Archetype of the Wachmaking Art

On the threshold of the 21st century, Blancpain's philosophy remains rooted in a deep respect for tradition and contempary values.
"In my mind, Blancpain has always been rather revolutionary... a little bit crazy, a bit of an adventurer. We have always tried to be different, to become more innovative, to try things that have not been tried or been achieved in the past."
Marc A. Hayek,
CEO of Blancpain.

The elite of watchmaking

Few watchmakers are capable of making complications.

Probably no more than 1’000 in the world can build an ultra-slim watch.

There may be a hundred who can produce a minute repeater.

At the very top end of the scale, making the “1735”, there are no more than ten or so in the world.

Of men and tools

“I’ve made a tool and now things are going to be great, we’ll make up for lost time…”
A watchmaker at Blancpain

At Blancpain, the desire to embody the watchmaker’s art culturally and technically is expressed in a variety of ways: Besides perfecting old movements, our watchmakers make their own tools, perpetuating a tradition initiated by the forerunners of one of Switzerland’s most prized industries.

Keeping an art alive and changing

It would have been simply impossible to fit the 740 parts of the 1735 watch movement in the case’s 8 cubic centimetres without computerised assistance. The computer proves particularly useful for simulating the interaction of moving parts, finding design errors and confirming the movement’s overall coherence.

In our effort to go even further, in terms of accuracy and daring, we use powerful computers to better serve centuries-old craftsmanship. We work in a motion that stretches from the past to the future. With the past in mind, we return to the present to prepare the future.

Great works of art in small dimensions

Blancpain workshops turn out thousands of different parts, the smallest of which are barely 0.05 mm thick – the thinness of a hair. Little wonder that the movements are protected under glass between manufacturing operations against the smallest speck of dust right up to the instant they are assembled by hand – no mean feat, even for Blancpain’s immensely skilled watchmakers.

The watchcase

Carved from a solid metal block, every Blancpain watchcase is meticulously shaped and finished. Even the slightest imperfection – a tiny surface roughness, a dimensional error or a flaw in the metal, for instance – is ground for instant elimination. Its interior is mirror-polished to reflect the indexes and improve the legibility of the watch. From initial shaping to final buffing, a Blancpain watchcase requires no fewer than 31 separate specialist operations.

The dial

The hour markers on a Blancpain dial are all affixed by hand – a delicate task demanding a steady hand and a sharp eye to catch the tiniest flaw or blemish.


The work of Blancpain engravers in many ways resembles the magnificent embellishments found in mediaeval manuscripts. These artists too work in solitary silence, bringing to life all sorts of tiny figures – some saucy, some saintly. Blancpain relies on the talent and creativity of no more than four master engravers to turn some of its timepieces into absolutely unique works of art. Faithful to the art of watchmaking, three engravers craft every movement component with a respect for traditional methods. Even the bridges that bear the axes and pivots are worked, to become something more than mere supports. They are cut out, and shaped like waves or scrolls. Then they are polished or burnished. They are made of various metals that have to go well with the colour of the jewels. Decoration is often created even on the plate and the rotor. A fourth engraver adorns some of our watches with extremely refined automated scenes

A mechanical symphony

Assembling a movement is an art in itself.

The steel parts are shaped and finished in three steps: first they are angled with a lime, then polished with abrasive papers (from thickest to thinnest), and finally diamond paste. Other components are satin finished and rhodium plated, a surface treatment that protects them from tarnishing.

After this preparation, which is also a finishing step, the watchmaker assembles the various parts of the mechanism, step by step. He checks its operation at every stage of the assembly process. Regulation of the assembled movement is also an art. The accuracy of the future watch depends on it. Then, placing the movement in the case requires additional extreme care: the least amount of pressure exerted on the mechanism would pose a danger.

Its position must be adjusted to correspond to the setting crown and push-pieces, then exhaustively inspected and checked. But before a movement is cased up, it must be lubricated – at no less than 100 oiling points, representing a total weight of 1/2 milligram of lubricant. Once the watch is cased up, it is inspected and tested for 100 days.

The leather straps

Weeks of selecting the skins specially reserved for Blancpain, entire days of tanning in the shades exclusive to Blancpain, then 37 minutes to hand-sew each and every leather strap! All the art of leather and saddlery brought together to give that special unique touch to Blancpain leather straps.

The ultimate innovation for the greatest comfort is the natural rubber lining for the water-resistant leathers. These straps withstand the most extreme conditions for comfortable wear in all circumstances.

