Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Grande Date – with More than Just a Change of Display
New date display, new dial layout and titanium case for the Fifty Fathoms!
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms needs no introduction anymore. It was, back in 1953, one of the very first purpose-built dive watches and has since been in the minds of most collectors as a true icon. This watch – whose production was stopped when the brand was out of business during the 1970s – has been revived in 2007 and since then, multiple versions have been created. This year, the brand presented a new version with updated display, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Grande Date – which has more than a new date window to offer.
For over 10 years now, Blancpain has been playing hard with its dive watch – the standard Fifty Fathoms, not the more classical and restrained Bathyscaphe. This watch, which mixes vintage and modern features, luxurious and utilitarian design codes, comes with various displays and movements – time-and-date, chronograph, annual calendar chronograph, tourbillon – or styles, including cool vintage-inspired models or extreme versions. The most classical model, the automatic time-and-date (ref. 5015), has always been offered with a date positioned at 4:30 on the dial, with Arabic numerals at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock and encased in steel. At Baselworld 2018, Blancpain had a new model to present, this time with a large date positioned at 6 o’clock – and you’ll see that it isn’t the only new feature found on this Fifty Fathoms Grande Date ref. 5050.
At first, the novelty of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Grande Date seems to be just a change of display, with the addition of a large date – meaning a date displayed with two separate digits – located at 6 o’clock on the dial. The rest is apparently the same as the standard reference 5015, including the shape of the case, the signature sapphire bezel or the dial/hands combination. Yet, this is where we were wrong. The Fifty Fathoms Grande Date has evolved (discreetly) on almost all its features.
First of all, the case of this new Grande Date model isn’t made of shiny polished steel but Blancpain made the choice of utilitarian, more tool-ish satin-brushed titanium. Not only does this have an effect on the look of the watch – which feels sportier, less luxurious, less shiny and darker – but it is also a positive update on the wrist. Titanium is lighter and considering the 45mm diameter and the 16.27mm height, this isn’t a detail to be overlooked. Titanium is also more suitable for sports/dive watches, as it is more resistant to corrosion and to scratches.
The shape of the case hasn’t changed however and the proportions are the same as before. This means a rather large but still comfortable watch. It sits high on the wrist, it is large and thick, but well-balanced and pleasant thanks to the short lugs. Far be it for me to say that the Fifty Fathoms Grande Date is a tuxedo watch, yet it can be worn by people with smaller wrists – as you can see in the photos, the watch has been photographed on my 17cm wrist. It is more compact than the specifications lead you to believe.
One of the signature features of the Fifty Fathoms has however been kept on this Grande Date version: the glossy and domed sapphire crystal bezel insert – which was created to recall the bakelite bezel found on the 1953 model. This specific design is part of the DNA of the FF and it is with much pleasure that Blancpain still uses it. This bezel is very well executed and offers nice reflections and depth when worn. The sapphire crystal has a 60-minute diving scale printed on its inner face and features a unidirectional rotation – it is, after all, a true dive watch with 300m water-resistance.
Moving to the dial, besides the addition of the large date at 6 o’clock, several other updates can be seen. First, the new position of the date window offers a greater balance to the dial. Then, to accentuate this visual balance, Blancpain has removed the applied Arabic numerals at 3 and 9 o’clock to only leave the large 12 on top. All the other indices are applied triangles filled with luminous paint. This creates a cleaner and slightly sportier dial compared to the time-and-date reference 5015. For the rest, no evolution. The dial is still stepped and the hands have the signature sword design of the collection.
The movement of this Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Grande Date can be seen through the sapphire case back – and it is a movement with impressive performances. The calibre 6918B is based on the well-known 1315 found in various watches of the brand. This in-house engine is known for its long power reserve – 5 days or 120 hours, thanks to three mainspring barrels. It also features an anti-magnetic silicon hairspring, avoiding the need for a soft-iron cage around the movement. All adjustments are done by the crown, including the date. This automatic movement, with a central rotor, is nicely decorated with polished bevelled angles and industrial-like radial brushing on the bridges.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Grande Date is available with two different straps: the classic black fabric (sail-canvas) strap seen on the photos, as well as a black fabric NATO strap for an even sportier look. Overall, not only the addition of the large date creates a more balanced watch but the titanium case and the slightly updated dial are also giving this Fifty Fathoms Grande Date a more utilitarian and less flashy style. It will be priced at EUR 16,370 (for both strap options). More details on blancpain.com.
I’d be probably in minority as the Fifty Fathoms never really did much for me. That dial is so uninspiring and pedestrian looking.
Misaligned and out of whack date position and appearance on this model reminds me of a badly produced replica watch.
Great article. Thanks
I love Blancpain especially the villeret collection which exudes class and good taste. However, being accustomed to Glashutte Original’s panorama date, the grande date on this Blancpain is not perfectly executed as the misalignment between the 2 and the 7 is too much for my taste. Other than that Blancpain is a really nice brand.
I don’t like most Fifty Fathoms either.
I am 100 % with Babs on the second paragraph and in addtiion to all that , the watch is more expensive than a Rolex SeaDweller or Submariner. Come on…
Sorry but you lost me at ‘titanium’. Not a fan of this metal; doesn’t feel very nice and the darker colour usually doesn’t match anything else I’d happen to be wearing. Not to mention the weight which makes it feel ‘less of a quality watch’ than it probably is.
The date thing…. Perhaps it’s just a poorly executed shot as in when they set the watch rather than a poorly executed €16k watch. Hope so. Looks dreadful though and Monochrome should have noticed this as regardless of the reason it reflects badly on Blancpain.
The lack of markings on the caseback suggests it may be a prototype, hence the misaligned date numbers? I have many Ti watches and love them but one thing Ti isn’t is scratch resistant, quite the opposite actually. That being said it can easily be fixed with an eraser. The Aqualung large date is the one to have in my humble opinion, a lot more elegant.
I stay with my 5015, as i love the 3,6,9,12 and the discrete date at 4:30… Also I prefer the polished stainless version that makes this watch look and feel “our class”. Lastly I am not a fan of display case back on divers. All in all it is without regret, as I will certainly not up-grade my 5015 for this version. Does that mean that the 5015 is discontinued tough?
No it is not discontinued, Blancpain is pushing a line of 5015 with titanium case, sapphire bezels and display backs; price will be $3000 more than the solid back cased 5015s;