The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is, without a doubt, one of the most emblematic dive watches. You hardly can find a dive watch with more historical background, the model being one of the earliest watches of its kind and one that has helped define the very concept of the dive watch. But behind the name Fifty Fathoms hides two sub-collections, and that since the early days of this model. First is the classic watch, with its more robust case and often larger diameter. Then is the Bathyscaphe, a more focused, slightly simplified watch that can be traced back to 1956. And while the modern version of this watch is today a very well-established model, the brand has decided to bring an update, with the new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe 43mm Titanium, which we’ve presented first here and, as promised, we now have them live.
The story of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms starts in 1953, making it one of the very first dive watches ever manufactured and commercialized – it was actually presented at the same time (Baselworld 1953) as another watch of the same style and function, the Zodiac Seawolf. Thanks to its CEO, Jean-Jacques Fiechter (also an avid diver) and the implication of Captain Robert Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud, French combat diver, this team created a watch to suit their needs, meaning a solid watch to be worn by dive soldiers. The result; a massive, ultra-focused watch made for the depths, with a 50 fathoms (approx. 300ft or 92m) water-resistance and a rotating bezel with a 60-minute scale.
There is another watch under this Fifty Fathoms collection that was launched in 1956 that also needs to be explored, because it’s the Bathyscaphe. Named after the invention of the Piccards – the famous submarine that went down to the Marina Trench – this watch was intended for exactly that, being worn inside submarines rather than on the wrist of combat divers. There’s a bit more to it; with its more compact case and lighter design, it was also meant for recreational divers and, in a way, a certain daily-use capacity. Basically, if the Fifty Fathoms was a watch for military forces, the Bathyscaphe was a watch for civilians. Resurrected in 2013, the name will give birth to a new sub-collection of dive watches that will be, like its ancestor, slightly simpler, easier on the wrist and a bit more modern too, yet with a less luxurious appeal (which is, in this case, a positive aspect).
The new Bathyscaphe Titanium 43mm
With now more than 8 years of background, at least in its modern shape, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe is a watch that needs little introduction. First released in stainless steel, later followed by ceramic or gold models, available either in 43mm or 38mm, it has become a serious all-purpose, aquatic-oriented alternative in the luxury segment. Besides that, the brand has released several complications in this collection, including an Annual Calendar, a Flyback Chronograph, a Full Calendar with Moon Phase (objectively, a bit questionable) and 1970s-inspired versions with Day-Date. But, it goes without saying that the core model is the classic time-and-date with a 43mm case, with its clear, distinctive diving credentials.
Now, Blancpain updates its emblematic model with a new natural titanium version – there were already titanium or ceramised titanium versions in the past, now out of the collection. The lightweight material is thus back, with more updates to be shown than just a different case alloy. In fact, if the overall design of this Bathyscaphe Titanium 43mm remains almost identical to the previous editions, updates concern the textures as well as the bracelet, new to this model.
Starting with the case, we certainly are in known territories, with the classic, sharp design of the collection. Measuring a respectable 43mm in diameter for 13.45mm in height, the case is simple, straight and recalls early dive watches with its oversized crown and the absence of protective guards. Entirely brushed, for a pleasant instrumental, matte and de-luxurised look, it retains its nice bevel alongside the lugs. In terms of diving credentials, the Bathyscaphe Titanium 43mm doesn’t break the norm, with a 300m water-resistance, a combination of screwed crown and caseback and an ISO 6425 compliance. It features sapphire crystals on both sides.
What changes here is the presence of a titanium case… but not your classic grade 2 or grade 5 titanium – the two alloys mostly used in watchmaking. Here, Blancpain uses grade 23 titanium, also known as Ti6Al4V ELI. What we can say about it is that it is a purer version of grade 5 titanium mostly used in medical applications, with lower oxygen, nitrogen and iron concentrations. According to one of our readers (thank you SPQR), “It is usually used in medical implants that will be placed inside the body as it is highly resistant to corrosion. It also has a high damage tolerance and so is used where high durability is required. It does not seem as though Grade 23 can be polished in the same way as Grade 5 titanium and is more like Grade 2 titanium in that respect.” The use of Grade 23 is here guided by the higher resistance to corrosion as well as the better ductility and fracture toughness than Titanium Grade 5. However, it can’t be polished in the same way, explaining the entirely brushed finish of this new Bathyscaphe Titanium 43mm – something that personally I prefer over polished surfaces in this context.
Besides this, the use of titanium allows for a slightly darker colour than stainless steel and, of course, a much lighter case – something that’s even more noticeable when the watch is worn on a metallic bracelet. As such, this new edition of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe never felt oversized on the wrist, not because of its actual dimensions, but because its weight feels like that of a much smaller piece. The final update to the case concerns the bezel. Up until now, the Bathyscaphe watches were equipped with a ceramic bezel insert with a glossy surface. Not the best for contrast, and to me an element that was too shiny, too reflective in this sporty, instrumental context. Here, the insert is still made of ceramic and still relies on the Liquidmetal technology to have a seamless integration of the 60-minute (fully graduated) scale, but it’s now dark grey and circular-brushed for a more tool-like aspect and reduction of reflections. In my books, this is a real improvement over the previous editions, both visually and function-wise.
The dial of the new Bathyscaphe Titanium 43mm also carries its dosage of updates. While the slightly quirky applied indexes and the bulky rectangular hands are still present, the base of the dial – which has a mid-grey colour – is now vertically brushed, instead of being classically sunray-brushed. As for the rest of the watch, this rougher, less traditional finishing adds to the instrumental look of the watch and better suits its vocation. I certainly would prefer a no-date display, but what pleased me is the actual colour of the luminescent material. In the press images provided by the brand, it appeared to be much darker and colour saturated. In the flesh, the lume is only slightly coloured and in line with the overall technical look of this titanium edition.
Under the sapphire caseback is a movement that is nothing but instrumental, as beats the high-end Calibre 1315. This automatic movement has one or two arguments under its sleeve, starting with its power reserve. Thanks to a triple barrel architecture (yes, three…), it can store up to 120 hours or 5 days of energy when fully wound. Then, it features a silicon balance-spring, which not only removes the need for lubrication but also adds antimagnetic properties. Finally, if the finishing could seem spartan at first, this was a deliberate choice of the brand not to use traditional decorations such as Geneva stripes. Nevertheless, the movement is finely finished with soleillage on the bridges, polished bevels on all edges, polished screw heads with bevelled slots and a sandblasted, satin-finished and snailed dark-coated 18k gold oscillating weight.
As for the way to wear this new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Titanium 43mm, you’ll have three options. First, and not presented here, is a grey textile NATO strap. Second is the grey sailcloth strap with titanium pin buckle you can see in our photos. Finally, and most importantly, is a titanium bracelet. Shared with the classic Fifty Fathoms 45mm, this 3-link bracelet is here used for the first time on the Bathyscaphe. It is, like the case, made of grade 23 titanium (buckle included) and features a patented system for adjusting the length, with screws that are positioned on the internal face of the links (and not on the sides). It is closed by a triple folding clasp but unfortunately, it doesn’t feature a micro-adjustment system.
Availability & Price
The new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Titanium 43mm (reference 5000-1210) is now available from boutiques and retailers, and is launched as part of the permanent collection. It is priced at CHF 10,800 on NATO or sailcloth strap and at CHF 13,200 on titanium bracelet.
For more details, please visit blancpain.com.