At first, Blancpain’s Bathyscaphe watches are clearly seen as tool/dive pieces. But in fact, there’s more. The new Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Complet Phase de Lune advances the idea of adding civilian-friendly features with both a complete calendar and moon phase display. Typically found in its luxury Villeret collection, the complications add a classic, dressy vibe to the otherwise tool watch aesthetic. With previous models like the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Annuel, it’s not the first time Blancpain has dressed up a Bathyscaphe diver with complications, but this is the boldest model yet. Let’s take a closer look at this interesting tool/dress hybrid.
Blancpain has a celebrated history as a dive watch innovator, first developing the Fifty Fathoms for military divers in 1953. The name comes from its depth rating, which was 50 fathoms when introduced – a British measurement equaling 91.45 meters (300 feet). It was a no-nonsense tool watch designed for the French commando frogmen unit of the French Navy, who were among the most elite combat swimmers in the world. The Fifty Fathoms was 42mm in diameter, considered large at the time, and then CEO Jean-Jacques Fietcher also wanted a smaller dive watch for civilians. This resulted in the 37mm Bathyscaphe in 1956. Named after August Piccard’s deep-water diving vessel, the watch had a thinner rotating bezel and additional date complication, making it more suitable for everyday wear. The two lines lived side-by-side with a different clientele in mind, until they eventually merged into one family of watches.
CASE AND DESIGN
The 316L satin stainless steel case is 43mm in diameter and 13.9mm in height, and although bigger than the “large” 1953 Fifty Fathoms at 42mm, these are pretty standard dimensions for a contemporary dive watch. The unidirectional steel bezel has a ceramic insert with LiquidMetal indicators (numerals at 15, 30 and 45) and an applied, lume-filled marker at 12 o’clock. The combination of ceramic and LiquidMetal provides increased durability over conventional materials.
The crown screws down, unlike the original 1953 model that was blocked by a patent (although it was still innovative with a double O-ring gasket). The steel caseback with a sapphire exhibition window also screws down, allowing for 300 metres of water-resistance – much improved from the original’s 91.45 metres. The watch has a commanding presence on the wrist, although it wouldn’t look out of place in the boardroom with its upscale, Villeret-inspired dial.
DIAL AND HANDS
The meteor grey dial is toned down from the traditional black with high contrasting indices, but this piece certainly isn’t intended for frogmen. Large circular indices mark the hours, with 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock marked by elongated wedges, all filled with lume. The stars of the show, of course, are the new complications. Starting with the complete calendar, it has the Villeret combination of two windows and a central hand. Sitting side-by-side at the top, the left window displays the day of the week and the right displays the month. The central hand with a red, curved tip marks the date via a circle of 31 printed numerals just inside of the indices.
This is a simple calendar (not annual or perpetual), so manual adjustments are required for months under 31 days. The moon phase display sits just below the central hands in a large, bevelled window. The white moon (with a retro face) and stars are printed over a dark blue background. The steel hour and minute hands have substantial lume inserts, with the lollipop seconds hand having lume within its circle. The seconds hand also has a long red tip extending to the dial’s edge. It’s a busy, almost quirky dial that adds class, sophistication and a bit of fun to the traditional Bathyscaphe diver’s case.
Powering the watch is the Blancpain automatic Calibre 6654.P. Based on Blancpain’s Calibre 1151 found in other Bathyscaphe models (with extra calendar module), it has 28 jewels and a 72-hour power reserve. The aforementioned module consumes over 25% of the base calibre’s 100-hour power reserve. Comprised of 321 parts, the Calibre 6654.P also has a secured calendar mechanism, so if the user attempts to adjust the date during its midnight change, the delicate mechanics won’t be damaged. Seen from the exhibition caseback, the movement has an industrial vibe with limited embellishments, including some perlage, polished bevels and Blancpain’s custom rotor. The Calibre 6654.P is also found in its Villeret Quantième Complet line, featuring the same calendar/moon phase complications but different decoration.
There are three different strap options, including a sail-canvas, a NATO strap, or a stainless steel bracelet. All three are suitable for diving, although my personal preference would be the steel bracelet for daily wear. I suspect this particular piece will be seen more in the office than under the waves (although it’ll handle diving excursions with ease).
Blancpain is one of the oldest and most distinguished watch companies, established in 1735 by Jehan-Jacques Blancpain in Villeret, Switzerland. The brand has not only pioneered production techniques and designs (replacing the crown-wheel mechanism with a cylinder escapement, for example) but created the standard for dive watches in 1953. The Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Complet Phase de Lune brings a sophisticated twist to its portfolio of divers, combining luxury complications with a rugged tool aesthetic. It reminds me of a Ducati Hypermotard, an upscale Italian motorcycle that’s not afraid to get dirty on unpaved trails. Seemingly designed more for the office than a barrier reef, the piece works perfectly for aquatic weekend warriors.
The watch retails for CHF 13,800 with either the sail-canvas or NATO strap, or CHF 16,200 with the steel bracelet. Certainly not a cheap tool watch, but complications from the Villeret collection mixed with the revered Bathyscaphe line create a solid balance between sport and luxury. Add in the history of Blancpain and the Fifty Fathoms significance, and you have a nice, high-end piece for all occasions. More information about the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Complet Phase de Lune is available at Blancpain’s website.