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Blancpain Watch Company History

Founded in 1735 by Jehan-Jacques Blancpain, this House boasts a famous and oft-repeated slogan: "Since 1735, there has never been a quartz Blancpain watch. And there never will be." This bold statement, however, is more than just a slogan; it is a guiding principle of this unique company…a sincere dedication to excellence, which has earned Blancpain numerous accolades over the years. Although successive generations of the Blancpain family were able to transform what had been a tiny manufacturer into one of the most respected watch companies in the world -- witness the company's famous "Fifty Fathoms" model, circa 1953, which featured prominently in Jacques Cousteau's award-winning film, "The World of Silence" -- the influx of inexpensive quartz watches from Japan and China during the early 1970s nearly doomed the company to extinction. It was only thanks to the intervention of Jean-Claude Biver, an Omega executive with a love of fine timepieces, that the company was reborn in 1983 and put on the path to recovery. Biver's strategy was elegantly simple: a return to the production of classic mechanical watches in limited numbers, and an emphasis on creating innovative, and oftentimes highly complicated, timepieces.

Biver's strategy was a success: today, the Blancpain workshop and headquarters retains the charm of a tranquil farm house. Yet within this unassuming factory are created some of the world's most complicated, desired, and expensive watches. Graduates from the finest Swiss watchmaking schools are recruited into the ranks of the House following their apprenticeship to a Master Watchmaker. In keeping with tradition, watchmakers employed by Blancpain do not work in assembly line fashion; rather, each watchmaker will personally build "their" watch from beginning to end. Production is extremely limited, with fewer than 10,000 watches per year being produced. Needless to say, each watch is individually numbered and recorded in the company's archives. Boxes, straps and buckles are of the highest possible quality, in keeping with the company's strict emphasis on quality. As for the movements, they are designed and crafted completely in-house, and based exclusively on high-quality ebauches that are provided by their sister company, Frederic Piguet. Since Piguet and Blancpain share the same building, it might be said that a Blancpain watch features an in-house movement.

Where the company distinguishes itself the most, however, is in its adamant devotion to the mechanical wristwatch. Since the company's rebirth, only mechanical watches, in round watch cases, are produced. These are not "trendy" watches, but rather, classical in their styling and timeless in their elegance. Among the company's most recognizable products are Ref. 1106, a manual wind wristwatch with 100 hour winding reserve; the Fifty Fathoms, a contemporary version of the company's classic diving watch; an 18K "Half Hunter" wristwatch featuring a hinged sapphire crystal back; and the "1735" which combines the six complications offered by the company into one watch. The "1735" is an automatic chronograph with split-second chronograph, tourbillon, perpetual calendar with phases of the moon, and minute repeater -- a masterpiece that took more than six years to design and build. It is also a fitting tribute to the company's founder, and an equally appropriate symbol of the company's ongoing mission -- to create the very finest timepieces for discriminating collectors. It is also worth noting that Blancpain watches represent an exceptional value in our view, with many of their most complicated watches selling for a fraction of the cost of comparable models from other high-end Swiss companies.

If old-fashioned craftsmanship and traditional styling appeal to you, Blancpain is definitely a brand worthy of serious consideration. Vacheron Constantin also continues to manufacture a limited number of ultra-complicated watches, such as the Tourbillon watches, the unique "Grand Mercator" and a magnificent minute repeater/perpetual calendar. The prices for these watches are obviously quite high, but for many watch enthusiasts, a Vacheron Constantin represents the ultimate expression of the watchmaker's art -- an heirloom to be passed down through the generations and treasured by those lucky enough to own one.

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