Earlier this year I spent two days in Le Brassus to visit two very special areas within the old farmhouse. You may have already seen my report on the Blancpain Vintage Atelier, now it’s time to take you along into the Métiers d’Art workshop.
The combination of horological and fine arts traditions is a key competence Blancpain can be very proud of. All crafts are executed inhouse by true artists, in an environment that allows for patience and excellence. There’s no rush, it is pure dedication one can sense when visiting with the artists in the small workshop.
The Blancpain Métiers d’Art workshop has produced some exceptional pieces over the years, who could forget the La Grande Vague or the Ganesh once they have seen those masterpieces, but there is so much more… and most of the works none of us will ever see since they are unique pieces individually crafted to realize the ideas and dreams of a collector.
The most frequent use of the Métiers d’Art techniques can be found with dials, and we will get to a wide range of examples in a minute. The workshop however does a lot more:
The tradition of (often erotic) automatons is still alive with Blancpain. Those automatons often are a hidden secret of a subtle minute repeater, and they are of course made to the individual wishes of the collector. This is as much understatement as it can be:
But the Métiers d’Art workshop also offers a solution that can be understood as an entry into the world of individualization by traditional arts: personalized rotors or bridges created for any Blancpain watch you wish. There is almost no limit to how you want the parts personalized, the one thing you need is a rough idea and then the artisans of the workshop will work with you through drawings and discussions to reach the final stage.
The same is valid for dials of course. Let’s start this section by mentioning the different techniques used:
Master Engraving – Miniature Enamel painting – Champlevé Enamel – Cloisonné Enamel – Damascening – Marquetry – Shakudo
(I highly recommend reading the in depths articles on the Métiers d’Art techniques by Jeffrey Kingston in the Lettres du Brassus editions 16, 17 and 18. you can order or access those editions through the Blancpain website)
For all crafts represented Blancpain has chosen to hire the most talented and creative experts in their fields. Besides realizing customer ideas, the Blancpain Métiers d’Art workshop is creating unique timepieces based on historic works of art (e.g. La Grande Vague), cultural traditions (e.g. Ganesh) or masterpieces that blend tradition with new ideas (e.g. the tassel flosser representing Laurent Ballesta‘s Gombessa expeditions alongside the Blancpain Ocean Commitment initiative).
The real feast for the eyes starts now… here is a selection of dials that can be seen and closely inspected in the workshop:
Let’s get closer to the workplaces…
Here is a unique dial in the making, from a first drawing…
… through the individual components that sit on top of the dial…
… which is patiently awaiting finalization:
Some close ups of other dial components:
Let’s get back to the stunning engravings applied to movements. Over the years Blancpain has introduced various timepieces with spectacular engravings on calibre 15, called Grande Décoration and available in Blancpain Boutiques only. Here you get a sense of the incredible work that goes into those exceptional timepieces:
Here’s a close up of the Blancpain Le Brassus farmhouse engraved in one of those special timepieces:
I will close the report with a photo journey about the creation of the famous La Grande Vague, which found it’s first realization in a miniature painting enamel dial and then became a perfect demonstration of the Shakudo techniques:
As you saw in the report, the artists combine traditional tools with working through a microscope. This blend of historic and modern techniques opens the opportunity for almost each idea being realized using imagination, creativity and true excellence in the crafts applied.
Observing the work and talking to the artists is a exceptional experience, I can only recommend that whenever you have a chance, visit Le Brassus and the Métiers d’Art workshop… it’s unforgettable.
I hope you enjoyed the report!