About Blancpain Watches
As the oldest registered timepiece brand in the world, Blancpain is a force to be reckoned with.
In 1735, Jehan-Jacque Blancpain founded his eponymous workshop in Villeret, Switzerland. The company soon became a family affair, with his wife, son, aunts, and uncles involved in the production process.
Within 80 years, his grandson, Frédéric-Louis, began to modernize the production line. Not only did Blancpain timepieces become lighter under his leadership, but switching to a cylinder escapement offered cheaper, faster production than previously-used crown-wheel mechanisms.
Rather than rely on expensive commissions, Blancpain began to produce timepiece series that implemented “ultra-flat” movements that have become one of the company’s hallmarks.
By 1830, Frédéric-Emile (Frédéric-Louis' son) had started construction on the largest timepiece factory in the region. In addition to creating a modern assembly line (which dramatically increased production), Blancpain founded a line of women’s watches that they soon became famous for.
Industrialization Puts Pressure on Production
Frédéric-Emile’s three sons took over the family company in 1857, a time when American industrialization had put enormous pressure on Swiss watchmaking methods. Prices had dropped, workshops had begun to shutter, and artisans had started to move to larger cities in order to seek factory jobs. To combat the competition and cut costs, Blancpain set themselves apart by utilizing only the finest materials and investing in a new hydraulic-powered factory along the River Suze.
Due to their efforts, unlike their Villeret competitors, Blancpain was one of the few watchmaking companies that made it to the 20th century. During the 1900s, the Swiss brand looked outward for inspiration. British watchmaker, John Harwood, partnered with Blancpain to create the self-winding men’s wristwatch. Smaller watches for women required a different winding system, leading to the production of the first self-winding women’s watch, The Rolls.
The Blancpain family dynasty concluded in 1932 when the company was purchased by Betty Fiechter and André Léal, but the required name change (to Rayville-Blancpain) was the only concession made. To survive the looming presence of the Great Depression, the company became a supplier to many other European watchmakers, including Elgin and Hamilton.
A Cut Above the Rest
Blancpain has never used quartz or produced battery-powered digital watches. While competitors tried to follow watchmaking fads and went out of business, the company has remained focused on providing only the highest-quality products possible. Only about 8,000 Blancpain watches are created each year (unlike the 2,000 put out by Rolex each day), and each watch is produced by a single artisan.
Blancpain: Timepieces for Adventure Seekers
The development of Fifty Fathoms in 1953 put Blancpain back on the map. With its patented double seal, the first modern diving watch provided the best waterproof casing against water pressure.
Not only did Jacques Cousteau prize his Fifty Fathoms, but the French Navy depended upon Blancpain’s unparalleled quality for deep sea exercises. Within two decades, the watch was standard issue for American, Scandinavian, and German armed forces.
Since 2010, Blancpain has become the main sponsor of many FIA GT competitions, including the eponymous Blancpain Endurance Series.
As the sponsor of divers and research expeditions around the globe, Blancpain understands the need for ocean conservation and is a World Oceans Summit sponsor.