History of Blancpain

written by YWH team 1 January 2016
History of Blancpain

History of Blancpain
Founded: 1735
Founding place: Villeret, Switzerland
Founded by: Jehan-Jaques Blancpain
Current headquarters: Paudex, Switzerland
Owned by: The Swatch Group
Official name: Blancpain SA

The history of Blancpain starts in the 18th century. The company was founded by Jehan-Jaques Blancpain (born in 1693) in 1735, in the Swiss place Villeret. It starts with simple yet durable clocks and Blancpain remains a family-owned business for many generations. The Blancpain family plays a crucial role in the development and success of the brand, passing down their watchmaking expertise from one generation to the next.

In the 19th century, the brand contributes to the development of the minute repeater. And in the 20th century, it introduces the world’s first automatic wristwatch with a modern self-winding movement. But due to the lack of (capable?) succesors the brand decides to partner with London watchmaker John Harwood in 1826. Shortly after the company stops business.

Rayville, precursor of Jaeger-Lecoultre buys he brand

Rayville SA is a historical Swiss watchmaking company that eventually played a role in the formation of the famous luxury watch brand, Jaeger-LeCoultre. It is initially established in 1866 by Edmond Jaeger and it specialized in producing high-quality movements. Edmond Jaeger is known for his work in creating ultra-thin movements, a technical challenge that he takes up to prove the potential of thin, elegant watches.

In 1903, Edmond Jaeger forms a partnership with Jacques-David LeCoultre, who was the owner of a watchmaking workshop in Le Sentier, Switzerland. The company is then officially named “Jaeger-LeCoultre” and starts producing movements and watches. The collaboration between Jaeger and LeCoultre leads to the development of numerous innovations in watchmaking, including the creation of the world’s smallest movement in 1929. In 1932 they take over the remains of Blancpain, under the name of Rayville, and name the new company Rayville S.A., succ. de Blancpain.

Brandname lives on

The brandname Blancpain stays alive, and builds its success by producing a limited amount of watches per year. Then the company was out of business for a period of time during the so called quartz crisis. In the beginning of the 1980s it is revived again and in the beginning of the 1990s it is part of what later becomes The Swatch Group.

So, the brand is older than Vacheron Constantin, often named as the oldest watch brand, but Blancpain was not in continuous production. Which makes Vacheron Constantin’s claim that they are the oldest watch brand in the world that has been in continuous production, correct.

The history of Blancpain:

1693 – Birth of Jehan-Jaques Blancpain
1735 – Founding of Blancpain
1815 – Frédéric-Louis Blancpain (great-grandson of Jehan-Jacques) modernized production
1926 – Partnership with John Harwood (British watchmaker, inventor of the self-winder)
1932 – End of the family’s management of the firm
1932 – Name changes to Rayville S.A., succ. de Blancpain
1971 – Production topped 220,000 watches
1971 – Company becomes part of SSIH (Swiss company for the watch industry, later The Swatch Group)
1983 – SSIH sells Rayville-Blancpain name to Jacques Piguet
1983 – Name changes to Blancpain SA
1984 – Launched the world’s smallest movement at that time
1989 – Launched the world’s thinnest movement at that time
1992 – SSIH purchases Blancpain back
2010 – Frédéric Piguet SA is merged into Blancpain SA

The full list of oldest watch brands in the world might interest you…

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