Table of Contents
Swatch Group's Prestige and Luxury division.
Founded in 1735
Jehan-Jacques Blancpain (b. March 11, 1693) founded this company 1735 in Villeret. Until 1932, when Frederic Emile Blancpain died at the age of 69 years, Blancpain has been family owned. In the 1920s and 1930s, Blancpain manufactured the first watches with automatic winding in series production. These models had the sonorous name “Harwood” (1926), based on the patents of the English engineer John Harwood, and “Rolls” (1930), based on a contract with the Leon Hatot S.A., Paris.
After the death of F. Emile Blancpain, the company continued for nearly 40 years as Rayville SA. This name was established in June 1933 and is a phonetic anagram of the home of the company, Villeret. But the manufactured watches and movements still kept the name of the founder's family. In addition, Rayville also sold watches under the Frisard brand name through the 1950s.
In 1953 the famous dive watch “Fifty Fathoms” was brought to market, which was waterproof to a depth of 20 atm (200 m). At the Basel Fair in 1957, Rayville introduced the “Ladybird”, then the smallest diameter watch in the world. In 1959, the brand also claimed the thinnest watch in the world, the Golden Profile and the only watch with 53 jewels, the Cyclotron.
Rayville joined SSIH in 1961. At this time, Blancpain was known as a maker of fine ladies and jewellery watches. In 1970 and 1971, the firm even won the City of Geneva Prize for “Bijouterie”, jewellery without a watch. The company also continued to innovate on novel ladies watches using the tiny Ladybird movement. But Blancpain continued to supply dive watches as well, including the Bathyscaph, Fifth Fathoms and Fifty Fathoms 1000.
In 1968 the SSIH reorganized Rayville and Blancpain under Omega. Blancpain's last appearance at the Basel Fair was 1975, after which the brand was shut down. By 1974, Rayville purchased the Saint-Imier firm of Moeris, and this would outlive the original Blancpain brand as a maker of historic replica pocket watches throughout the 1970s. The Rayville/Moeris factory in Villeret was handed to Omega in 1978 and ownership of Moeris passed to Tissot as Rayville ceased operations.
Rebirth of the Brand Under Jean-Claude Biver, 1981-1992
Jean-Claude Biver and Jacques Piguet acquired the brand name in 1981 from the SSIH for 21,500 Swiss francs 1) and launched from about 1983 under the name of Blancpain luxury watches with proprietary mechanical movements by Frederic Piguet. The watches had a gold case, bright white dials, moon-phase indications and hand-sewn ostrich leather straps. They were manufactured in a small farmhouse in Le Brassus using traditional craftsmanship.
Biver recounts2): “That was pretty brave at that time in 1982. In Switzerland 37.000 people had been dismissed. In the Vallée de Joux houses were sold; the Canton of Vaud went bad. The people had already asked, if we really believed what we were talking, or if we were totally crazy.”
Around the same time with Gerd-Rüdiger Lang, who, despite the past due dominating quartz technology, with his company Chronoswiss also still continued to focus on mechanical movements, they were able to decisively contribute to the subsequent rebirth of the mechanical wristwatch.
The following self-confident slogan, under which the brand came into the market, then came like a drumbeat
Sophisticated complications and elegant sports watches
Meanwhile, as highlight of this revival of classical mechanical specialties, the ambitious project takes shape to combine all the known complications in a single watch. The result is the Blancpain 1735, which is presented on international press conferences at the end of 1990. The “1735”, named after the year of the fondation of the manufacture, has an ultra-thin movement, a [perpetual calendar]] with moon-phase indication, a rattrapante chronograph, a tourbillon and a minute repeater. It is one of the most complex and with its platinum case also one of the most expensive wristwatches on earth.
1992 in Basel a new rattrapante chronograph with perpetual calendar, moon-phase indication and a height of only 6.95 mm celebrates its premiere; in parallel Blancpain presents an automatic chronograph with perpetual calendar and moon phase, and also a wonderful collection of ladies' watches.
In the Swatch Group, 1992-Present
On July 8, 1992, Biver announced that he has sold the brand (and Frédéric Piguet) back to the SMH Group. The purchase price of CHF 60 million represented five years revenue and a gain of over 2,500 times the purchase price. Biver initially left the company, but returned just three weeks later to run Omega in addition to Blancpain. He remained at the SMH, which has now become the Swatch Group, as executive director and board member until the end of 2003. In the meantime Blancpain is lead by Marc A. Hayek, the grandson of Swatch founder Nicolas G. Hayek. Biver has begun a new success story with his participation at Hublot (for details see there). In 2010, Blancpain's movement manufacturer, Frédéric Piguet, was renamed Manufacture Blancpain and began producing movements for other high-end Swatch Group companies, including Jaquet Droz.
But Blancpain also does not allow the field of high-class sports watches with self-winding movement to lie idle. In 1994 the newly developed series “2100” with 100-hours automatic movement is launched, which is oriented toward modern sportiness. “2000” symbolizes the sight into the coming millennium; 100 hours or four days her self-winding movement, consisting of 185 components including 29 jewels, lasts without any power supply. Besides you can descend into in the depths of the sea up to 10 atm (100 m) without problems. Finally, the number 100 also vouches for quality Not less than 100 days takes the extensive testing, to which each “2100” is subjected.
Blancpain Leman Flyback 2185
1996 the company launches the automatic flyback chronograph Leman Flyback 2185, which sets new standards by its unusual design and becomes a classic in the field of sports timekeeping, not least because of the exclusive manufacture movement that drives the watch.
1998 follow the newly designed re-editions of the historical models of the 'Trilogy of Time' the “Air Command” as a pilot's watch, the “Fifty Fathoms” as a dive watch and the “GMT 24” as a travel watch. These three watches can already be recognized from a distance by the powerful appearance of their bezels.
New commitment to sophisticated watch movements
“Today we make the history of tomorrow” had been a favorite motto of Jehan-Jacques Blancpain. Even today, the company sees itself as guardian and innovator of high watchmaking tradition. Under this sign, Blancpain presents in October 2006, after four years of research and development, the new manufacture calibre 13R0. This manual winding movement is in the exclusive use of the own, in-house models. The next year, the automatic calibre 1315 follows, also with 3 barrels and the resulting enormous power reserve.
Blancpain 225 section
With the Carrousel “Volant Une Minute” (calibre Blancpain 225), the company presents in 2008 the first carousel in the history of the wristwatch and also a spectacular alternative to the tourbillon. (Other firsts the first flying carousel, the first carousel with a balance wheel in the cage center and the first carousel with a power reserve of 100 hours.)
Blancpain produced “between 20,000 and 25,000” timepieces in 2013 according to company President, Marc Hayek.
Chemin de l'Etang 6
Case postale 42
Le Rocher 12
CH-1348 Le Brassus
Tel. 021 / 796 36 36
Fax 021 / 796 36 37