Born to race

Angus Davies reviews the Blancpain L-evolution chronographe flyback a rattrapante. This is a watch that is born to race.

Blancpain L-evolution chronographe flyback a rattrapante

I have had the good fortune to attend Blancpain Endurance Series at Silverstone on more than one occasion.

GT cars enter Copse corner at incredible speed. Their drivers demonstrate tremendous bravery and skill, judging the fusion between track and tyres, hoping the car will follow their intended path.

All the time they circumnavigate the track, they are trying to shave tenths of a second off their lap time and overtake the next car in front whilst enduring searing temperatures in a claustrophobic cockpit absent of any meaningful ventilation.

To some the challenge sounds like madness. However for others, myself included, we can empathise with the driver’s need for thrills and their motivation to compete even though we may sadly lack the psyche and physique to ever live the dream.

Blancpain L-evolution chronographe flyback a rattrapante

Marc A. Hayek is the President and CEO of Blancpain and clearly has the skills and svelte stature to compete at this high-level of motorsport. At the recent round of the Blancpain Endurance Series, he claimed victory with his co-driver Peter Kox in the challenging rainy conditions we call summer here in Angleterre.

Motor racing courses through the veins of the Blancpain brand.

Blancpain was founded in 1735 in the heart of the Joux Valley. It is synonymous with traditional watchmaking craft and artistry, exemplified by its classic Villeret models. However, the contemporary and modernistic L-evolution range of watches acknowledges the motorsport genes of the brand, whilst harnessing all that is wonderful about haute horology.

This year saw the release at Baselworld of a new model; L-evolution chronographe flyback a rattrapante.

Blancpain L-evolution chronographe flyback a rattrapante

The dial

The case is available in 18-carat red gold or 18-carat white gold. The choice of metal determines both the colour of the hands, the outline of the indices on the dial and the finish on parts of the movement.

Blancpain L-evolution chronographe flyback a rattrapante

Blancpain L-evolution chronographe flyback a rattrapante

I prefer the white gold. It is very clean and fresh.

The first thing that strikes you as you look at the dial is the use of carbon-fibre. The weave of this space-age material captures light wonderfully. Carbon-fibre has been in motorsport for several years due to its incredible strength and its feathery mass.

The dial features two subdials. The subdial adjacent 3 o’clock is a 30 minute chrono-counter presented in the usual round form. However, the subdial at 9 o’clock, a 12-hour chrono-counter, is shield shaped. It reminds me of the form used to present a family coat of arms or maybe it is a hint at the gladiatorial nature of competitive motorsport. I don’t know the raison d’ être behind the choice of the shield shape, but I like the departure from the regular subdials I normally see.

Indices, outlined in white gold and filled with luminous material indicate the hours with three notable exceptions. At 6 o’clock a dual aperture is used to convey the date. Two large Arabic numerals at 9 o’clock and 12 o’clock are presented in over-sized text. The numbers are outlined in red, with luminous centres, depicted in a contemporary, modernistic font.

The font chosen and the bright red outline, remind me of the identifying decals adorning the doors of racing cars. However, some will argue they are a facsimile of digital numerals which appear on the timing clocks team managers nervously watch on qualifying day.

I would love to speak to the designer of this watch and establish his or her inspiration for these details. One thing of which I am certain of is that the form is pleasing.

The chapter ring features numerals, in integers of 5 minutes and batons in two lengths. The longer batons indicate minutes, the shorter batons indicate 10 second intervals.

The hour and minute hands are sword-shaped, constructed of the same metal as the case with luminous material at their tips. They are partially skeletonised, dispensing with surplus weight like a lithe racing driver.

The chronograph hands are narrow in profile and tipped in white and red. There are two because this watch is a rattrapante, a noble complication, manufactured by a magnificent maison.

The case

The case is 43.0 mm in diameter and looks stunning in my preferred tincture, 18-carat white gold.

The bezel is carbon fibre reinforcing the petrol-fuelled inspiration for this timepiece.

