Blancpain, the creator of fine timepieces gathered a select group of watch collectors at their New York Fifth Avenue shop for an exclusive event. Christophe Bernardot, the brand’s Master Engraver demonstrated his precision handiwork. He deftly etched on a mix of copper and gold metals while looking under a microscope. The process is painstakingly slow and methodical —creating one of the world’s most desirable watches. It was a treat to see this part of the artistic process while sipping tktk champagne and eating hors d’oeuvres at their year old New York headquarters.
For those not entirely versed in the brand, a history brush-up may help. The brand began in 1735 and is the oldest name in watchmaking. Jehan-Jacques Blancpain set up his workshop in the main floor of his house in Villeret, in the present-day Bernese Jura. In 1835 Frederic Louis Blancpain, Jacques great-grandson, modernized production methods in order to produce more timepieces. He introduced a major innovation by replacing the crown-wheel mechanism with a cylinder escapement.
In 1926, the company partnered with John Harwood and produced the first automatic wristwatch. Four year’s later they launched the rectangular “Rolls” by Leon Halot, which became the first ladies automatic watch.
The year 1932 marked the end of the Blancpain family’s management. The company is most known for its success of the Fifty Fathoms watch, in 1953, produced at the request of the French navy who needed a reliable watch for underwater operations. The great diver and oceanographer, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, was known to wear the “Fifty Fathoms” watch.
Christophe Bernadot’s techniques have been used for centuries and include: manually polishing the mirror until it is perfectly smooth, chamfering sharp edges, straight line smoothing, Flank Drawing and achieving a decoration resembling waves by grinding on bridges and oscillating weights. Some case-backs, artists create worlds that are peopled with creatures divine or mischievous. The engraving is achieved entirely by hand using meticulous old-world methods.