Blancpain is the archetypal Manufacture: with a watchmaking heritage dating back several centuries, it has successfully preserved its watchmaking tradition, whilst welcoming a spirit of innovation.
Blancpain is above all the work of a visionary. In 1735 Jehan-Jacques Blancpain noted the potential of a brand new sector of business – watchmaking. He lived in Villeret and set up shop there as a professional watchmaker, recording himself as such in the municipal registers.
In 1815, his great-grandson, Frédéric-Louis Blancpain, was a pioneer in production methods, being one of the first to engage in series manufacturing. In 1865, when industrialisation was bringing constant pressure to bear on the price of components, Jules-Emile, Frédéric-Louis Blancpain’s grandson, had the idea of specialising in high-end watches in order to weather out this trend. From a technical point of view, Frédéric-Louis and his son Frédéric-Emile were also the authors of major inventions, in particular the modernisation of the form of the escapement, with a cylinder or anchor escapement replacing the column wheel.
In 1926, the brand designed its own automatic movements for men’s wristwatches, followed four years later by the Rolls, for women. When the last in male in the Blancpain line died, Betty Fiechter, the faithful co-worker of Frédéric-Emile Blancpain, took over the management. The Manufacture was renamed “Rayville”, a phonetic anagram of Villeret, enabling it to pursue its business legally after the end of the Blancpain dynasty.
In 1953, Blancpain presented the Fifty Fathoms, the first modern divers’ watch – produced at the request of the French Army’s Combat Swimmers. In 1961, to meet the increasing demand for its timepieces, Rayville-Blancpain became a part of the Société Suisse pour l’Industrie Horlogère. In the early 1980s, the company sold the name Rayville-Blancpain to Jacques Piguet, son of Frédéric Piguet and director of the company of the same name, and Jean-Claude Biver.
In 1992, Blancpain became a part of the Swatch Group. Ten years later, Marc A. Hayek became the Firm’s chairman and CEO, giving a new lease of life to the Manufacture – which embarked on a quest for excellence, without ever abandoning its invaluable heritage. To do so, the Firm joined the Frédéric Piguet manufacture in 2010. As a result of this transaction, it is now in a position to control every stage in the production of its timepieces. In keeping with this dynamic, over the last seven years, Blancpain has developed no fewer than 26 new calibers.
Blancpain is now very much at home in the twenty-first century, rising to the challenge with contemporary timepieces that are built on nearly three centuries’ worth of watchmaking inventions. The Manufacture is very active in motor sport timekeeping – a field which is amongst the most demanding in existence. It has entered a partnership with Lamborghini, becoming the lead sponsor of the “Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo” since 2009. Blancpain is also the official time-keeper for the world FIA GT1 championship from 2010 to 2012. The following year, Blancpain was involved in the creation of the “Blancpain Endurance Series”, as well as becoming the official partner of the “ADAC GT Masters” championship.