The French art of living (art de vivre) expresses a lifestyle filled with accoutrements that merge culture, heritage, and provenance. Traditionally expressed in five pillars, namely, culinary art and tasting, beaux arts (fine arts), haute couture, French literature, and the art of perfume, Blancpain occupies that sweet intersection of art de vivre.

When one is in consideration for a timepiece that is emblematic of fine watchmaking, what does on look for? Do you look for a practitioner of enamel portraitures? An artisanal tradition hailing back as far as the mid 1600s when military officers fighting distant wars carried miniature enamel paintings of their families much as soldiers today carry photos in wallets?

Blancpain is today, still practised in the savoir faire for miniature enamelling, bringing much value to early timepieces: an important conceit when technology to precisely regulate watches. During the interval between invention of the mainspring and the balance wheel, enamel painting bestowed importance to a timepiece through its elaborate, artistic decoration.

As watchmaking prowess grew, Blancpain began to make more understated expressions of refinement. Consider the ultra-thin watchmaking genre, where the dichotomy of world-record thinness implies sacrifices in mechanical architecture – perhaps a reduction of power reserve because only a thinner mainspring barrel will fit. Perhaps the elimination of the movement’s manipulate, adding to the fragility of the timepiece – but for Blancpain, something like the Villeret Ultraplate is emblematic of elegance without sacrifice.

The calibre 11A4B powers the new Villeret Ultraplate with long power reserve of 4 days and only 7.3mm thickness.

At a mere 7.39mm, Blancpain married ultra-thin construction with the signature elements of the Villeret collection: a double-stepped bezel and the purity of dial which marks a true dress watch. In watches as in bespoke tailoring, the artisan has to take into consideration the architecture (your body shape), the functional requirements (how you wear your suit), and of course, the overall sense of style.

A skilled tailor will take upwards of 40 measurements to ensure the perfect fit each and every time while a master watchmaker will have to meet exacting tolerances to meet all the functional requirements (in addition to aesthetic considerations) to accommodate two mainspring barrels offering a four-day power reserve which sets Blancpain’s Villeret apart from its other ultra-thin competitors who have sacrificed running autonomy in a race for thinness. What results is an extraordinary achievement in elegance and practicality.

But what if life calls for something more robust for man with a more rigorous lifestyle? As early as the 1950s, Blancpain conceived of the Bathyscape as an everyday timepiece that could be used for diving as well. Three years after the debut of the Fifty Fathoms selected by the French Navy, then CEO Jean-Jacques Fiechter conceived of the Bathyscaphe named for Auguste Piccard’s record-breaking deep-diving vessel.

All but one of the key features that distinguished the Fifty Fathoms was carried into the Bathyscaphe: the size. Imminently smaller and hence, more wearable, the Bathyscaphe became the canvas for useful everyday complications like the chronograph with no dilution of its diving heritage. This is akin to the rise of heavier cottons like denim in suit making – all of the functionality of taking on the urban jungle and none of the comprise on aesthetics.

Ocean Commitment Bathyscaphe Chronographe Flyback with grey ceramic case, blue ceramic bezel, blue dial and in-house column wheel calibre F385

Yet, regardless of a man’s outward appearance, it must be matched with the inner commitment to stewardship. The Blancpain Ocean Commitment is priority within the company and in depended that responsibility in 2014 to not just raise the degree of funding but also public awareness of its cause. The first Ocean Commitment Bathyyscaphe Chronographe Flyback in limited edition production of 250 pieces carried with it a donation of 1000 euros to ocean protection initiatives. More than a watch, each owner can be proud of his donation to the Ocean Commitment.

(Images: Blancpain)

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