The platinum, gold or steel bracelets

The bracelets represent an important accessory for many watch owners. Not only do they complete the aesthetic design of the watch, but they are essential to its wearing comfort. Each Blancpain bracelet is designed for great suppleness in order to adapt comfortably to the shape of the wearer’s wrist. They are finished and polished by hand according to the tradition of the master jeweller.

Concept 2000

While their redesign in no way challenges the primacy of stainless steel, Trilogy bezels, crowns and pushpieces feature components made of rubber. This unexpected aesthetic touch improves handling comfort while adding intriguing character to a design that fittingly complements their "Black Sun" dial featuring facetted hour markers and figures.
Steel and rubber bracelets

Ingenious design featuring alternating links of steel and fibreglass-reinforced rubber. Enduring yet utterly stylish, Concept 2000 bracelets provide exceptional suppleness and wearing comfort.

Steel and rubber bezel

Framing and enhancing the bezel figures, rubber also provides a more comfortable grip on the bezel's ribbed rim.

Pushpieces and crown

Softer and more pleasant to the touch. Improved handling ease and all-round protection.


1 There will never be a quartz Blancpain watch

The mechanical watch will never die?

No, never. The clock in the tower at St. Mark's Square in Venice is still running, and it's almost a thousand years old!

> A mechanical watch, created in the spirit of the traditional watchmaker's art, is not just a combination of components and gearwheels; in its complexity, it is a testimonial to one or more generations of watchmakers. The mechanical watch is a mark of man's dreams and efforts. It is also tangible evidence of man's extraordinary creativity, his unique capacity for invention.

> This evidence, this testimonial is handed down from one generation to the next, often from a father to his son. Unlike quartz watches, mechanical watches have a soul.

2 The challenge of the six masterpieces

What is definition of a masterpiece in watchmaking?

During the 400 years of their history, the master watchmakers created six different masterpieces (the ultra-slim movement, the moon phase calendar, the perpetual calendar, the split-seconds chronograph, the Tourbillon and the minute repeater), each requiring exceptional knowledge and total self-mastery.

> It is true that other brands, by turns, have executed one or more of these masterpieces. But Blancpain was the first brand in the world to offer them all at the same time, back in 1988.

3 The need to specialize

How would you describe Blancpain's specialization?

Blancpain's specialization is evident, first, in its striving: the need to produce exceptional quality, along with detailed yet broad expertise, enable Blancpain to add to its list of exclusive products and world's firsts every year, but that is not all.

> To give Blancpain watches a strong identifying characteristic, Blancpain reduced the shape to bare essentials. Blancpain wanted to appeal to connoisseurs, to those who understand that mechanical watches depend on their movement for their essence, and to those who prefer what is natural and reject what is superfluous.

4 The message of the mechanical watch

For most people, a watch is used for telling time. What are the real contributions of high-end watchmaking?

To appreciate the art of watchmaking, you have to open up a high-end watch and look at the beauty of the materials, the polishing, the colors that seem to serve no purpose, because these are details that will probably not be seen by anyone. Tradition even forbade them from being shown.

> Nothing is more moving than the inner beauty of watches. What other object hides such an invisible treasure within?

5 Le Brassus

Why did the historical development of the watchmaking industry center on Switzerland's Jura region?

When the Edict of Nantes was revoked, the Huguenots fled France and took refuge in Geneva. Among them were many highly skilled watchmakers. They soon felt quite cramped, and left Geneva for the mountains, the Jura from Vaud to Basel, passing through Granges and Solothurn. There they found seasonal workers: farmers who excelled in minute, meticulous work. These farmers, after polishing at length, eventually expanded their abilities. Gradually, they began making watches and, over the centuries, they became involved in high-end watchmaking.

6 The essentials

Who are the enthusiasts who prefer Blancpain's sober lines?

There was a 23-year-old joiner who wrote to Blancpain. He had received a thousand francs for his master's and had saved a thousand francs. He paid a deposit of fifteen hundred francs to a retailer in Winterthur, and then he paid 100 francs every month. That's how he bought himself a 4,000-franc watch.

> Blancpain inspires passions in the most unexpected people. And a beautiful watch is something magical. It has often been said that a Blancpain is the most beautiful watch, the purest, most pared down, and yet at the same time, the most sophisticated.

> Someone who buys a Blancpain is both simple and cultivated. To appreciate something so pared down, you have to recognize what is essential.

> Since Blancpain appeals to culture lovers, Blancpain are necessarily dealing with a sensitive public. Only people in that milieu recognize each other as fellow members, sometimes through a Blancpain watch, which can be a sign, a language, or an act of humility and simplicity.

