A few months ago, Swatch and Blancpain introduced the Swatch x Blancpain Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms. Yup, quite a mouthful. It’s effectively the follow-up of the Moonswatch, which can be seen as Swatch’s take on the Omega Speedmaster. We didn’t cover it on MONOCHROME for obvious reasons (it’s a quartz watch…) despite being a huge commercial success and possibly a stroke of marketing genius. Of course, rumours are already circling of what might be the next collab from Swatch Group, where Swatch gives its own take on an emblematic watch from another Swatch Group brand. Since the Swatch x Blancpain Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms comes with a mechanical Sistem51 movement, it meets our standards, and we were all looking forward to getting our hands on these watches!
In the Netherlands, Robin and I received one Antarctic Ocean (white Bioceramic and grey bezel) for review and in France, Brice received the Arctic Ocean (beige Bioceramic and orange bezel). So, time to get our hands on the watches, take some photos and make up our minds: would we buy one or not?
But first… When I saw the rumours and subsequent teasers about a Swatch x Blancpain collab, Brice and I got on the phone to discuss what it could be. Well, the results of what we talked about and Brice’s Photoshop magic were published three days before the launch of the Swatch x Blancpain collaboration. I was certainly intrigued and curious to see what Swatch and Blancpain had created, especially since Blancpain has never created a watch with a battery, and I expected this not to change over a collab with Swatch. Gosh, I could even imagine that I would be interested in buying one. You’ll read how Robin and Brice experienced this watch.
I think it’s wise to answer a few questions regarding the specifications of the Swatch x Blancpain Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms, specifically regarding two important topics/complaints: the “plastic” case and the serviceability/repairability of this watch.
- The material: technically speaking, Bioceramic (according to a patent filed by Swatch Group) shouldn’t be compared to plastic. It is composed of a polymer material that accounts for far less than half of the compound, and petroleum has been replaced by castor oil derived from plants. The rest of the material, about two-thirds, is a ceramic powder identical to what’s used in classic ceramic watches and to ceramic used in dental work. Why add polymer to the compound? To give the material a certain flexibility – avoiding the issue with broken ceramic watches – and to be able to mould the compound easily, without the need to machine the components afterwards.
- Serviceability of the movement: the Sistem51 movement cannot be serviced, as would be done traditionally with an ETA movement or any other mechanical movement. It was envisioned from the beginning to not require service, thanks to innovative assembly processes and materials. “Thanks to the innovative way the SISTEM51 movement is created and assembled, no servicing is needed“, states the brand. Considering its conception, there’s no need for traditional lubrication, and thus, the movement should be able to run for many years.
- Repairability: the movement can’t be “repaired” in the traditional sense of the word. Due to its conception with a central screw to hold the movement, parts can’t be removed or replaced with new ones. The movement, once assembled, is considered a whole part. However, the case can be opened, and the “movement can be replaced in our production centre in Switzerland where we will also recycle the components from the used movement“, according to a statement from Swatch, if an issue happens on the watch. Problems can happen on any watch, and in the case of the Swatch x Blancpain, there’s no reason to consider it dependable. It can be fixed.
And now, it’s time to hear what we think about the Swatch x Blancpain Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms.
As we said above, there’s something that prevented us from talking about the Moonswatch. And on a personal note, being a huge Speedmaster fan, I have a very special connection with the Moonwatch. The original Speedmaster will always remain a sort of untouchable Holy Grail to me. And I fully agree if you want to call me a watch snob.
Now, back to the Scuba Fifty Fathoms. Following the rumours and subsequent teasers, my imagination ran wild. Why not a Fifty Fathoms-inspired Swatch with an automatic movement? It turned out to become a reality and my expectations were high, to say the least. My first question when the box arrived at my office was to understand what I was looking at. Is it a Swatch with the looks of a Blancpain or a more accessible and lighthearted Fifty Fathoms? After wearing the watch for less than 5 minutes, I knew… This Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms is, by all means, a Swatch. It might look like a Fifty Fathoms, and it might even have a few historical details like the No-Rad logo on the beige/orange Arctic Ocean I have here, a rotating bezel and many design elements borrowed from the FF, but it remains entirely a Swatch… One with an automatic movement, which changes everything for me.
