Brands

Blancpain – luxury Swiss watches

Blancpain workshop in Le Brassus.
Blancpain workshop in Le Brassus.

At the beginning of the 18th century, Jehan-Jacques Blancpain was one of the first to sense the enormous potential hidden in watchmaking. The first workshop of the Blancpain brand, founded in 1735, was opened in the home of the watchmaker himself, in the city of Villeret. This is where the history of the oldest watch brand in the world began.

Since the opening of the manufactory, Blancpain watches have enjoyed enormous success, and the heirs of Jehan-Jacques Blancpain tirelessly glorified the work begun by their ancestor.

White Gold Ladies Wrist Watch by Favre Leuba, with Diamonds and Blue Sapphires.
White Gold Ladies Wrist Watch by Favre Leuba, with Diamonds and Blue Sapphires.

In 1815, the family business was headed by the great-grandson of the brand’s founder, Frédéric-Émile Blancpain. The new owner modernized production methods and turned the business, which began as a simple craft workshop, into an industry that has reached the scale of mass production. It was Frederic-Emile who introduced into production one of the most significant innovations in the history of watchmaking – the cylindrical movement, which replaced the spindle mechanism.

Rayville Blancpain building in Villeray, 1963.
Rayville Blancpain building in Villeray, 1963.

From a simple craft to an entire industry

During the era of the Industrial Revolution, prices for watch products fell, and many enterprises were forced to stop production. To withstand competition with American products, in 1865 Blancpain built a new three-story manufactory on the banks of the Suze River, where it uses water power to supply electricity to its production facilities.

Having modernized production and focused on the production of luxury watches, the manufactory was among those rare watch factories in the city of Villere that managed to survive this difficult time.

Blancpain Rayville Movement 17 Jewels Gold Platinum Diamond Bracelet Watch.
Blancpain Rayville Movement 17 Jewels Gold Platinum Diamond Bracelet Watch.

In 1926, in collaboration with John Harwood, the manufactory launched the first self-winding wristwatch. Four years later, the new winding system found its way into smaller models, and the rectangular-shaped Rolls watch was born. The watch, developed jointly with Léon Hatot, became the first women’s wristwatch with automatic winding.

The year 1932 put an end to the continuity of generations that had existed for more than 2 hundred years. Frédéric-Émile Blancpin’s only daughter, Berthe-Nellie, after her father’s death, did not want to continue the watch dynasty and devote herself to watchmaking. The following year, the manufactory was bought by the late Blancpin’s closest associates, Betty Fiechter and André Léal. Having no legal rights to the Blancpain trade name, the new owners resorted to a little trick by using “Rayville S.A., succ. de Blancpain”, a phonetic anagram for the city of Villeret. Despite the name change, the original style and spirit of the brand remained unchanged.

Manufacture Blancpain.
Manufacture Blancpain.

The appearance of the Fifty Fathoms model

For two decades, Betty Fiechter was the permanent director of the company until her nephew Jean-Jacques Fiechter joined the management in 1950. Jean-Jacques’ fresh ideas gave a new impetus to the development of the manufactory, and his passion for diving predetermined the appearance of the Fifty Fathoms watch, one of the most iconic models in the history of the Blancpain brand.

Introduced in 1953, the Fifty Fathoms was immediately adopted by French Army swimmers who required reliable, easy-to-read timekeeping instruments.

Blancpain T & H M Retro Yellow Gold Sapphire and Diamond Driver Ladies Watch.
Blancpain T & H M Retro Yellow Gold Sapphire and Diamond Driver Ladies Watch.

Captain Robert “Bob” Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud, who went down in history as the people who stood at the origins of the combat swimmer unit, approached Jean-Jacques Fichter with a request to create one. Fichter, who at that time was acting CEO of the company, accepted the order and handled it brilliantly. An avid diver, he knew exactly what diving aces needed and offered the Fifty Fathoms model to special customers. The name Fifty Fathoms can be translated as “50 fathoms” (a fathom is an English unit of length equal to 1.8288 meters). Through simple arithmetic calculations, one can understand that the new watch allowed diving to a record for that time of 91.4 meters.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Flyback Rose Gold Grey Dial Mens Watch 5085F Box Card.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Flyback Rose Gold Grey Dial Mens Watch 5085F Box Card.

Its reputation for reliability has made the Fifty Fathoms a benchmark among professional measuring instruments. In 1955, the “50 fathoms” entered service with the Deep Sea Research Group (Groupe d’Etudes et de Recherches Sous-Marines, abbreviated as GERS), and a little later, in 1960, with the US Navy. The reliability and innovative nature of the watch also appealed to the famous French oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who used Fifty Fathoms during the filming of his Oscar-winning film The Silent World.

In 1956, Rayville-Blancpain repeated its great success with the release of the Ladybird. The model was notable for the fact that it worked on the smallest automatic mechanism of a round shape at that time.

Blancpain Leman Reveil GMT 2041 1230 63B Men's Watch in Titanium.
Blancpain Leman Reveil GMT 2041 1230 63B Men’s Watch in Titanium.
Blancpain Ladies 18K WG Diamond Bracelet Dress Wristwatch, circa 1940s.
Ladies 18K WG Diamond Bracelet Dress Wristwatch, circa 1940s.
Blancpain x Swatch Scuba Fifty Fathoms Pacific Ocean Gray Dial Watch.
Blancpain x Swatch Scuba Fifty Fathoms Pacific Ocean Gray Dial Watch.
Blancpain Villeret Complete Calendar 8 Days Rose Gold Watch 6639 Box Papers.
Blancpain Villeret Complete Calendar 8 Days Rose Gold Watch 6639 Box Papers.
Vintage 14 Karat Yellow Gold Manual Wind Ladies Watch with Blancpain Movement.
Vintage 14 Karat Yellow Gold Manual Wind Ladies Watch with Blancpain Movement.
Blancpain 18 Karat Gold Handmade Ladies Dress Watch circa 1950 New Condition.
18 Karat Gold Handmade Ladies Dress Watch circa 1950 New Condition.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Black Ceramic Mens Watch 5000 Box Card.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Black Ceramic Mens Watch 5000 Box Card.
Blancpain Platinum Watch and 18 Karat Diamond Bracelet, circa 1930s 1940s.
Blancpain Platinum Watch and 18 Karat Diamond Bracelet, circa 1930s 1940s.
Blancpain 50 Fathoms Flyback Chronograph Men's Watch Ref 1130 52A.
50 Fathoms Flyback Chronograph Men’s Watch Ref 1130 52A.
Blancpain Leman Stainless Steel Wristwatch Ref 2100 1130a 64b.
Blancpain Leman Stainless Steel Wristwatch Ref 2100 1130a 64b.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Specialties Divers Steel Watch 2200.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Specialties Divers Steel Watch 2200.
This exquisite authentic retro wristwatch was designed by Blancpain for Tiffany & Co.
This exquisite authentic retro wristwatch was designed by Blancpain for Tiffany & Co.
Blancpain Villeret Grande Date Jour Retrograde.
Villeret Grande Date Jour Retrograde.
Blancpain Stainless Steel Triple Calendar Bracelet Watch.
Stainless Steel Triple Calendar Bracelet Watch.
Blancpain Mellerio 18kt Backwinder Watch Collector.
Mellerio 18kt Backwinder Watch Collector.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatic Titanium Blue Dial Mens Watch 5015 Box Card.
Fifty Fathoms Automatic Titanium Blue Dial Mens Watch 5015 Box Card.