In the description of Blancpain watches, superlative epithets are surprisingly common. She also has the longest history …
In the description of Blancpain watches, superlative epithets are surprisingly common. It has the longest history, the most classic and elegant design, the most complex mechanisms, and the most devoted fans … Well, let’s try to figure it out.
Complex and modest
The epithet “the oldest manufactory” is not entirely correct. Yes, Jean-Jacques Blanpat founded it in 1735 – the earliest of all the brands alive today. But at the beginning of the 20th century, the manufactory was closed for quite a long time, and the true history of modern Blancpain began just 20 years ago, when in the early 80s the brand was revived on the wave of the inspired revival of the Swiss watch industry.
And here are the two true heroes of Blancpain’s success. These are the president of the company Jean-Claude Biver and Jacques Piguet, the director of the Fredéric Piguet factory. To revive the almost forgotten name, Weaver radically changed the production process and the concept of the company in the spirit of the strategy of reviving the credibility and prestige of Swiss mechanical watches. It is he who owns the authorship of the main postulate of the brand: “Since its foundation, there has never been and never will be a Blancpain quartz watch.” He relied not only on mechanics, but on what many already thought was hopeless – on complex functions. The first model of the revived brand, which debuted in 1983, the Blancpain Classic Moonphase, was equipped with one of the most beautiful watch complications: the lunar calendar. Only the lazy does not do this now, and 20 years ago, his incarnation became the same revelation. as the new birth of the tourbillon in the late 90s.
Further more. Beaver, like an apprentice who diligently learned by heart a reference book of rare watches, has unearthed and reproduced all of the most complex and sophisticated complications that have ever been invented. For example, the unique Blancpain 1735, dedicated to the brand’s 150th anniversary, was equipped with a lunar calendar, perpetual calendar, split chronograph, tourbillon and minute repeater. Not only did they all fit into an elegant, fundamentally thin movement, but what is more, these watches were automatic, which no great masters of the past could boast of. Needless to say, the rest of the Swiss brands immediately followed Blancpain’s example, and the desire for a record combination of the most complex functions in watches turned into a real competition between masters, which continues successfully to this day. sometimes leading to unexpected and brilliant results, so delighting fans of watchmaking. But the palm and partly the leadership will forever remain with Blancpain and its “sister” manufacture Frederic Piguet, which has become so closely integrated with its main client that it can be safely called an “internal division” of Blancpain.
Conventionally, the mechanisms developed by Piguet for Blancpain can be divided into three groups. Automatic ultra-thin, more classic, but sometimes with additional functions, which are equipped with the main fashion collection of the Villeret brand. Super complicated – for the most prestigious Le Brassus collection. And the unifying merits of both, that is, subtle and complex, which are established in the Leman and Specialties collections.
The main technological achievement of Frederic Piguet, commissioned by Blancpain, is, of course, ultra-fine movements. For example, the caliber 1150 developed in 1994 for the Villeret Seconde Retrograde had a power reserve of 100 hours, a retrograde seconds hand and was only 3.25 mm thick. Especially for this model, Piguet engineers have developed a unique design of the retrograde gear: the ratchet of the retrograde hand is connected to the palnom not by the wheel transmission, but by a spiral that automatically returns the hand after passing the “30 seconds” mark to the zero position. In addition to the retrograde hand and an unusually large power reserve, the Frederic Piguet craftsmen produced ultra-thin movements with a calendar, moon phase indicator, chronograph, second time zone and minute repeater. It is especially worth emphasizing that for the Villeret and Le Brassus collections, Piguet produces not just limited editions of movements. Each of them from beginning to end is assembled by hand by one master, who then puts his personal mark on the board – just like in the days of Jean-Jacques Blanp, when a person was responsible for the quality of his work with a good name.
The slim, consistently round case and minimalist dial design of the Villeret collection is Blancpain’s trademark. And the idea, again, belonged to the genius Beaver, who at first was declared almost insane: everything in Villeret was too much. Too shallow markings. Arrows too thin. Too strict design. At first glance, these watches seemed modest and even dull in comparison with the luxurious pretentious models of competitors. But, as it turned out, this is exactly what lovers of watches like! Now, when jewelry and watch brands are at the peak of popularity and design often prevails over content, invariably
Blancpain’s serene design feels like a breath of fresh air. Jean-Claude Biver himself considered the highest recognition of his merits a letter from a 23-year-old boy who spent a whole year saving on scholarships, working part-time jobs and taking out a bank loan to buy a Blancpain watch for 1,000 francs. Because there are things for which nothing is a pity.
The new Blancpain
In 2002, Jean-Claude Biver stepped down as head of Blancpain after almost 20 years of illustrious rule. He was replaced by 32-year-old Mark Hayek, nephew of Hayek Sr., head of the Swatch Group, which includes Blancpain. Many took
this is an appointment for a recent business school graduate who previously ran an elite wine and cigar store in Zurich like an ordinary sinecure. Hayek, the nephew, had to prove that he was worthy of his great predecessor, which he brilliantly demonstrated by presenting in 2003 – the anniversary year for the company – an excellent range of new models, in the creation of which he was directly involved. Mark himself, regarding his new activity, says: “Of course,
I was a little scared because this is a new field for me. But I have worked with luxury goods all my life and I fully know that the main thing here is the ability to read between the lines and an understanding of what you can really expect from the people you work with. Of course, I had to learn a lot along the way, but I think I managed to imbue the very spirit of Blancpain. The result – judge for yourself. “
The hit of the past year, recognized by both experts and ordinary fans of the brand: the anniversary replica of the 1983 Phase de Lune model. Produced in a limited edition of 300 models in rose gold and 100 models in platinum, it is equipped with a movement of caliber 6763, which is only 4.9 mm thick and displays the moon phase, month, date and day of the week. In addition, the Villeret series has expanded with another record holder – the world’s thinnest 3.3 mm movement with a minute repeater (caliber 332), enclosed in a rose or white gold case. This model is unique and is produced in single copies. Villeret also delighted its fans with new movements with GMT, minute repeater and power reserve indication, as well as the first women’s model with a retrograde seconds hand (caliber 7663, thickness 4.6 mm, diameter 26.2 mm). The latter is distinguished by “
Le Brassus The
new Fly-Back split-chronograph models from this collection will not disappoint even ardent fans of Grand Complicatioas: they are complemented by a tourbillon (caliber 23F9A) or a power reserve indicator (caliber 40F6), or a tourbillon and perpetual calendar (caliber 56F9U), presented in classic and jewelry version. Another option is a combination of perpetual and lunar calendars (caliber 56F9A), again in a jewelery version with diamonds on the bezel.
Leman and Specialties
The collection, named after Lehmann, the largest lake in Switzerland, is intended by its creators for those who travel a lot and lead an active lifestyle. Not surprisingly, its flagship model in 2003 was the model with GMT function, power reserve indicator, calendar and alarm (caliber 1241), as well as the slim model with tourbillon, 8-day power reserve with indicator and calendar (caliber 25, thickness 4.8 mm) … Last season’s “special guest” was the Air Command diving model with Fly-Back-chronograph and water resistance of 200 meters, which was first presented in the fall at the famous yacht show in Monaco.