The History of Men

Jehan-Jacques Blancpain

The initial decision to enter the promising watchmaking trade was Jehan-Jacques Blancpain’s. He perceived perhaps more clearly than others the advantages which this new activity offered. There is little doubt that by 1735, for instance, the first floor of his house in the village of Villeret, still standing today, served as a watchmaking workshop. The venture owed its rapid rise to success at least in part to its generous policy with respect to apprenticeships. Jehan-Jacques and his successors always saw it as their duty to pass on their craft know-how to the next generation.

On the road to growth

As the years passed, Jehan-Jacques Blancpain worried about his succession. While his son Isaac did occasionally work with his father, he wanted to continue teaching school. But the company’s steadily growing success called for someone fully committed to the business – Isaac’s son David-Louis, born on December 21, 1765, fitted the bill. He joined the company late in the century, delivering Blancpain watches to customers in neighbouring countries. Whenever the workshops had turned out six dozen watches, he would set off to sell them in the cities and towns of France and Germany.

The Manufacture

By 1815, David-Louis Blancpain’s eldest son Frédéric-Louis had himself become a practicing watchmaker. He would gradually turn the company from a craft-based operation into a full-fledged industrial venture. It was by then making some of its own movement blanks, and was thus an integrated “manufacture”. Over the years, more and better machine tools enabled Blancpain to develop its production and steadily improve product quality.

E. Blancpain & Fils

In 1830, Frédéric-Louis turned the business over to his 19-year-old son, Frédéric-Emile. To avoid any confusion with his father, the young man began using his second given name only, and the company’s style became “E. Blancpain”. After Frédéric-Emile’s death in 1857, his son Jules-Emile, Nestor and Paul-Alcide became partners in a company now called “E. Blancpain & Fils”. Trained as a watchmaker in Switzerland and abroad, Jules-Emile took over management of the company.

Changing times

In those days, traditional piecework was still being practiced in the farmhouses of the area although batch production had already led to some division of labour. But bitter competition and pressure on prices foreshadowed radical change. In Switzerland as everywhere, there was no denying that the machine age had arrived, with its demand for ever greater precision and output. So in the late 19th century Blancpain set about building a two-story factory on the River Suze to harness its hydraulic energy to drive a generator providing electric power to workshops and machine tools.

Rayville Ltd.

Before the First World War, Frédéric-Emile Blancpain (the second to bear that name) turned the company toward the future – that of the wristwatch. In the early 30s, he made Blancpain enter the annals of automatic wristwatches by launching Léon Hatot’s rectangular "Rolls", an automatic wristwatch using "roller winding", whereby the movement could move back and forth in the case - a revolutionary idea at that time. But his unexpected death in 1932 ended two centuries of Blancpain family management, a saga extending over seven generations. As Frédéric-Emile’s only child, his daughter Berthe-Nellie, had no desire to carry on, in June 1933 the firm passed to her father’s closest assistant, Betty Fiechter, and her associate, André Léal. They acquired its assets and liabilities and continued the business under the name “Rayville Ltd. [anagram of Villeret], successors to Blancpain”. In the early 50s, Betty Fiechter and her team launched the diver's automatic "Fifty Fathoms” wristwatch and the first Ladybird whose presentation in 1956 caused a sensation in watch circles: its tiny round movement was the smallest of its generation.


Rayville-Blancpain remained to some considerable extent a craft operation, turning out a few thousand watches a year by traditional methods. But as it lacked marketing resources, its future was uncertain. Despite this situation, or perhaps because of it, it decided to accept the protection of a major watch-industry holding company set up in 1930, called SSIH (Swiss Watch Industry Corporation Ltd.).

In 1971, a new management team at SSIH decided on a radical change in business and industrial strategy that had no use for mechanical niche products. Since Blancpain lacked the brand awareness needed to survive as a marketer of “me too” quartz products, it soon disappeared from the market. In hindsight, this proved a blessing in disguise. Like Sleeping Beauty, Blancpain sank into a deep sleep.


At a moment when the Swiss watch industry was betting everything on quartz and beginning to destroy its production equipment and, in part, the culture of the mechanical watch, Jean-Claude Biver and Jacques Piguet, who agreed that traditional mechanical watches still possessed a surprising and indeed highly promising lease on life, combined forces on January 9, 1983, to revive the Blancpain Company two and a half centuries after its foundation. Close scrutiny of all available records confirmed to Jean-Claude Biver that there never had been such a thing as a Blancpain quartz watch. And none will exist in the future. Jacques Piguet, the son of Frédéric Piguet, the reputed maker of rough movements, or blanks, stood ready to contribute his very considerable expertise.

