When it comes to innovation in watchmaking, it is easy to get swept up in the drama of the big headlines. More complications, more tourbillons, thinner cases. These are the obvious wins of the watch industry. But, technical kudos and trickle-down aside, these developments don’t make too much of a difference outside of the industry, and the very few who end up wearing these pieces – and even then, the benefits are typically abstract.
What should be celebrated are the less obvious – but much more useful – achievements. And one spectacular example of this sort of user-friendly innovation is Blancpain’s under lug corrector.
This patented invention, first released in 2004 on the very classic Villeret Quantième Perpetual ref. 6057, an elegant, 38mm that is the epitome of the sort of watch that made Jean-Claude Biver fall in love with the historic marque.
The technology of the under lug corrector is so ingenious, and I’m sure there were numerous executives out there kicking themselves wondering why they didn’t think of it. Ever since the invention of the Perpetual Calendar, established, accepted knowledge and practice has been to place the calendar function correctors on the flanks of the case – small indentations requiring push pins to operate. As a system, it was fine, proven. But hardly convenient.
Then some bright spark in Blancpain wondered if there was a way to make the case lines cleaner, to remove them of these blemishes. And at that time it was not feasible to do away with the correctors entirely, so the question became – where to hide them. The answer was the least-used real estate on a watch – under the lugs. This would achieve the objectives of keeping the lines of the case clear and also ensure an unobstructed view of the caseback.
Thanks to a new corrector lever mechanism, not only could Blancpain hide the adjusters on the rear of the case. But also, because of the design, these correctors could be operated not by a fiddly, scratchy pusher, but simply with the firm press of a thumbnail.
Not only does the understated under lug corrector allow for a perpetual calendar with cleaner, more classical lines, but it’s a much more user-friendly solution to a problem that no-one saw as a problem until Blancpain solved it. Bravo, Blancpain.