Jehan-Jacques Blancpain sets up a workshop in his house in Villeret. The tiny manufacture becomes the registered establishment of the Blancpain brand, and will make Blancpain the oldest continuously run watchmaker in the world.
Jehan-Jacques’ watches are respected and sought-after from the beginning. The Blancpain brand retains its small size and craftsperson’s reputation for nearly 80 years.
Frederic-Louis Blancpain, Jehan-Jacques’ great-grandson, modernises the production at the Villeret manufacture, turning a cottage industry into a larger undertaking. Now able to produce fine watches in serial, Blancpain is ready to expand.
During the early 19th century, Frederic-Louis creates Blancpain’s first horological milestone: the cylindrical escapement, which replaced the crown-wheel mechanism in his watches.
Blancpain opens a new manufactory in Villeret, on the banks of the river Suze. Water powered and two storeys high, this impressive building continues Blancpain’s tradition of modernity. It helps the brand remain strong in the face of industrialised competition from American manufacturers, and will set the tone for Blancpain’s development in the early 20th century.
Blancpain begins to produce the world’s first automatic wristwatch.
Blancpain’s production lines redesign the automatic movement for a smaller sized case, and create the first automatic watch for women.
Blancpain ceases to be a family-run business. The company is bought by two employees, Andre Leal and Betty Fiechter. The company name is changed to Rayville-Blancpain.
The Fifty Fathoms, one of the all-time great diving watches, is produced to order for the French Navy. Naval divers require a tough, legible watch for use in dark, cold water: the Fifty Fathoms is Blancpain’s answer. This legendary timepiece will become the favourite dive watch of Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
Blancpain becomes part of the Societe Suisse pour l’Industrie Horlogere (SSIH). In 1971, just before the quartz crisis, Blancpain is producing 220,000 luxury watches every year.
Blancpain is in decline, hit hard – like the majority of SSIH brands – by cheaply available quartz watches and recession.
SSIH sells Rayville-Blancpain to Jacques Piguet and Jean-Claude Biver. The pair change the name of the brand to Blancpain SA, and set up their manufacture in Le Brassus. Blancpain is about to become the flagship brand for the renaissance of luxury mechanical watchmaking.
Under the leadership of Biver, Blancpain focuses exclusively on grande complication masterpieces, marketing itself as a high quality alternative to quartz movements. The transition is successful: within a decade, the SSIH buys the company back for 60m Swiss Francs.
The Blancpain 1735 Grande Complication is unveiled. Classic, historic and groundbreaking, the 1735 incorporates all the complications from six acknowledged horological masterpieces. Its movement includes 740 hand finished parts. Blancpain’s master watchmakers require a full year to produce each 1735. Only 30 are ever made.
Mark A. Hayek becomes chairman and CEO of Blancpain SA. His focus is on continuing the manufacturer’s quest to deliver haute horlogerie timepieces of exceptional excellence.
Blancpain recreates one of horology’s most famous complications: the carrousel, an alternative to the tourbillon. Abandoned 100 years previously for being too expensive for its inventor to make, the carrousel attaches to the barrel of a luxury watch by two gear trains instead of one. Blancpain patents a way to make a flying carrousel, which completes a full rotation in 60 seconds, and unveils the One Minute Flying Carrousel, a luxury watch incorporating a light-well to fully view the spinning mechanism.
The Fifty Fathoms is reimagined for a modern watch enthusiast.
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