The 1950s and 1960s have been all the rage on the watchmaking scene of late inspiring models that satisfy our nostalgia for the past beating with contemporary movements. Vintage mania is at all-time high and the 1970s are inching their way onto the style radar with proposals like this groovy Blancpain Bathyscaphe Day Date 70s oozing a cool 1970s vibe. MONOCHROME fell in love with this watch and it made our Top 10 ranking of the best dive watches of Baselworld 2018. Featuring a day and date window like its forebear, the watch is a limited edition of just 500 pieces and will hit the note with vintage hunters – so track down some bell-bottoms and a tie-dye shirt and get ready to hit Studio 54 with a watch straight back from the 1970s.
Vintage fever spreads to the 1970s
The nostalgia that has swept the watchmaking world of late has resulted in a surge of watches inspired by models from the 1950s and 1960s. The terms ‘vintage’ and ‘retro’ are used with abandon these days and, just before we get on down with the funky Bathyscaphe, I thought it would be worth seeing how an expert in the field defines these terms. According to Mallams, a reputable auction house in Oxford, “an antique item is 100 years or older; a vintage item is 20 years or older; a retro item is something designed to look like it’s from an older era.”
The very fact that these retro models are showing no signs of abating must mean that a new generation of hipper, style-conscious horophiles have developed a taste for them. Glashutte Original 1960s, Omega’s Seamaster Olympic Games Gold Collection and even Vacheron Constantin’s entry-level FIFTYSIX collection are all prime examples of the fever for vintage that is still raging today.
Blancpain’s latest Bathyscaphe – the Day-Date 70s – pays tribute to a forebear from the 1970s and signals an emerging trend on the watch scene for a renewed appreciation of the unmistakable style of the groovy seventies. Unlike its more demure siblings in the Fifty Fathoms family, the Bathyscaphe stands out from the crowd with a dial that screams retro.
Fifty Fathoms and Bathyscaphe
Following in the wake of the tremendous splash made by the 1953 Fifty Fathoms dive watch among frogmen and navies around the world, (read here for a detailed history of this legendary diver), Blancpain’s maverick CEO Jean-Jacques Fietcher spotted a niche for a smaller, civilian-sized dive watch. This resulted in the birth of the Bathyscaphe in 1956 with a more reasonable and wearable 37mm case size, in keeping with the trends of the day. Named after the deep water diving vessel invented by August Piccard, the Bathyscaphe was still a formidable underwater companion but represented the growing trend for dive watches to surface in different contexts of everyday life.
In addition to the smaller diameter, thinner rotating bezel and thick rectangular indices that distinguished it from the mighty Fifty Fathoms tool watch, the Bathyscaphe featured a date window. Below, some examples of vintage Blancpain Fifty Fathoms watches, including the model that inspired the present watch reviewed (on the left):
The two collections – Fifty Fathoms and Bathyscaphe – evolved in parallel adopting the stylistic tenets of the times but with different end consumers in mind. Since then, the Bathyscaphe (now grouped under the Fifty Fathoms family) has appeared in numerous guises including a flyback chronograph, an annual calendar, a complete calendar and a modern 38mm case size suitable for men and women.
A funky grey dial with day-date functions
Our hearts literally melted when we saw the gorgeous, almost faded effect of the Bathyscaphe Day Date 70s dial. The graduated grey-brown colour intensifies towards the periphery but, when it is worn – and depending on the light conditions – the dial changes from a warm brown colour to a cooler anthracite grey. The layout of the dial is a close replica of Blancpain’s 1970s muse with bold chunky hour markers and an unusual minute track in a steely-silver colour with large Arabic numerals at five-minute intervals and red squares at the base of every numeral.
Unlike some of the other Bathyscaphe and Fifty Fathom models with a date window hiding between 4 and 5 o’clock and perched at an odd angle, the day and date window are perfectly integrated at 3 o’clock. And just like the 1970s muse, the day and date functions are displayed with pride and legibility. As a diver capable of plummeting to depths of 300 metres, luminosity is of the essence and the wide rectangular hour and minute hands, the round tip of the seconds hand, the tips of the hour markers, and the triangular marker at 12 o’clock are all treated with luminescent material.
Housed in a 43mm satin-finished stainless steel case – that has nothing to do with the cushion-shaped case of the 1970s model– the matte finish is similar to the original and in keeping with the sporty, wear-and-tear nature of this watch. Using technology developed by sister brand Omega, the indices of the rich black ceramic unidirectional bezel are filled with Liquidmetal™ ensuring an unfading presence for years to come.
A 70s look powered by a contemporary movement
Based on Blancpain’s calibre 1315 of 2007, the modified automatic calibre 1315 DD with three mainspring barrels offers a robust power supply of 120 hours (that’s 5 days) for the hours, minutes, central seconds and day-date functions. Beating at 4Hz (28,000vph), the modern, machine-finished movement features a contemporary silicon balance against magnetism and can be viewed through the sapphire crystal case back.
Limited to 500 pieces, the Bathyscaphe Day Date 70s is available with four different straps: a distressed or aged leather strap, a canvas sail, a NATO strap and a classic steel bracelet. Personally, the watch looks great on the aged leather strap, but if there is one misgiving we share about this cool cat watch, it has to be the price. Retailing for EUR 12,000 on the NATO, sail canvas or leather strap, the price increases to EUR 14,500 for the steel bracelet. More details on www.blancpain.com.