The segment of the high end fashionable watch, the sector that constituted the pillars of the commercial rebirth of watchmaking in the 2000’s, is saturated.
When watchmakers so rare, as Richard Mille, produce only high quality watches, many others also rushed into a segment where the profits are important and where the customers are not the most concerned about the horologic contents of their purchases.
The founder of Blacksand Genève , Alain Maouawad, comes from the jewelry business, unlike many of his colleagues. Different business culture ? Willingness to do « better than necessary » (I quote the press kit) ? Anyway, the quality is there.
A quality out of place in this sector of watchmaking where « poorly and quickly done » seems to be the motto for some : cases PVD coating that peels off, finger prints on the mechanism, almost systematic utilization of caliber 7750 as a basis or else dials with low quality finishing; These kinds of watches are booed on the forums of connoisseurs, with good reason.
Blacksand arrives on the market with a surprising product policy : instead of putting everything on a marketing oriented strategy, the product is built to a level of quality more worthy of independent watchmaking than those the caciques of the trendy watch field propose.
In the goal of reaching and maintaining this level of quality, Cedric Johner, ex DeWitt, has been appointed manager of the production & development department.
Here is the Blacksand Uniformity described in details :
Despite a considerable size on paper, 46mm, the watch looks somewhat like a 44, thanks to the presence of big insets on the sides. The cases are proposed in diverse combinations of materials, such as grade5 titanium, tantalum, matte ceramic or 5N rose gold.
This design with a contrast of materials is definitely a reminder of the « Quai de l’Ile (QDI) » by Vacheron-Constantin.
Still, the Uniformity Blacksand is better in terms of size, more up-to-date, more appropriate regarding product sociology. It is also better in terms of price, Vacheron having been a little optimistic regarding the price setting of the QDI.
The case is composed of multiple parts : the lugs are integrated in one-piece elements that clutch the case itself : it is a clever design , because without the insets the watch would have lacked personality.
The must is of course to choose a version made of two different materials : one benefits from the concept of fusion dear to this segment of watchmaking .
I was nicely surprised by the make of the case, it really has a feel of superior quality. The surface treatments, such as brushing, bead-blasting and polishing are far above average.
My favorite dial is unsurprisingly the black, with the numerals in relief directly cutout from foils of luminescent material : it is undoubtedly the most Rock’n’roll version, and that suits the watch really well (Cf. the last photo of the article).
The most surprising part, in this competitive climate, is undoubtedly the mechanism. Even more, Blacksand puts its subcontractors in line, in a very nice and transparent manner (this is also a reminder of some independent watchmaking).
It is a 13 lines(30mm) Technotime movement, set at 28800v/h, with a 5 day power reserve.
When held in one’s hand, it is a really fine job : the Ruthenium treatment perfectly suits the modern look of the watch, the jewelling and the overall execution misses nothing compared to the industrial movements of the « greats » of the segment (the nice entry level Piguets or Vacheron).
But it is mainly when compared to the competitors that this movement is the bomb: when the competitors production embark a 7750 finished with a trowel, there is no question regarding the horologic worthiness of a Blacksand.
The watch swarms with playful details :
-The very original font (it reminds me of « Tintin: Cigars of the Pharaoh »)
-The hands with a design symmetrical with that of the indicators.
-Two superb wristbands in each box set, lined with an anti-perspiration material , perfectly manufactured.
-A very complete box set, a ready-to-use watch without need to add further accessories.
-An anti-counterfeiting watermark on the back of the watch, that becomes only visible when sprayed with mist.
-The clasp is also very nice.
One of the nicest surprises of the excellent BaselWorld 2011, Blacksand appears as a brand willing to produce quality, in other words to « preach in the desert of the fashionable watchmaking » the fundamental message of Swiss horology : Quality first.