henrik

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