Is it bad? No, not at all, actually. It’s a completely different watch altogether, one that can’t be compared to the original Fifty Fathoms. The price is the first way to differentiate them, of course (EUR 400 euros vs more than EUR 15,000 for a 5015), but the look and feel are entirely different too, with different intentions. It is genuinely lightweight (and not only metaphorically speaking, since the watch weighs around 50 grams), a factor that corresponds to its identity. The Swatch x Blancpain Scuba Fifty Fathoms is meant to be light, fun and used as something cool… It’s not a hardcore dive watch. It isn’t meant to be an instrument for our resident diver, Derek. It’s something that you wear at the beach and on weekends just to put a smile on your face. And yet, there’s a story behind it: a connection with one of the most important dive watches ever created. But here, the story needs explaining – more so than with the Moonwatch. The FF was and will remain more of a niche model, even if this Swatch might help give it some more visibility.
Putting that watch-snob-talk aside, I can totally understand the appeal of the collection. Overall, it’s a fun watch with funky colours, some aquatic capacities and an automatic movement inside – and yes, the Sistem51 is a far better movement than many want to admit. A good summer watch if you want. Cool and relaxed. And also one that could easily attract a younger generation. Now, if you ask me if it would be my watch in the long term? Maybe not. But I am far from being the average watch enthusiast. Having transformed my passion into a full-time job comes with a certain snobbishness, unfortunately. On the other hand, I could definitely see myself wearing one from time to time, just for the fun of it. I might change the strap, though…
Ever since the rumour mill started what the next ‘x Swatch’ project would be, I have been asking and listening to people and keeping a tab open on social media about it. The general consensus for me was that where the Moonswatch seemed a no-brainer in terms of how the two brands fit together, the Swatch x Blancpain connection felt less obvious at first. There’s a lot speaking for it, but there are also some things speaking against it.
My time with the Antarctic Ocean edition has made me feel there’s more substance to the collaboration than I initially anticipated. The details, such as the printed oceanic image and nudibranch (sea slug) on the movement and rotor, the dial variations, and the drilled lugs certainly give a fun and characterful twist to the Fifty Fathoms design. Secondly, the watch is extremely comfortable due to its low weight. Thirdly, it’s an automatic movement, even though it’s the non-serviceable Swatch Sistem51 calibre. However, contrary to popular belief, the movement can be accessed and, if needed, replaced.
There’s just one thing that I found quite bizarre: the moment of the launch, just days before the brand introduced the celebratory Fifty Fathoms Act III. The timing was off, and it stole the spotlight of what is a very good-looking, albeit pricey, reinterpretation of a MILSPEC Fifty Fathoms. In my book, you shouldn’t release a fun 400-euro watch based on the iconic FF a week before launching a 30k Bronze-Gold dive watch. Nevertheless, the concept is fun, and while I don’t see myself spending money on it, I hope it does Blancpain good in the long run.
Let me be perfectly open with you: the Moonswatch is fun and looks nice, but inside is a battery, and to me, that’s a big NO. Not for my wrist. There’s a reason why we don’t (or hardly) cover anything with a battery here on MONOCHROME. So yes, I was looking forward to seeing, feeling, wearing, and experiencing the Swatch x Blancpain Fifty Fathoms.
Secretly, though, I kind of like this Antarctic Ocean edition; call it a guilty pleasure. It’s nice on the wrist, light, comfortable on the NATO (and I can imagine even better on other straps), legible, running precisely enough for a fun summer watch, and yes, you can jump into the pool with it.
I’ve always liked the Fifty Fathoms, but I never bought one because it’s just too big for my taste. Yes, I know, the smaller limited editions could be an option for me, but these were always introduced at the wrong moment for me (read: my budget availability).
So, could this watch be for me? I like this Antarctic Ocean version; the other colours are way too wild for my taste (yes, again, there’s a reason why this website is called MONOCHROME). I agree with pretty much everything Robin and Brice say about the watch, the non-serviceability and the moment of introduction. No holding back here. I realise that other options do exist on the market for accessible dive watches, such as entry-level Seiko or Citizen models. Still, I like this Swatch. But this is also the problem in my opinion. I own way too many watches. However, I could see myself with this Swatch x Blancpain, and it would be perfect as a fun watch… (yes, I do realize the snobbishness of that remark, sorry…) Just like I bought the Swatch Sistem51 when it was introduced. It was fun and relatively cheap. This, on the other hand, is more than double the price, but still it looks good and wears well.
For more details, please visit www.swatch.com.