The remaining surfaces of the case are gold, with the crown and pushers constructed of the same, with one notable exception. The pusher at 2 o’clock is presented in a metalized, red hue. Pressing the button initiates the starting procedure of the chronograph like the start button on a high-performance sports car.

The sporting symbols are ubiquitous.

The pusher at 8 o’clock is designed to echo the shape of a fuel-cap. The details are numerous, yet do not conflict or overcomplicate the offer. The design language is brilliantly resolved.

The sapphire crystal case back allows a view of the inner workings. Mr Hayek drives a track version of the Lamborghini Gallardo, however, I recently drove the road-going Gallardo LP-560/4. The powerplant is championed on the Lamborghini with a clear engine cover and again parallels between the watch and the cars cannot be ignored.

The gold lugs of the case embrace a beautiful strap made of alcantara. It is punctuated with carbon inserts and the deployant is also made of carbon. The attention to detail distinguishes this as a very special sports watch.

The movement

I have often held a Blancpain watch in my hand and savoured the work of the artisans from Le Brassus. The traditional finissage would delight any purist.

Côtes de Genève often features on bridges, pristinely presented. However, this watch has eschewed this motif in favour of a different finish.

The parts on the upper surfaces of the movement are bead-blasted two-tone material, dictated by the choice of case finish. Straight graining features on the bridges in an anthracite finish.

Blancpain L-evolution chronographe flyback a rattrapante

5N red gold-plated movement (18-carat red gold model)

Blancpain L-evolution chronographe flyback a rattrapante

Rhodium plated movement (18-carat white gold model)

Perlage features on the plate to keep traditionalists happy and whilst I adore conventional finissage of bridges, I do admire the originality of this movement. I feel the radical finish of the movement is congruent with the persona of the watch and has been perfectly judged by Blancpain.

The aspect of this watch which must be championed is the rattrapante.

A regular chronograph is often started and stopped by pressing the pusher at 2 o’clock. The pusher at 4 o’clock is used to reset the chronograph hands.

A flyback chronograph shares the same buttons, but pressing the pusher at 2 o’clock will zero the chronograph hands and they will immediately restart. This is very useful when having to repeatedly time an event.

A rattrapante, “catch-up” in French, sometimes called a “doppelchrono” in German, features two hands. The split seconds hand, is superimposed on the stop watch hand, which can be stopped independently by pressing a third push button at 8 o’clock. In the meantime the stop watch hand continues to run.

This complication allows the wearer to time two separate events precisely. If the third push button is pressed again, the split seconds hand immediately catches up with the stop watch hand and then continues to run in tandem.

This is the ultimate chronograph and attracts a premium over a regular chronograph.

The watch features the new Calibre 69F9. This is a manufacture movement featuring 409 parts including 44 jewels.

Conclusion

There is modernity to the styling of this watch. The contemporary design details capture the excitement of motorsport and symbolise sportiness. But despite the neoteric styling and the avant-garde finish of some internal components, this watch pays due reverence to traditional craftsmanship.

Blancpain has two key facets to its brand; style and mechanical excellence. Whether the delivery is in classical form with the Villeret range or the leading-edge look of this model, the purchaser can rest assured sublime horology is guaranteed.

This is a watch to grace the arm of a prince of the podium and a worthy champion in its own right.

Technical specification

  • Model: Blancpain L-evolution chronographe flyback a rattrapante
  • References: White Gold version – 8886F-1503-52B; Red Gold version – 8886F-3603-52B
  • Case: 18-carat red or white gold; diameter 43.00 mm; height 16.04 mm; water resistantant to 10 bar (100 metres); sapphire crystal to front and rear.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; large date; flyback split seconds (rattrapante) chronograph with 30-minute and 12-hours counters.
  • Movement: self-winding; Frequency 21,600 vph (3 Hz)   ; 44 jewels; 409 parts; Power reserve 40 hours.
  • Strap: Black alcantara strap with carbon inserts on carbon deployant.

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