King of the desert: Introducing the new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date
Editor’s note: This is a Mind, Body & Soul review of the new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date LE watch. In addition to our standard long form reviews, we sometimes preview watches in the form of short descriptions, technical specifications and a creative infographic. These short form reviews, or Mind (stats), Body (design features) & Soul (what’s special) reviews as we like to call them, are meant for those who are in a rush and wish to get their watch fix fast. For our standard reviews, please head to our detailed review section here.
What is it: Inspired by a Blancpain diver’s watch from the 1970s, it is the new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date LE
Why: Because the world desperately needed a diver for dry land. Sarcasm aside, its inspired by an underwater chasm called Devils Hole at the Death Valley desert, hence the water connection with the desert.
When released: 30 September 2020, as a follow up to its Baselworld 2018 debut
Where: Its gradient-coloured sandy beige dial featuring a sunburst pattern is designed to evoke the ‘feel’ of the Death Valley desert in the United States. The watch itself is a global release.
Who is it for: The brand says its for “adventurers, enthusiasts and creative minds”. True as that may be, we reckon is for those who would like to choose the off-beaten track and venture into territories, both horological and territorial — known and unknown. I would also say its for the bargain hunter who wants a timepiece from a high end Swiss luxury brand that is limited in nature, has a heritage, can be truly used for diving and has the added complications of day-date, all for a relative bargain price of only $17’600 AUD.
How does it do: I like it. It’s distinctive, it’s legible, it’s bold yet understated, it’s almost dressy yet a dive watch. Plus a rather uncommon coloured — almost fumé in fact — dial drenched in 1970s charm, 300m water-resistance, 5-days power reserve, 500-piece limited-edition exclusivity, a display caseback showcasing its gold oscillating weight coated with a NAC treatment, and an in-house movement all point to one thing: an all round beauty for your wrists.
Missing: The imbalance on the dial when it comes to comparing the 9’o clock markers and the 3’o clock markers is a bit too jarring. The 43mm diameter case size, the 14.25mm thickness and the large 23mm interhorn spacing are all on the larger side. The dial colour here is more muted and desert-inspired, but overall looks fairly similar to the 2018 LE version ref. 5052-1110-B52A (on sail canvas strap). Also the day/date windows are missing frames and that bitters me as an architect; it just doesn’t look finished.
The new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date LE reference 5052-1146-E52A features an in-house automatic winding calibre 1315DD. Introduced in 2007 the movement features a glucydur free sprung balance with gold regulation screws. This 34.75mm diameter and 6.6mm thick movement — which makes me wonder why is the watch over all so bulky — is based on the Blancpain in-house caliber 1315 that is used extensively across the range.
The adjusted in 6-positions calibre 1315DD comprises of 37 jewels and 281 components, beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28,800 Vph), and offers a very impressive 120-hour or 5-day power reserve. As most Blancpain movements are, it is a reliable workhorse and features a free-sprung for higher shock resistance silicon balance-spring that aides in accuracy and resistance to magnetic fields. Also if I am not wrong the higher power reserve is achieved due to the use of three barrels and what’s mention worthy is that these have an even torque release that in turns maintains amplitude consistency.
The movement is encased inside a 43mm x 14.25mm satin-brushed steel case that offers a 300m (30 ATM) water-resistance and unidirectional satin-brushed steel rotating bezel with ceramic insert and Liquidmetal® hour-markers.
Highly legible, this dial features bold rectangular hour-markers surrounded by a bit of lume as an internal ring that is further encompassed by a chapter ring punctuated with Arabic numerals marking five-minute intervals. It is this outer chapter ring that evokes the inner rotating ring of the 1970s watch this is inspired by. Further enhancing the legibility are baton-shaped hands coated with Super-LumiNova®.
Completing the look of this 500-piece limited edition new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date is a sandy-coloured sail canvas strap that matches the warm tones of the dial. It has got a utilitarian personality to it, that both complements the dial and also manages to subtly harp at the timepiece’s military history.
On first look the new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date is kind of an oxymoron – it is a dive watch, built to represent a desert. Now one would be forgiven to make fun of it, given diving in sand dunes is probably something humans should not be doing. But on deeper understanding of the watch, one peels away the initial impression and realises that the watch’s story actually makes sense.
We have already touched on this earlier but the watch is kind of a homage to the work of Ernest H. Brooks II, the pioneer of underwater photography and contributor to the Edition Fifty Fathoms project. It is also a homage to his spectacular dive in 1962 inside the Devils Hole at the Death Valley desert in the United States. Devils Hole is also unique in that it is the exclusive home of a seriously endangered species of fish, Cyprinodon diabolis, of which Brooks took the first pictures.
Blancpain’s Bathyscaphe dive watches after that time by the 1970s — albeit momentarily — took the shape of a cushion-shaped case and featured inner rotating rings replacing the conventional outer rotating bezels. The new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date takes inspiration from these watches, but includes the more popular modern day outer unidirectional rotating bezel.
What they do retain though is the inner bezel in spirit, that is the use of the double markers on the dial. Love ‘em or leave them, these double markers have become an intrinsic part of these divers.
These markers are now present on a gradient sandy beige dial that replaces the gradient-coloured grey dial of the 1970s models these are inspired by.
Long story short, yes, the watch’s purpose as a diver is relevant. But not just that, the added complication of the day-date mechanism is welcome too.
Believe it or not, the day-date is not a very common complication amongst luxury Swiss watch brands, and when it does appear on a dial, comes at a premium. The IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Day-Date, the Rolex Day-Date 40 Everose Gold, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Day-Date, and Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix Day-Date Automatic are some of the higher end Day Date watches that come to mind. But none are dive watches. These are also more expensive than this limited edition Blancpain offering, that comes with a price tag of $17’600 AUD, which coincidentally is the same price — only 200 dollars difference — as the new JLC Polaris Mariner Date diver that is sans the added day complication and limited edition bonus.
Just like there is a market gap for a Swiss-made integrated bracelet sports-luxury watch with a day-date complication at the entry level pricing point which Tudor tackled successfully recently, there is plenty of room for a stunning diver’s watch with the aforementioned complication at a higher price point. My favourite aspect about this release is its presence on a dive watch from a haute horlogerie brand.
Blancpain does an excellent job of ruling this space.
In terms of how well this does on the wrist, well, my response is a bit mixed. For all those who have smaller wrists, I am afraid this is a chunky mammoth of a watch with wide lugs and large dimensions. The presence of a rather large crown doesn’t help either. The watch has a stunning wrist presence, but only for those with larger wrists. I don’t know what it would take for Blancpain to incorporate this, but a 41mm version of this would be ideal for most. 38mm is too short, 43mm is too large.
But overall, it’s a handsome watch no doubt, that gets extra credit for being highly legible. The two hour marker rings will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I am sure it’s not a deal breaker. If anything, it’s a conversation starter, where the wearer can explain the relevance of their presence. A nicely decorated movement is always a plus, and the added detail of a red tipped seconds hand that subtly matches the tiny red dots of the minute markers of the outer ring is duly appreciated.
To find out more about the new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date and other Blancpain timepieces, please head to their website here. All images unless otherwise stated are © Blancpain SA. All Rights Reserved.