Jehan-Jacques Blancpain started his watchmaking business at the beginning of the 18th century, his company survived some tough times and today Blancpain is a maker of beautiful timepieces.Martha Taylor-Brown ▼ Saturday September 5, 2009 6:01PM ET
Jehan-Jacques Blancpain started to make watches on the first floor of his house in the village of Villeret back in 1735. His venture saw the rapid success and hid grandson David-Louis late in the 18th century, delivering Blancpain watches to customers in neighbouring countries. By 1815, David-Louis Blancpain's eldest son Frederic-Louis had himself become a practicing watchmaker. He would gradually turn the company from a craft-based operation into a full-fledged industrial venture. Over the years, more and better machine tools enabled Blancpain to develop its production and steadily improve product quality.
In 1830, Frederic-Louis turned the business over to his 19-year-old son, Frederic-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 Frederic-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.
The company managed to survive the hard times and changes of the management and the owners made two important decisions: to never every make a quartz watch and to relocate to the Vallee 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 percent of all high-end mechanical complications.
A partner of the 32nd edition of the International Boat Show, Blancpain announced the worldwide launch of its brand-new 500 Fathoms diver's watch. And as the icing on the cake, the Manufacture from Le Brassus is presenting a world first on the Blancpain booth: a 500 Fathoms Cannes 2009 limited series of 50 dedicated to sea-lovers.
The resolutely sporting 500 Fathoms is making a noteworthy entrance into the collection of Blancpain diver's watches. Endowed with a new face, new dimensions and new performances, the 500 Fathoms may in some ways be considered the "big sister" of the famous Fifty Fathoms. Measuring an impressive 48 mm in diameter, the new 500 Fathoms is water-resistant to 1000 metres.
To enhance legibility, Blancpain has designed large phosphorescent Arabic numerals engraved into sunbrushed metal appliques. The luminescent coating applied to the hour-markers, bezel markings and hands, as well as the red tip of the central seconds hand, ensures ideally convenient read-off in all circumstances. The black luminescent base of the dial reveals its fluorescence only in the dark. The one-way rotating bezel made from titanium and scratch-proof sapphire crystal is notched to facilitate handling and slightly cambered to reduce the risk of impacts.
The sapphire crystal back enables one to admire the entirely hand-decorated self-winding Calibre 1315 with its propeller-shaped oscillating weight. The 500 Fathoms Cannes 2009 model comes fitted with a black rubber-lined sail canvas strap, while an additional rubber strap and a dedicated tool to secure it lend the finishing touch to this set delivered in an ultra-sturdy watertight presentation box designed to withstand extreme conditions. ■