Today we’re taking a closer look at the new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Annuel. This year, the well-known dive watch debuts an unexpected twist, with the inclusion of an annual calendar complication. The result is a quirky watch with a quirky display, and yet, it somehow works. (Arguably it’s not the quirkiest watch in Blancpain’s line-up this year – that honour goes to the Bathyscaphe Day Date 70s). Hardcore dive enthusiasts and elitist complication collectors alike will no doubt shun this ‘cross-over’ timepiece. The broader market of dive-watch obsessed buyers, however, might just have a different opinion.
I’m sure this is not the first time such a complication has been incorporated into a dive watch. Still, it did have me scratching my head when I first saw the press release earlier this year. Let’s be honest, it’s a strange combination. It got me thinking though; how many people actually wear dive watches to go diving anymore? With dive watches fast becoming the new ‘everyday’ watch, it would make sense that buyers want more functionality. With the Bathyscaphe Quantième Annuel you get the look of a dive watch, combined with the practical functionality of an annual calendar complication.
If you know your watch history, you know Blancpain has been in the dive watch game for a long time. In fact, the longest time. The company is widely credited with creating the blueprint for the dive watch in 1953, the historic Fifty Fathoms developed for the French Navy. The Bathyscape joined the Fifty Fathoms collection in 1956 as a civilian version. It’s slightly more refined than its big brother, making it a good choice for those who want to wear a stylish dive watch on a daily basis.
Aesthetically, the new Bathyscaphe Quantième Annuel is virtually identical to the standard Bathyscape. There are of course a few minor differences, not least of which is the dial display. The satin-brushed steel case measures 43mm x 13.46mm (versus 13.40mm for the standard version) and is rated water-resistant to 30 bars (or 300m). It’s not huge by dive watch standards but it probably does toe the line of acceptable case size for suit and tie wear. The five-link, integrated bracelet in matching satin-brushed steel looks good on the wrist and ensures a comfortable fit. There’s also the option of a sail canvas or NATO strap.
The meteor grey dial has an attractive sunray brushed finish, making it much more eye-catching than you would otherwise expect from such a subdued colour. It changes from light to dark depending on how the light hits it. The luminescent rectangular hands and hour markers are all familiar, inspired by the style of the 1950’s Bathyscapes. Framing the dial is a unidirectional satin-brushed steel bezel with ceramic insert and Liquidmetal hour markers. It’s sleek and stylish, yet also very utilitarian at the same time.
The key difference on the dial, of course, is the introduction of additional displays for the annual calendar indications. The standard Bathyscape indicates the date through an aperture between 4 and 5 o’clock. On the new Bathyscaphe Quantième Annuel, however, the date is moved to 3 o’clock. Above it is the day and below it is the month. This design is not by chance. According to Blancpain, the displays have been arranged in the logical order that most people would use in common parlance, i.e. “Today is Friday, the 6th of July.”
What I particularly like about this annual calendar display is how well it integrates into the dial. Sure, it’s unconventional but it’s also a very no-nonsense, practical design, much like the Bathyscape itself. Additional sub-dials would have interfered with legibility, plus this way you can read the full calendar display at just a glance. Thankfully, Blancpain has opted for black discs with white text for the indications. I don’t even want to think about what that would have looked like otherwise. That being said, the design is definitely not going to appeal to everyone. At the risk of sounding cliché, this is one of those veritable ‘hate it or love it’ type situations.
On the rear side of the watch, a sapphire caseback shows off the new Caliber 6054-P. An in-house movement, it is based on Blancpain’s existing twin-barrel Caliber 1150 and features an integrated annual calendar complication. According to Blancpain, the bridges have been extended to create a wider opening on this automatic movement, which offers a 72-hour power reserve when fully wound. Finishing, much like the watch itself, is technical and subdued although still executed to Blancpain’s high standards.
Overall the new Bathyscaphe Quantième Annuel stands out as an unusual yet highly functional dive watch. You may not love the look, or even the concept, but as dive watches increasingly become the watch of choice for office dwellers, this seems like a logical progression. Whether the trend will last or not, remains to be seen. It will be priced at EUR 24,450 on sail canvas or NATO strap and EUR 26,850 on steel bracelet. More details on www.blancpain.com.