The world’s oldest regularly working watch manufacture, Blancpain, is thought for a relentless pursuit of superlative craftsmanship over two centuries, superlative haute horlogerie timepieces and its ground-breaking Fifty fathoms diver. Now it’s taking a sideways step with a three-year partnership with the gastronome’s bible, the Michelin Information.
In keeping with that infallible useful resource of dependable info, Wikipedia, the oldest regularly working firm on this planet is an Osaka-based building outfit referred to as Kongō Gumi, which was based within the yr 578 CE. To place that historical past in perspective, this still-functioning enterprise was arrange eight years after the beginning of the prophet Mohammed, 4 years earlier than Emperor Maurice assumed management of the Japanese Roman Empire and across the time that matches have been first invented in Chen Dynasty China.
To search out the oldest watchmaking firm nonetheless in enterprise immediately, nevertheless, we should quick ahead in time throughout greater than 11 centuries to the yr 1735, when one Jehan-Jacques Blancpain arrange his workshop in Villeret, a village within the Bernese countryside of Switzerland. In comparison with the likes of Kongō Gumi, Blancpain should appear a relative spring hen, although when one considers that, on the time of its founding, the American colonies have been fortunately nonetheless dominated over by Britain and enormous chunks of the world have been depicted in atlases as clean areas overwritten by the phrases “terra incognita”, it does render the model’s 287-year longevity in a considerably completely different gentle.
Simply as no timeline lasting nearly 300 years will seem as an uninterrupted continuum of progress, that of Blancpain has inevitably concerned suits, begins, highs, lows, continuity and alter. The corporate remained within the arms of its founding household for simply three years shy of two centuries: in 1815, beneath Jehan-Jacques’ grandson Frédéric-Louis, the outdated workshops producing one-off timepieces have been upgraded to an industrial enterprise allowing the serial manufacturing of watches. On the identical time, Blancpain additionally launched a brand new type of cylinder escapement. Round 15 years later, Frédéric-Louis launched into the development of a brand new manufacturing facility, the largest of its variety in Villeret, which together with the event of high-quality merchandise helped guarantee the corporate’s survival in opposition to powerful world competitors within the second half of the nineteenth century.
Within the late Nineteen Twenties, Blancpain tied up with the English watchmaker John Harwood, who’d developed a self-winding mechanism for a wristwatch a number of years earlier than that launched by Rolex; certainly, the latter was pressured to confess that reality in a subsequent commercial acknowledging the Briton’s invention. However when shortly afterwards, in 1932, Blancpain’s seventh-generation chief Frédéric-Emile died with out a household successor, the corporate was taken over by his former assistant Betty Fiechter, who not solely remained in cost (alongside together with her nephew Jean-Jacques from 1950) for the subsequent 38 years however was additionally the primary girl to move a number one Swiss watch model.
It was beneath the Fiechters that a number of key milestones have been reached. Amongst them, shortly after Jean-Jacques’ arrival, was the introduction of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms on the 1953 Basel watch truthful, which sprang from his new-found ardour for leisure scuba diving and, with its unidirectional rotating bezel, established the important thing design tropes for dive watches which might be nonetheless adopted by nearly each producer immediately. Additional including to the watch’s credibility as an expert instrument was its early adoption as an official fight timepiece by the frogmen of the French navy, in addition to by the oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, who at the moment was most likely probably the most well-known diver on this planet.
In these days the Fifty Fathoms was rated waterproof to a depth of round 91 metres (300 toes); fashionable variations, which kind one of many backbones of Blancpain’s present assortment, can submerge to greater than 3 times that depth. In 1956 the Bathyscaphe, named after the submarine car utilized by the Swiss underwater explorer Jacques Piccard to dive into the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench, was launched in a smaller dimension appropriate for on a regular basis put on by ladies in addition to males. The identical yr additionally noticed the discharge of the primary Blancpain Air Command, a pilot’s flyback chronograph initially supposed to be used by the US Air Power (and utilizing comparable case structure to the Bathyscaphe), of which solely a dozen have been made.
An additional key landmark for the model was Blancpain’s 1961 merger with the Société Suisse pour l’Industrie Horlogére (SSIH), alongside Omega, Tissot and the motion producer Lemania, after which the corporate not solely produced watches beneath its personal identify but in addition calibres for different manufacturers within the group. Inside 10 years, manufacturing had elevated to ranges hitherto exceptional, but by the early ’80s, with competitors from cheaper quartz watches decimating the Swiss watch business, Blancpain, in widespread with many different heritage manufacturers, was hanging on for pricey life.
Survival got here within the individuals of watchmakers Jacques Piguet and the younger Jean-Claude Biver, who in 1982 purchased Blancpain and circled its fortunes by reviving the traditions of luxurious watchmaking, specializing in heritage and craftsmanship, and emphasising the model’s roots within the 18th and nineteenth centuries. So profitable have been their efforts that inside 10 years they bought the once-again extremely worthwhile Blancpain to the Société de Microélectronique et d’Horlogerie (SMH), which shortly afterwards was re-named The Swatch Group. Following Biver’s departure 2002, he was changed by Marc A Hayek, one other eager diver, who stays head of the model immediately. Nearly instantly, Hayek set about re-creating the Fifty Fathoms, which had fallen sufferer to the quartz disaster.
First, a limited-edition of the watch was launched, which was adopted by a full-scale revival of the mannequin and, in 2013, the relaunch of the Bathyscaphe. Right now’s Fifty Fathoms assortment contains references that are available in a spread of sizes, case supplies, dial colors and problems, the latter together with flyback chronographs, full calendars, an eight-day tourbillon and a GMT, all powered by calibres designed and produced on the Blancpain manufacture at Le Sentier, a village in Switzerland’s watchmaking heartland, the Vallée de Joux.
The most recent references within the Bathyscaphe assortment comprise a pair of Quantième Complet fashions, one in crimson gold with a gradient-blue dial and the opposite in titanium with an anthracite dial, each that includes a manufacture automated calibre that powers a conventional full calendar with moon phases.
As for the Air Command, Blancpain revived the flyback chronograph in 2019, using a column-wheel calibre with vertical clutch that beats at 5Hz and providing 1/10 th of a second decision. Initially out there in a 42.5mm case, it’s additionally now provided in a smaller 36.2mm unisex model with a case in both red-gold (an ideal visible complement to the blue dial and leather-based strap) or titanium.
Together with a long-established dedication to World Ocean Day, which naturally grew out of the pioneering Fifty Fathoms household of watches and Hayek’s abiding concern for the safety of undersea life, Blancpain extra not too long ago partnered with the well-known Michelin Information in a wide-ranging three-year affiliation that builds on the model’s lengthy hyperlinks with the world of haute delicacies. In spite of everything, the painstaking attention-to-detail, data and experience implicit in each haute horlogerie and haute delicacies will not be dissimilar, whereas Blancpain watches haven’t solely adorned the wrists of the world’s main cooks for many years, however the home has additionally offered timekeeping devices utilized in numerous culinary contests through the years.
In 1986, Blancpain offered Swiss chef Frédy Girardet with a specifically engraved timepiece to have fun his award because the World’s Greatest Chef; since then, different culinary greats to obtain such watches have included Paul Bocuse, the late Joël Rubuchon, Martin Berasategui, Edgar Bovier and Julien Royer, all of whose eating places have acquired Michelin stars.
This affiliation between Blancpain and Michelin will end in greater than 20 occasions and guides in main cities all over the world, together with New York, Paris, Shanghai and Tokyo, over the subsequent three years. It brings collectively two well-known names with a standard ardour and world status for fantastic craftsmanship and high quality, and a respect for custom and terroir.