Manufacture Blancpain is a Swiss movement manufacturer paired with Blancpain and owned by Swatch Group. It was formerly known as Frédéric Piguet SA or F. Piguet and traces its history in Le Brassus and Le Sentier to watchmaker Louis-Elisée Piguet in 1858.
Louis Elisée Piguet
Louis-Elisée Piguet (1836-1924) began producing ebauche movements in 1858. Originally founded in Le Brassus, the company has remained in that village and the neighboring Le Sentier for over 150 years. After his apprenticeship, Piguet focused on producing complications in his workshop, primarily supplying high-end Geneva and London brands, including Dent, Gübelin, Breguet, and Frodsham. Piguet was also a supplier for the American market through Charles-Henri Meylan and Audemars Piguet.
Louis Elisée Piguet is credited for creating the first perpetual calendar module, a complication that his company is still known for. He also created a working grande sonnerie mechanism based on the design of his teacher, Henri Golay, and Frédéric Piguet has returned to this design repeatedly over the years. Piguet's most famous creation was his "Le Merveilleuse", which included 22 complications. Manufactured with Ami LeCoultre-Piguet, this was one of the most famous "super-complications" of the era.
Piguet's four sons took over the business in 1905, renaming it Les Fils de L.E. Piguet. They ran the company through 1938, when his grandson (1906-1977) acquired all of the family's shares and renamed the company using his name, Frédéric Piguet. The company remained a prime supplier to high-end luxury watchmakers in Geneva and across Switzerland, counting Audemars Piguet, Paul Buhré, and H. Moser & Cie. among its customers.
Frédéric Piguet was especially well-known for ultra-thin movements for use in luxury watches. These rivaled those produced by Piaget, the leader in this space through the 1960s, and were in high demand.
Piguet and Blancpain
Upon his death in 1977, Frédéric's son Jacques Piguet inherited the company. Piguet immediately recruited Edmond Capt as technical director. Capt had designed the Valjoux 7750 chronograph and was eager to develop next-generation quartz movements as well. Piguet's historic movements (FP 21 and FP 71) were no longer selling well and the company intended to redirect their attention to advanced quartz movements for customers like Cartier and Ebel. Capt's FP 620, FP 820, and FP 8310 quartz movements were quickly adopted by these brands, and his later FP 1270 "Meca-Quartz" would be the first Swiss quartz chronograph movement. Capt also developed a mechanical movement for Audemars Piguet, FP 18, and a series for Blancpain.
In 1981, Jacques Piguet and Jean-Claude Biver bought the defunct Blancpain brand from SSIH. Biver directed the brand to focus exclusively on mechanical movements, calling it "the living museum of the past." Piguet set about creating "six masterpieces" for Blancpain: An ultra-thin watch, moon phase indicator, perpetual calendar, split-seconds chronograph, tourbillon, and minute repeater. The two companies accomplished every one of these tasks in a decade, and were one of the first to deliver a tourbillon wristwatch based on a design from Vincent Calabrese.
Many of the developments from Frédéric Piguet in this period were notable: Their moon phase indicator kicked off a trend for the complication in 1982; they were the first company in modern times to produce a split-seconds chronograph and are credited for re-introducing this complication in 1988; their tourbillon was only the second in a mass-produced wristwatch after Audemars Piguet in 1989. The Frédéric Piguet tourbillon, Cal. 23, remains notable for using Calabrese's off-center balance wheel concept, which some have categorized as a carousel but this is incorrect since it does not have a secondary gear train.
Edmond Capt's basic movements were important to Blancpain as well. In 1985 the company introduced the slim Cal. FP 810 and Cal. FP 951, which powered many simple watches for Blancpain, including smaller models for ladies.
One of the most-notable products of Manufacture Blancpain is Cal. 1185, one of the thinnest automatic chronograph movements in the world. This calibre is used by Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin along with Breguet and Blancpain. Manufacture Blancpain also supplies movements for other Swatch Group companies, including Jaquet Droz.
Frédéric Piguet SA
Rue des Collèges 8
CH-1348 Le Brassus
Tel. +41 (0) 21 845 16 16
Fax +41 (0) 21 845 16 00