A prestigious watch is a marvellous mechanism. A 24-hour day includes 86,400 seconds, a watch that achieves an accuracy of +/- 5 seconds per day has a precision of 99.99994%. This is a feat that exceeds the reliability performance of many sophisticated electronic devices. The skills required to create these watches are rare and demanding. The watchmakers and artists possessing these skills are capable of building into these watches complications that are difficult to produce – perpetual calendars, tourbillons, carrousels, chronographs and minute-repeaters, among others – together with decorative adornments.
With its watchmaking engineers, master watchmakers and artistic craftsmen, all located in the Vallée de Joux in Switzerland, Blancpain upholds the great traditions and expertise of haute horlogerie. Respect for this heritage and the traditional crafts influences everything that we undertake. But this does not mean that we are entrenched in the past. Quite the opposite: innovation is our tradition. This governing principle guides us in the creation of new timepieces and allows us to introduce modern technology that is compatible with the conventional processes, to push back the frontiers of the watchmaker’s art still further. For example, Blancpain now equips nearly all its timepieces with balance springs made from silicon. The performance, amagnetic properties and precision of this material surpass those of the materials previously used. Similarly, technical advances were made possible by the use of titanium (for balance-wheels), special alloys (for mainsprings), Liquidmetal® (for certain markings and depth gauges of divers’ watches), ceramic (for cases) and precision technologies in the fabrication of wheels and pinions.
The design of new timepieces is initiated by our watchmaking engineers, who delight in giving free rein to their imagination. For example, between 2006 and 2018, they succeeded in launching more than 43 calibres and movements integrating a number of watchmaking innovations, such as a Carrousel Volant Une Minute, a Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel, a Calendrier Perpétuel Phase de Lune with an eight-day power reserve, an Equation du Temps Marchante, a Tourbillon Volant Une Minute Automatique with an extraordinary power reserve of 12 days, and many more. Generous power reserves thus feature among the performance criteria that guide our creations. Then comes the protection of the movements against faulty manipulations, with mechanisms that ensure the safety of corrections made during automatic changes for the calendar functions and devices to prevent time adjustments during striking operations for the minute-repeater complications.
Our innovations are not restricted to the movements. The patented invention of correctors beneath the horns, exclusive to Blancpain, eliminates the need for corrector levers placed in the middle of the cases, thus ensuring asleek and smooth finish remains. Corrections are made by hand, without need for a special tool. For the Fifty Fathoms collection, we created bezels in dark sapphire, reputed for their extraordinary resistance to scratching.
We offer a wide range of complications in our collections, illustrating another dimension to our expertise. Our movements, all entirely produced in-house, include all the recognised watchmaking complications: the full calendar, moon-phase indication, the annual calendar, the perpetual calendar, the equation of time, the chronograph, the split-seconds chronograph, the flyback function, GMT, alarms, the one-minute flying tourbillon, the minute-repeater and, of course, combinations of complications. Our collection also features Blancpain’s own unique complications, such as the Carrousel Volant Une Minute, the Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel and an annual calendar combined with a GMT function.
Our know-how also encompasses artistic practices that can be applied to watchmaking. Decoration has played a role in this discipline for several centuries and is one of its great traditions. Ornamentation carried out on the small dimensions of a watch holds a significant place in the watchmaking heritage: intricate decoration etched onto dials, movement bridges, oscillating weights and case backs, miniature portraits in enamel and particular enamelling methods, such as champlevé, are just some of the techniques practised by the artists in our Le Brassus decorating and engraving workshops. Just like our watchmaking engineers, these craftsmen are encouraged to go beyond their limits, in particular by learning new artistic techniques previously unseen in watchmaking, such as the Japanese techniques of shakudō and binchōtan, and traditional damascening.