The Vallee de Joux

Many specialists were predicting the death of the mechanical watch due to the arrival of quartz. The traditional watchmaker’s art and know-how was rapidly falling into decline, and as the former Blancpain workshops in Villeret had been taken over by Omega, the two men decided to relocate Blancpain wherever craft traditions were still vigorously upheld. They finally settled on the Vallée de Joux, in the Jura mountain range of western Switzerland, a centre of fine watchmaking since the mid-1700s and today still the birthplace of 90% of all high-end mechanical complications.
Here, in a village called Le Brassus, stands a fine old Piguet family house, inhabited by the very soul of watchmaking – just the place for Blancpain’s new home. It would now turn out watches made in the most genuinely traditional manner, similar in spirit to those that Jehan-Jacques Blancpain and his descendants fashioned more than two centuries ago some one hundred kilometres away.

Reviving tradition

Vital watchmaking information and secrets were saved just in time, treasures from the past that had not yet been destroyed or set aside. At Frédéric Piguet’s in the Vallée de Joux, a large number of old movements were found for which there were no plans at all. After studying them individually, plans were created for each of these movements.

By turning to the past to relive the beginnings of watchmaking as it existed among the isolated farms of the Jura, Blancpain was able to allow the culture of mechanical watchmaking to endure, as well as the traditional watchmaker’s art of the region and of an entire country.

Blancpain - Le Brassus

Situated in the Vallée de Joux, the heart of the finest traditional Swiss watchmaking, the locality of Le Brassus is today the source of Blancpain’s most elaborate designs, in the spirit of the fabled 1735. Le Brassus designs reflect the collection’s essential character: highly engineered, often intricate and always outstandingly refined movements, enhanced by discreet, efficient design.

Blancpain Le Brassus Showcase

Blancpain Le Brassus Perpetual Calendar GMT Mens Brown Strap Havana Dial Platinum Automatic Watch 4277-3446-55B

Abounding in complications
The Watch Quote™ - February 25th, 2006

Baptised “Blancpain Le Brassus Quantième Perpétuel GMT” in honour of the remarkably rich colour of its dial, this special edition pays homage to Blancpain’s devotion to refinement and the art of living richly. Cigars, like all of gastronomy, form a part of the passion of celebrated living. Demonstrating the link between the two universes of watchmaking and refined lifestyle, this exceptional Blancpain timepiece is outfitted with a special rhodium plated gold winding rotor which has been hand carved with symbolic tobacco leaves.

In the eyes of connoisseurs, the perpetual calendar, indisputably, is recognized as one of Blancpain’s grand specialties. In its Le Brassus workshops, Blancpain is devoted to perfecting and miniaturizing this complication. Recently it achieved a world record by developing the thinnest perpetual calendar movement (a mere 2.91 mm in thickness). In 2005 Blancpain presented another innovation, its patented system of under lug correctors, developed entirely in its workshops. Instead of placing correctors on the side of watch where they are visible when the watch is worn, the indications of the date, day of week, month, leap year and moon phase, of the perpetual calendar may be adjusted by means of buttons which have been integrated into the lugs of the watch and which may be changed with a simple push of a finger. This constitutes a double advantage, at once both an improvement in the aesthetics of the watch and in its ease of use. Rising further to this technical challenge, Blancpain introduced this world first in its Villeret Perpetual Calendar which is outfitted with particularly fine case lugs. The Blancpain Manufacture now introduces this innovation in a model from the Le Brassus series and adds yet another complication with the GMT function.

In the limited edition Blancpain Le Brassus Quantième Perpétuel GMT the 312 piece movement brings together two complications aimed at daily life: a perpetual calendar and a second time zone. The dial indicates the date at the 3 o’clock position, the day of the week at 9, the month at 12 all the while keeping track of the variable length of the months, including the variations of the leap years.

This can truly be seen as a programmed future memory, finished further still by an elegant moon phase indication shown in a window at 6 o’clock. All of these indications may be adjusted by correctors discretely hidden under the lugs. A second hour hand with a triangular tip shows a second time zone, distinguishing between day and night by a 24 hour scale. The automatic winding system guarantees a power reserve of up to 100 hours. Another achievement: the watch is water resistant to a depth of 100 meters thanks to the sophisticated construction of its correctors.

