If a list was drawn up of all the businesses in the world with a history that stretches across four centuries, it would be pretty short. Swiss luxury brand watchmaker Blancpain, however, would be on it.
The world’s oldest watchmaking house started in 1735 when founder Jehan-Jaques Blancpain set up a humble workshop in his home. Thanks to innovative techniques and designs, the company enjoyed great success in its infancy, and by the middle of the 19th century, it grew to become the biggest business in the Swiss municipality of Villeret.
By 1926, Blancpain’s ambitions expanded with the opening of a factory, where they made history with the very first automatic wristwatch. Four years later, the mechanism was adapted to a smaller size, becoming the first ladies’ automatic piece.
One of the manufacturer’s greatest successes came in 1953 when they launched the Fifty Fathoms, a diving watch that still takes pride of place in their range today. The first Fifty Fathoms was water resistant to 200m, an achievement so outstanding that Jacques Cousteau wore one while making his Palm d’Or-winning film La Monde su silence (“The Silent World”). It became the benchmark among professional divers, and was later adopted by the US Navy. Modern incarnations remain popular with sea-dwellers today, and can be taken down to depths of 1,000m.
In the 1970s, quartz watches revolutionised the industry, but Blancpain resolutely refused to jump on this bandwagon. To this day, they have never made a quartz piece, preferring to honour the tradition of mechanical movements, while producing significantly fewer pieces per year than many competitors. Their greatest testimony to this pure form of watchmaking came in 1989, when they first released the Blancpain 1735. One of the most complicated watches ever made, the 1735 features minute repetition, tourbillon, perpetual date, moon phase calendar and a flyback chronograph. It takes a master watchmaker a full year to produce a piece with so many complications, and Blancpain will only commit to producing one per year.
If you are not fortunate enough to pick up the annual 1735, Blancpain currently offer five core collections: the refined LeBrassus, the classic Villeret, the elegant Léman, the avant-garde L-Evolution, Women and the aforementioned diver’s best friend, Fifty Fathoms. Each collection boasts different complications, designs and features, but they are united by Blancpain’s tradition of high quality, unencumbered innovation and sheer beauty.
View our full collection of Blancpain Watches