Blancpain is billed as “the world’s oldest watchmaker”, but the history of the company is far more complex. Founded before 1735 in Villeret, the modern Blancpain traces its heritage to 1981, when Jean-Claude Biver purchased the name to be a mechanical rebuke of quartz watches. Blancpain and movement specialist Frédéric Piguet would be acquired by what is now the Swatch Group in 1992, with Biver leading the renaissance of mechanical watchmaking.
The Royal Oak Chronograph was a latecomer to this celebrated line and has remained remarkably consistent throughout its two-decade life. All share the same movement and a single lineage passes from the original Ref. 25860 to the subtly-redesigned Ref. 26300, the up-sized Ref. 26320, and the new Ref. 26331. It was only this year that a second model, the 38 mm Ref. 26315, was added. Yet on closer examination, a world of differences emerges, from the City of Sails to the Leo Messi, to the new 41 mm dial. Through it all, the Royal Oak Chronograph remains one of the classiest and most comfortable watches available.