Guaranteeing its rarity, this edition limited to 150 examples, is offered in a platinum case, a metal which is sober, precious and classically elegant. As a result of its innovative system of under lug correctors, there is nothing marring the harmony and purity of line of its round 42 mm in diameter Le Brassus case. The dial with its distinctive Havana tint producing brown gold reflections with hints of brushed sunlight suggests the colour of tobacco leaves. This original and unique allure is echoed by the brown hand stitched leather strap, which for extra comfort is outfitted with a platinum deployant buckle.

To accompany this exclusive timepiece, the Le Brassus Manufacture, has created a bronze cigar cutter whose special design recalls an antique watchmaking lathe. Connoisseurs will particularly appreciate this ensemble offered with an elegant brown box, bearing the design of a cigar band and another walnut box useable as a humidor.

Technical description

Caliber 55A5A

Thickness : 5,95 mm
Diameter : 27,00
Power-reserve in hours : 100
Rubies : 28
Components : 312
Limited edition : 150 ex

Case Platinum - Sapphire back

Thickness : 13,55 mm
Diameter : 42,00 mm
Water-resistance : 100 m
Between horns : 22 mm

List Price: $64,100.00
Price: $47,309.99
You Save: $16,790.01 (26%)

Availability: In stock

Blaincpain Le Brassus - Split Second Flyback Chronograph

Ref. 4246F-3642-55


Split-second Flyback chronograph, Le Brassus, date and power reserve indicator, opaline dial, self-winding

In 1989, Blancpain marked watchmaking history by introducing the world’s first self-winding split-seconds chronograph. This horological marvel’s movement includes a mechanical clutch-and-memory device that enables the split-seconds hand to stop while a given time is recorded before flying back to rejoin its twin, the chronograph hand.

This achievement of the master watchmakers is yet another demonstration of their search for difficult challenges, and their ability to invent increasingly complex and accurate mechanisms.

Technical Data

Complication Split-seconds chrono
Self winding Yes

Date Yes
Double window date indication No
Automata No

Case material Red gold
Case thickness 15.1 mm
Case diameter 42 mm
Water resistance 50 m
Between horns 22 mm
Sapphire back Yes
Carat measurement No

Dial Opaline
Bracelet Croco

Calibre 40F6
Calibre thickness 8 mm
Calibre diameter 26.2 mm
Power reserve in hours 40
Power reserve indication Yes
Jewels 37
Components 398

Limited edition No

Retailer's description:

18K rose gold round shaped case, brown crocodile leather strap with deployment buckle, silver dial with gold hands and gold applied roman numerals, date displayed at the 6 o'clock, power reserve display at the 12 o'clock, chronograph with "fly back" function(it restarts the chronograph by the push of a button instead of having to stop it, reset it, and then start it), hour subdial at the 9 o'clock, minutes at the 3 o'clock, and seconds with the sweep second hand along with the sweep split second hand in the center. automatic mechanical movement, water resistant to 50 meters.

Retailer's Specifications:

Brand Name: Blancpain
Model number: 4246F-3642-55B
Part Number: 4246F.3642.55B
Dial window material type: Scratch Resistant Sapphire Crystal
Clasp: Deployment Buckle
Metal stamp: 18k
Case material: 18K Rose Gold Case
Case diameter: 42 millimeters
Case Thickness: 15 millimeters
Band material: Brown Crocdile Leather Strap
Band length: mens-standard
Band width: 20 millimeters
Dial color: Silver Dial, Gold Applied Roman Numerals
Bezel material: 18K Rose Gold Bezel
Calendar: Date
Movement: Swiss Automatic Chronograph Movement
Water resistant depth: 165 Feet
Warranty Type: Seller

List Price: $38,300.00
Price: $28,419.99
You Save: $9,880.01 (26%)

Availability: In stock

Blancpain - Léman

Western Europe’s largest lake, the Léman is visible from Blancpain’s new premises. Often compared to an inland sea, its sparkling expanse is somehow suggestive of travel, of distant horizons. Clearly contemporary in style and spirit, Léman designs suggest the challenges of travel, the pleasures of life on the move.

Blancpain Léman Showcase - Mens

Blancpain Léman Showcase - Womens

Blancpain - Villeret

The “Villeret” Collection, which bears the name of Blancpain’s birthplace, naturally typifies its roots, its initial, basic design options. Pure lines, trim dial faces and sleekly styled case profiles compose studies in simplicity and refinement. Time at its most essential expressed with enduring elegance.

Blancpain - Villeret

Blancpain - Spécialités

Conceived by inventive minds and built by experienced watchmakers, some Blancpain designs display exceptional personality. Here, horological expertise brings to life personable timepieces. More than enough to form a collection by themselves. And the perfect match for men and women of definite character.