The rolling Jurassic Mountains, the lush old woods, the shining three sides of the lake, and the scattered villages and farms-you are overlooking the Vallée de Joux, known as the ‘Clock Valley’ .
As the center of the Swiss watchmaking industry, it is quiet and indifferent. Here, time can be perceptually perceived by the mind; time can also be seen and heard on the wrist by the master’s hand.
Deep down into the valley and heading to Le Brassus, one of the 10 villages and towns, you will find the world’s oldest watch brand, Blancpain’s large and complex watchmaking workshop. Pushing the door open, the great masters are immersed in it, are polishing the extremely precise movement, or do their utmost to the tedious and delicate, to decorate the watch with traditional arts and crafts. For nearly 300 years, Blancpain watchmakers have worked tirelessly in the workshop. The complex functions of high-end mechanical watches, such as Carloso, Tourbillon, Minute Repeater, Chinese calendar, etc., are all forged here. Complex crafts such as gold carving, enamel, damascus gold inlay, and red copper also converge under the same roof, so Blancpain has become one of the few watchmaking brands that can complete all the above processes independently.
‘Why is this environment able to breed such a watchmaking industry? Why is it that such a herdsman, farmer’s family can have such a craftsman?’ Blancpain Cultural Ambassador Liang Wendao visited the three Swiss Blancpains with questions. Master of national treasure watchmaking craftsman, discover the story of craftsmanship with us.
Enamel Ingenuity: One must master the entire process of making
‘At Blancpain, we don’t pursue the production of large-scale enamel works, we only make extremely good works.’
——Master of Enamel at Blancpain’s Grand Watchmaking Workshop, Christophe Bernardot
Christoph Bernardo has been fond of art since he was a child. When he was a child, he used to draw with colored pencils and then cut out the three-dimensional effect with scissors. Later, he began to study how to shrink a large painting onto the dial. And still vividly convey the theme of the painting.
Unlike many technicians who buy ready-made enamels today, Christophe believes that a good enameler should be able to master the entire firing process. So he spent many years learning how to start from the raw materials and complete the entire process of enamel production. Only by doing so himself, he knew how to match enamel with different colors and structures, and finally achieve his desired effect.
Christoph appreciated the expression of Chinese painting very much. In order to reproduce the artistic conception of Chinese painting on the dial, he made many attempts with diluted enamel. Regardless of the individual characteristics of each pigment, he must finish the firing work on the easily broken dial at one time. With a little care, everything must be repeated. This is the skill and patience of the enamelist. The biggest challenge.
Movement • Ingenuity: Complex and Passionate
‘Now we have almost every possible knowledge of time, which is the achievement and pride of being a watchmaker.’
——Mustapha Ahouani, master watchmaker of Blancpain’s Grand Complex Watchmaking Workshop
Mustafa Avani developed his interest in watches since his childhood. At that time, his father had several unusable watches. He took these watches for repairs and entertainment, compared their parts with each other, and understood How they fit together. After coming to Blancpain, he was even more like a fish, because Blancpain has many different series and many different complex movements, which just meet his desire to continuously explore the mysteries of watchmaking.
Mustafa made no secret of his love for Blancpain, saying, ‘I like Blancpain, and I love the brand I work for.’ Because Blancpain is a long-established hand workshop where he can interact with A group of colleagues who love watchmaking like him, starting from each small part, designing the movement, manufacturing the movement, and also customizing the movement according to customer needs.
In addition to making various existing complex functions, Blancpain continues to develop new movements every year, such as the world’s unparalleled Chinese calendar, which simultaneously walks according to the lunar and solar calendars, and can indicate the five elements of gold, wood, water, fire and soil, and Twelve hours, the zodiac and so on. As one of the artisans involved in the production, Mustafa is very proud because this means that Blancpain’s watch works now include almost all possible knowledge of time.
Gold carving • Ingenuity: Before you start, think carefully
‘You must know the thickness of each small piece of engraving material, so as to ensure that the carved things are not too thick, so that the watchmaker can put the hands on and close the watch cover.’
——Marie Laure Tarbouriech, the master of gold sculpture in Blancpain’s Grand Complex Watchmaking Workshop
Mary-Lorry Taburi is the fourth of three generations in the engraving industry, and the oldest of the tools she used was left to her by her grandfather. Of course, what is more important to Mary’s inheritance is the craftsman’s spirit-full attention, thoughtfulness, and grasp of the details.
Watch sculptors need great patience and meticulousness. They often spend weeks or even months to carve a work. It is conceivable that if an error occurs in the process, the entire work will be abandoned. One of the secrets of not making mistakes is to maintain an unhurried rhythm when carving. Although it was a job ‘as thin as ice’, Mary was so relaxed. As the rare winner of the ‘Best French Crafts’ title, the Blancpain gold sculpture workshop led by Mary can scribe the amazing world between square inches, and can customize the different civilizations of the world according to customer needs The representative image is like a museum collection on your wrist.
The craftsmen of Blancpain’s large and complex watchmaking workshops are doing things every day, every year and every year, which are almost repetitive and subtle. But only they know that they are taking every step so hard, and they are constantly pursuing innovation and excellence. Such a temperament and spirit embodied in them, just like the entire Jura Mountains and valleys, permeates a long, natural and vital historical atmosphere in nature. And such ingenuity will be passed down from generation to generation in the hands of the craftsmen.