Blancpain makes some of the world’s finest and most complicated mechanical watch movements. They’ve always resisted the use of quartz movements, and positioned themselves squarely as a premium product. But, fortunately for those looking for an entry-level Blancpain watch, the brand is rather underrated by collectors and there are many good deals to be had. It’s true that Blancpain x Swatch collaborations are now on the market, but here we’ll focus on proper, affordable Blancpain watches.
More on the Swatch x Blancpain collaboration: Can Swatch revive Blancpain?
Watch collectors generally pay more attention to the “Holy Trinity” of watch brands–Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin–than Blancpain. Although the Blancpain brand has roots dating back to the 1730s, most watch fans are acutely aware that the modern iteration of Blancpain is a “zombie brand” that has been owned by Swatch since 1992. Cynical watch enthusiasts sometimes claim that Blancpain’s movements aren’t “really in-house,” but that’s not entirely fair to Blancpain.
It’s true that Blancpain’s movement manufacturer was once a third party known as Frédéric Piguet, but they have been an integrated part of the Blancpain company since 2010. It’s not much different than Rolex’s situation–Rolex absorbed their movement supplier, Aegler SA, in 2003.
Unlike most high-end watch brands, Blancpain doesn’t have any particular dedicated entry-level model. Blancpain makes highly complicated versions of almost every watch they make–from perpetual calendar tourbillon models to minute repeaters and flyback chronographs, insane movements are available throughout the Blancpain catalog. Thus, the most affordable Blancpain models tend to be the simplest (time-only, or time-and-date) options. We’ll give you our picks for the best entry-level Blancpain watches below:
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatique (~$10,000)
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, which debuted in 1953, often gets credited as the world’s first dive watch. Really, it was just the first dive watch with a rotating bezel, as the Omega Marine had been serving divers faithfully for two decades at that point. Collectors tend to overlook the Omega Marine (and the Zodiac Seawolf, which debuted at the same exact Baselworld fair as the Fifty Fathoms) and consider the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms to be the “OG dive watch.”
Despite this storied history, almost all non-limited editions of modern Fifty Fathoms watches can be found under retail. Although a $10,000 price point may seem expensive, it starts to sound better when you realize that’s less than the MSRP of a Rolex Submariner Date–and better still when you see market prices of a Vacheron Constantin Overseas or a Patek Philippe Aquanaut.
Although Blancpain has released some 40mm Fifty Fathoms watches in the past, those tend to maintain high resale prices. For a value-conscious consumer looking for an entry-level Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, the classic 45mm version is a good bet.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscape ($7,000-$13,000)
The Fifty Fathoms Bathyscape, which debuted in 2013 with a slightly less daunting 43mm diameter, is arguably the best value in the current Blancpain lineup. The design is clean and appealing, and the finishing is top-notch as you would expect from Blancpain. Yet, Bathyscapes can easily be found for 30% off retail price.
Blancpain even makes a flyback chronograph version, and pre-owned market prices for that are roughly on par with a simple modern Rolex Submariner.
Learn More: How Much Does a Rolex Submariner Cost?
We’re big Rolex fans here at Grey Market, but any way you slice it, the Blancpain gets you more horological bang for your buck. Bathyscapes can be found in stainless steel, titanium, or ceramic cases all for roughly similar prices.
Blancpain Villeret Ultra Slim ($3,000-$7,500)
Although the Fifty Fathoms is their most famous individual watch, Blancpain is, first and foremost, a dress watch brand. Slim watches with understated, classic dials are their specialty. The Villeret Ultra Slim exemplifies this perfectly. Pre-owned steel examples from the early 2000’s can be had for around $3,000, with solid gold versions costing not much more.
Often, when watch collectors splurge on dress watches, they find they get very little wrist time. If you mostly wear sportier watches, but want a classy high-end dress watch in your stable for occasional use, consider an entry-level Blancpain like a Villeret Ultra-Slim over a pricier option like a Patek Philippe Calatrava. You can see the current Villeret collection on Blancpain’s website.
More on Dress Watches: The Rebirth of the Men’s Dress Watch
Blancpain 2100/Léman ($3,500-$9,000)
Named after Lake Geneva (“Lac Léman” in French), the Blancpain Léman’s style sits somewhere between the Villeret and the Fifty Fathoms. Originally sized at 38mm and called the “2100” upon its release in 1994 (and briefly the “Aqualung” in 1999), the “Léman” name officially came about in the early 2000’s along with a 40mm size upgrade. The Léman represents an interesting balance of dressy and sporty aesthetics. An increasing number of complications were offered until the lineup was quietly discontinued in the early 2010’s.
Examples of pre-owned Lémans can be found for under $4,000, leading some collectors to assume it’s just another ETA-based mid-tier Swiss watch, but in fact most of the Léman lineup features an outstanding Frédéric Piguet movement with a 100-hour power reserve. Even solid gold examples can be had for 4 figures. With an all-around wearable 38-40mm width, a screwdown crown, ample lume, and 100m of water resistance, the Léman is a great choice as an entry-level Blancpain, or as a go-anywhere-do-anything watch in general.
More on daily-wear watches: What is a GADA Watch?
Takeaways on the Best Entry Level Blancpains
Blancpain has made many other watches in the past few decades as well; this merely represents a small sample that we think represents a strong value for entry-level Blancpain buyers. No matter what your favorite style of Blancpain is, you can almost certainly find a simple pre-owned version under $10,000, and surprisingly often under $5,000.