known as Betty, began her professional career in 1912, two years before the outbreak of the
First World War.
Against all odds, this visionary woman in an
pinnacle of Haute Horlogerie
with the creation of pioneering watches such as the
She was also the
first woman to own a Swiss watch manufacture at a time when
for women had not yet been established
in her country, where she arrived shockingly late: at the federal level in 1971 and at the cantonal level between 1959 and 1990.
Betty, like Blancpain, was born in the small Swiss town of
both being unique in their kind: one for being the first woman to run a watch manufacture, the other for being the oldest.
If you go to Villeret, we recommend you take a walk through the
neighborhood of Les Planches
, where there is a
bust of him
placed on a pedestal looking towards the valley of the river Suze, in which the year of his birth, 1896, and that of his death, 1971.
From caste it came to Betty
Betty followed a dual training at the local Business School, whose curriculum included an internship stage, which she decided to do at Blancpain back in 1912.
was co-owner of a small watch movement company. complexes
Manufacture d'Ébauches Comliquées Eugène Rahm,
located just off the main street through Villeret, which would be acquired by Blancpain in 1914.
World War I broke out,
Betty volunteered to work part-time caring for
French soldiers in Saint-Imier, located a few kilometers from Villeret.
There she would meet
an assistant to a French army officer who also made these visits to neutral Switzerland and who later played a prominent role in our heroine's life.
The original Villeret workshop where Betty.DR worked
In 1915, Betty became an
During her first 13 years at Blancpain, he would train her to become the
director of the Villeret workshops
and oversee all production.
When he died in 1932, and since his daughter Nelli did not want to take over the family business (missing the opportunity to go down in history as the first woman to run a watch manufacture), his last wish was that Betty would take over the company. property.
The purchase of the company
Parallel to Betty's work, and after becoming acquainted with Villeret during the war, André Léal had joined Blancpain as
focused on export markets.
He would later partner with Betty for the
purchase of Blancpain,
whose name they temporarily changed to Rayville, a reorganization of the town's name, Villeret, using it until the law was repealed that prevented a company's name from being kept if there was no member of the family affiliated with it (a fact that questions for some that Blancpain is the oldest manufacturer having interrupted its activity for a time due to the name change).
In addition to the loss of the company name, Betty had to deal with the
and soon after the death of her partner in a car accident.
So, instead of maintaining a complete range with different types of watches like the rest of the brands, it adopted a
to combat the devastating effects of the
watches for women
and movements for women's watches with which it would be able to consolidate the position of the brand in this segment.
A woman full of ideas
At the same time, and helped by his
of the business, he had the idea of creating a
almost finished watches
(movement, dial and hands) assembled inside an internal case, leaving their buyers to manufacture their own outer cases to place the Blancpain movement and thus avoiding the high tariffs that were applied to finished watches.
A ruthless woman
she was at the same time enormously
human in stature.
She used to make a gift to each of her workers every year.
She devised ways to
retain her employees
that were unusual for the time in the business world, such as the creation of Rayville Square, a
where children could play safely in the purest Silicon Valley style.
The wisdom of knowing how to surround yourself with valuable people
never married, she
did build a family around her made up of her nephews and their children and their employees.
Closest to her was
her nephew Jean-Jacques Fiechter,
who, after a stay in Alexandria with her parents, returned to Switzerland in 1945 to continue his studies in history at the
University of Lausanne.
Of course, Betty supported him in his studies.
It was he who, in the 1950s, when Betty
first fell ill with cancer,
partnered with her aunt to help her run the business.
Betty and Jean-Jacques at the opening of the Les Ambassadeurs boutique in Geneva in 1965BLANCPAIN
This union led to great successes: among them the creation in 1954 of the legendary
(the first truly modern diving watch that fulfilled the requirements for divers and the
of the French combat diving corps, later requested by the United States Navy), the
women's watch (1956) equipped with the smallest round movement in the world (11.85 mm in diameter) and
's Art Deco-style night watch (recalled today in the biopic 'Blonde', based on the book by
Joyce Carol Oates,
Ana de Armas),
as well as the growth of Blancpain's production to over
and watch movements per year.
Marilyn Monroe's Art Deco style clock.DR
Also during this time, Blancpain pioneered offering women's watches with the winding crown positioned on the back of the watch.
This allowed designers to offer especially elegant profiles for women's watches.
Baguette movements, also extraordinarily small in size (7 × 18.6 mm), became a Blancpain specialty during those years.
If you can't beat them, join them...
In the 1960s, when competition from Asia and quartz rocked the entire Swiss watch industry, Betty, along with her nephew Jean-Jacques, masterminded a
merger of Blancpain
Omega, Nouvelle Lemania and Tissot
into an entity called
(Societe Suisse pour l'Industrie Horlogère).
Each watchmaking house maintained its own identity, but they pooled their resources to maintain and expand production.
Blancpain played an important role in the
Swiss Society for the Watch Industry
as a supplier of movements for the associated brands.
At that time you could see this elegant woman dressed in fur in winter and adorned with jewelry, including pink terry slippers in her ensemble, as she suffered from
chronic foot pain.
at the beginning of September
1971 in Biel
with two moving epilogues to her life.
On her deathbed she wrote a birthday note to her great-nephew Jean-Marie which was delivered to him after her death on her birthday at the end of that month.
She bequeathed the plot of Les Planches to the people of Villeret, where her monument currently stands.
Few women have achieved achievements comparable to theirs.
At a time when women had no say (literally) in the Swiss business world, she not only
, she did so in the
face of major crises
on a global scale.
He found his own path, straddling deep respect for tradition and commitment to modernity.
She was a great woman whose legacy remains vital to Blancpain and is expressed today through the hyper-feminine
Ladybird Colors collection and the
inspired by a 1950s chronograph, now making its grand entrance among Blancpain sports watches. the manufacture with a vintage look and a feminine format (36.2 mm in diameter).
A watch from the current 'Ladybirds Colors' collection.DR
And while her legacy lives on, the number of women in management positions in the watch industry can be counted on the fingers of one hand today:
CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre,
CEO of Boucheron,
President of Eberhard,
Vice President and General Counsel of Bovet 1822,
Co-President of Chopard,
Co-Founder of Frederique Constant and, at the national level,
General Director of Watches and Jewelry of LVMH Spain .
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