December 21, 2005 The day for lovers, Valentines Day, like so many other aspects of modern life, emanated from the Romans. Every February in ancient Rome, a feast was held to honour the goddess Juno. The names of young women were put into an urn and drawn by lottery to match a single male. The matched couples would be considered partners for the year, and those who wished could enter the draw again the next year for a new partner. The Catholic Church was keen to eradicate these heathen practices so in 496AD, Pope Gelasius declared the day in honour of St. Valentine and promoted it as a day for lovers. St Valentine was a martyr who had been stoned to death for marrying couples in defiance of the insane emperor Claudius II who had outlawed marriage on the basis that the existence of families made soldiers reluctant to go to war. It’s hardly a heart-warming tale, and certainly not one to match the sentiments normally expressed on the day, though when you consider that 60% of marriages end in divorce, we think the original idea might be worth a revisit. In more modern times, several time-honoured practices have evolved, including the sending of love letters on the day and the giving of watches, with the world’s oldest watch manufacturer (BlancPain) commemorating the day each year with a very special limited edition woman’s timepiece. Don’t ask the price though.
We’ve come a long way in 1800 years, from celebrating a rite of spring where young men drew the names of young women from an urn.
The oldest Valentines Day letter still in existence dates from the 1400’s and was sent by the Duke of Orleans to his wife. Only a few years less old, is the Valentine’s letter sent by English King Henry V to his wife. Although only rarely does permanence come to a Valentine’s card or letter - those of Dukes and Kings being notable cases – the Blancpain Valentine’s watch is conceived to be a gift of lasting lustre.
This year Blancpain has created a limited edition series of 99 steel watches adorned by 44 precision cut and set diamonds on the bezel. The white dial is decorated in the classic Valentines heart motif with five of which four heart shaped rubies and nine diamonds. As befits a gift of everlasting love, each of the precious stones is of the highest quality, with VVS graded diamonds.
Even if it is the exterior decoration that wins her heart, the decoration and finishing of the interior has received no less attention. The calibre 953 automatic movement, like all Blancpain movements, has its 175 components painstakingly hand finished and decorated following Vallée de Joux tradition. The final finishing touch is a white crocodile bracelet.
Each of Blancpain’s special Valentine’s watches has been much sought after once appearing on the market. The 2006 Edition promises the same.
See the stories that matter in your inbox every morning