Hello everyone, and welcome to another Singaporean article! On this shiok Saturday, I’ll be sharing my latest watch acquisition – the Blancpain Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5395.
This is part of a series where I share with readers my latest watch acquisitions, my reasons for the purchases, and illustrate my approach to watch collecting in general. One of my favourite segments to read is the “Why I bought it” segment from Quill and Pad, so this NWA (new watch acquisition) series will be my own take on that.
I previously did similar articles on my IWC Mark XVII, the Frederique Constant Moonphase Manufacture, and most recently the Franck Muller Casablanca Chronograph 5850 (which I’m selling to recoup some of the money that I had spent on this Blancpain).
Blancpain Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5395 – Video
For those interested in viewing some hands-on footage of the watch, do check out my Youtube video on the Blancpain Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5395 below!
Why I bought it – Blancpain Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5395
As some of you may know, I was on a writing gig for SJX Watches for the past 6 months (which has since ended). Although I was already familiar with more affordable watches due to the microbrand reviews I’ve been doing on Wah So Shiok, my stint at SJX Watches opened my eyes to the world of Haute Horlogerie. From innovative double-sided watches to natural stone tourbillon timepieces, covering such incredible timepieces fostered an appreciation for fine watchmaking. Don’t get me wrong – I still love my homegrown microbrands and my affordable Seikos, but I now understand why enthusiasts are willing to part with the equivalent of a car (sometimes even a house) for a mere watch.
As my time with SJX Watches neared its end, I decided to mark the occasion with a watch purchase – the only question was what. I had covered everything from the humble Ming (which I also ordered) to the holy grail of most enthusiasts, the Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711. I also reported on numerous releases from this year’s Watches & Wonders, including the mind-boggling A. Lange & Söhne Triple Split. As a result, my knowledge and my passion for horology had grown, and I wanted the commemorative timepiece to reflect that, albeit within a reasonable budget. And after trawling through the internet over many sleepless nights, I chanced upon the perfect watch at an auction – the Blancpain Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5395.
Ask any watch enthusiast what the most desirable complication in modern watchmaking is, and chances are the answer would be the perpetual calendar. Representing the pinnacle of calendar complications, perpetual calendar watches are extremely complicated to manufacture and assemble, and therefore highly coveted by enthusiasts. Unlike the lesser calendars, a perpetual calendar watch takes into account the leap year, which means that you don’t have to manually change the date during February. In theory, a perpetual calendar watch requires no manual intervention until the year 2100, as long as you keep it winded.
But many brands make perpetual calendar timepieces – why Blancpain? For one, it’s a brand that I have had a deep respect for, which stemmed from watching Hodinkee’s Talking Watches segment with Jean-Claude Biver (JCB starts talking about Blancpain at around the 9-minute mark). It’s undoubtedly one of the best episodes they’ve done (I actually like it more than the John Mayer one), and in it JCB expounded on his philosophy at Blancpain, which in his own words was: “Since 1735, there has never been a quartz Blancpain watch. And there never will be.” That was the brand’s motto back in the day during the 1980s and 1990s, a time where almost the entire Swiss watch industry believed quartz was the future of watchmaking. Rolex had the Oyster-Quartz, Audemars Piguet had quartz Royal Oaks, and even the usually conservative Patek Philippe tried their hands at making quartz watches. But not Blancpain – JCB wanted the brand to represent traditional Swiss watchmaking, so much so that he introduced the brand’s first perpetual calendar in 1985, right at the height of the Quartz Crisis.
In many senses, Blancpain’s introduction of its perpetual calendar in 1985 was not only a defiant attempt by a recently reinvigorated brand to take the path less travelled, but also a statement signifying that traditional Swiss watchmaking will stand the test of time. In fact, it held such significance that JCB decided to keep the original (numbered 00) for his own personal collection, pictured in the video screenshot above.
So when, 7 years on, I saw a similar reference up for auction, I knew I had to act. Its estimate was a tad more than my initial budget (which was blown, after factoring in commissions, shipping and taxes), but it took me back to when I first learnt about JCB and Blancpain during that iconic Talking Watches video. The ref. 5395 is almost identical to the model in JCB’s collection, sans the leap year indicator. And for what it is – a Swiss perpetual calendar in solid gold – the estimate was relatively low, a bargain even. It was still more money than I was prepared to part with, but I couldn’t resist putting in a bid at the low end of the estimates. With the auction scene going on a tear in recent months, I had no expectations of actually winning the watch – but at least I could tell myself that I tried.
So like Anthony Hopkins at this year’s Oscars, I didn’t even bother to follow the auction live. As such, it was to great surprise when I received an email after the auction concluded, stating that my absentee bid had won – apparently, I was the only one to bid on the lot. To say that I was ecstatic would be an understatement. I never thought that owning a solid gold, mechanical perpetual calendar would be something I could achieve at this stage of my life. It did deplete my savings more than I would have liked (thus why I’m selling the Franck Muller), but what are savings for if not for times like these?
It took me some time to get used to the 34 mm case size, but its smaller dimensions imbue the watch with a sort of old-world charm that complements the old-school look of the watch perfectly. Ultimately, it reminds me of the thrill of watch collecting – you truly never know where the journey takes you.
I can now say that I own a Blancpain Perpetual Calendar in yellow gold – damn, that has a nice ring to it. And if you too are swayed to own one, an example is currently going under the hammer at Sotheby’s here. Good luck!
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wah so Shiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!
P.S.S.S Shiok is a common word Singaporeans use to express admiration or approval. As of 2016, you can find the definition of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary.