Blancpain’s famous Fifty Fathoms dive watch surfaced in 1953 and became the benchmark for many modern dive watches. After being reinforced with magnetic shielding, the robust diver was adopted by French Navy combat swimmers. The 1956 Bathyscaphe, named after the submarine that fathomed the Marina Trench, was a smaller-sized dive watch with calendar indications designed to be worn inside submarines rather than on the wrist of combat divers. With its compact dimensions and practical date window, the Bathyscaphe became a more civilian-oriented watch and got its first complication in 2014 with a flyback chronograph. The latest Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronographs are presented in red gold with a blue dial and an attractive monochromatic version in a grade 23 titanium case with an anthracite dial.
The Bathyscaphe, a sub-family of the Fifty Fathoms with smaller dimensions, was presented to the public in 1956 as a dive watch that could be worn as a daily beater. Resuscitated in 2013, the Bathyscaphe appeared with straightforward time-and-date functions and adopted complications, including an Annual Calendar, a Complete Calendar, and a sophisticated flyback chronograph movement in 2014. Even with a flyback chronograph on board, the Bathyscaphe retains its mission as a utilitarian dive watch and provides a beefy 300m water resistance along with a high-frequency chronograph movement (F385) capable of measuring 1/10th of a second.
Having appeared with black, grey, blue and green dials, the Bathyscaphe follows the path taken by the recently released versions of the Complete Calendar in red gold and grade 23 titanium, which in turn adopted the design tweaks applied to its core time-and-date Bathyscaphe 43mm edition released last year in a rare alloy known as titanium 23.
The new variants of the Flyback Chronograph share the same case and movement specifications as former editions, meaning a 43mm diameter and 14.90mm height, 300m water resistance and Blancpain’s high-frequency chronograph calibre F385.
The novelty here is the introduction of a grade 23 titanium case. Also known as grade 5 ELI (extra-low interstitials), it is the purest type of titanium available, and its lower oxygen content improves its resistance to breakage and corrosion. As Brice points out in his article, grade 23 titanium is darker and somewhat duller and cannot be polished like standard titanium. As you can see, the case is brushed throughout, underscoring the instrumental nature of the watch. Combined with the oversized screw-down crown and piston-style pushers, the grey monochromatic version plays the tool watch aesthetic to perfection.
Another design tweak regards the finishing of the bezel. It is still made of ceramic and still uses Liquidmetal on the 60-minute scale, but it is circular brushed to match the case and, again, highlights the tool nature of this dive watch. In contrast, the more luxurious 18k red gold version sports a glossy blue ceramic inlay in its bezel with a Ceragold scale. However, the case is also brushed for a sporty matte effect.
Anthracite or Blue
Both the anthracite and blue dials are decorated with a sunburst pattern and feature slightly recessed chronograph counters at 9 and 3 o’clock with snailed interiors. The applied plots, wedge-shaped hour markers, and the chunky rectangular hour and minute hands are treated with Super-LumiNova along with the circular tip of the small seconds hand. As always, the date window is squeezed in at 4:30, and the tip of the central chronograph hand is red.
Strap and Bracelet Options
The grade 23 titanium model offers the most versatility when it comes to strap and bracelet options. There are three choices: a brushed 3-link grade 23 titanium bracelet with a triple-folding clasp, a grey NATO strap, and a grey canvas sail strap, both with a pin buckle. The red gold model is currently available with a navy blue canvas sail or NATO strap with a pin buckle since a solid red gold bracelet would make the watch exceedingly heavy.
Blancpain’s calibre F385 is a high-frequency automatic chronograph movement. Like the Zenith El Primero, the advantage of a 5Hz movement (36,000vph) is that it can measure elapsed times of up to 1/10th of a second and maintain optimal chronometric precision. As a flyback, the chronograph hands can be stopped, reset and started with just one press of the pusher at 4 o’clock. Calibre F385 is an integrated movement fitted with a column wheel, vertical clutch, and an anti-magnetic silicon balance spring. It can store up to 50 hours of power reserve and is visible through the sapphire crystal caseback. The finishings are contemporary and in line with the watch’s more instrumental nature with a sandblasted 18k white or red gold rotor, polished bevels and soleillage on the bridges.
Availability & Price
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph is a permanent member of the collection. The titanium model with a matching titanium bracelet retails for EUR 19,060; the titanium models on canvas sail or a NATO strap retail for EUR 16,400. The red gold model, with either a NATO or canvas sail strap, retails for EUR 31,030.
For more information, please visit Blancpain.com.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.