Thursday, October 22

Hands-on review: Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe ’70s Day Date with desert sand coloured dial

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Recently, Blancpain introduced extensions to their Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe collection with two remarkable watches – the Chronographe and the Day Date 70s. In this review, we take a detailed review of the 70s Day Date, also known as the Bathyscaphe Jour Date 70s with the desert sand coloured dial. 

We covered the introduction release details in this article linked below, published when the embargo for the information lifted.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe

Retail price for the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscphe Day Date (Reference: 5052 1146 E52A) is a limited edition of 500 pieces and priced at S$17,600 inclusive of GST.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe ’70s Day Date – dessert sand coloured dial

The Fifty Fathoms by Blancpain is a superb line of dive watches, with a historical connection way back to the early origins of professional diving watches in 1953. We have reviewed the earlier Bathyscaphe versions,

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe

Paul Newman’s Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar

Left is the Bathyscape Day Date Dessert Sand Edition and on the right is the regular Bathyscape Day Date.

The latest in the line is an extension to the collection.

The case, dial and hands

The case is in stainless steel, and measures 42mm in diameter. The design proportions are such that visually to the naked eye without the aid of comparison scale, it looks much smaller. On the wrist, it wears smaller as well, and wraps around the wrist quite comfortably. The Bathyscaphe Day Date is delivered with a canvas strap . The canvas strap looks like it is made from a very tough khaki fabric.

The case is a tonneau shape with very graceful lines crafted in stainless steel and finished in a satin brush which makes it look matte, with no shiny portions. A unidirectional satin-brushed steel bezel with ceramic insert and Liquidmetal® hour-markers is also fitted.

As the watch is created as a tribute to a 1962 dive in Death Valley’s Devils Hole and a 1970s Blancpain dive watch with a gradient-coloured sandy beige dial featuring a sunburst pattern, it derives its visual cues from both. The 1962 dive is by the underwater photographer Ernest H. Brooks II. In diving the remote, geothermal, water-filled cavern, which stretches down more than 120 meters. It was there that Brooks photographed the seriously endangered species of fish, Cyprinodon diabolis. This combined inspiration gave rise to the dessert sand colour that the latest Bathyscaphe watch adorns, and answers the question why the dive watch of the 70s watch had the colour which is reminiscent of the dessert. And by extension, the dessert sand hues of this watch.

The dial is quite beautiful. Not only is the dessert sand colour very attractive, but it is features a sun brushed finish with the tones going from light in the middle to darker at the sides in a dégradé style finish. This gives the dial character, which is lacking from the darker hue and duller appearance of the dial on the Bathyscaphe Day Date released in 2018.

The hands are large, syringe shaped with a pointer tip, and infilled with Superluminova for good lume. The markers are double bar appliqués with polished facets. A 5 minute chapter ring labelled with arabic numerals is also applied to the outer perimeter of the dial, and is punctuated to show the minute markers in between each 5 minute interval. This 5 minute Arabic markers are repeated on the bezel when it is set to zero position and a throwback to the inner bezel which appears in the Fifty Fathoms of the 1970s.

 

At 3 o’clock, two apertures are open to show the date and day of week. Purists may argue that these are superfluous displays in a diver watch, especially one which is not rated for saturated diving. Saturated diving often involves staying in underwater conditions for extended periods of time, and the day and date display becomes an essential tool to keep track of time. But in a non saturation rated watch, the diver typically surfaces after each dive, and will not require to keep track of the days. However, the excuse for this current edition is that it is faithful to the 1970s watch which had a day and date.

As a result, legibility is excellent, even in the dark, as all the critical elements are clearly marked with a lume of good intensity.

Overall, the case, dial and hands are very coherent in the design. And make a beautiful looking watch. The case is not very thick at 14.25mm keeping in mind that it has a diameter of 43mm, and looks very proportional, and if stretched, one can even call it sleek.

The movement – Blancpain caliber 1315DD

The movement is the Blancpain manufacture caliber 1315DD which is visible from the open case back. The movement is remarkable in that it has a 120 hour (5 day) power reserve, and features advanced specifications like the glucydur free sprung balance with gold regulation screws. The movement is labelled by Blancpain to be “antimagnetic”, but the documentation does not state the level of which this is tested to. We understand that the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscape Day Date is the only watch utilizing this movement.

From the sapphire glass display back, the movement looks to be very nicely finished, scoring in the beautiful anglage and polished wells that the jewels sit in. The bridges have a few outward points which is nice and sharp, but generally is composed of pleasing curves throughout. The rotor is a full sized rotor, with a brushed outer perimeter over a rough textured interior surface which is embossed with the Blancpain logo.

Competitive Landscape

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe occupies a rather interesting perch on the competitive landscape. It has one foot firmly in the robust, tool purposed, dive watch peak, and the other in the haute horlogerie summit. Very few watches stride both these apexes. Other than the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver, we cannot think of another which compares directly. Rather, we have the likes of the Rolex Submariner and the Omega Seamaster which belong to the tool watch category to contend with. At S$17,400, it is perhaps more expensive than the average tool dive watch, but much less expensive than the high priced and high prized divers.

The recently updated Rolex Submariner Date (S$10,800), as the reigning king of the dive watch, is possibly the watch the Bathyscaphe is most likely to be compared to. It is a dive specific watch capable of 30ATM of water resistance, it features a date, but lacks a day of the week display. The Submariner has a power reserve of 70 hours, and is perhaps more conventional looking and classical in appearance, with options for dial and bezel colours in addition to the metal choices. The Rolex is not a limited edition, but market demands are so extreme, that long waiting lists exist, and the Submariner is likely to be highly unattainable to the average collector.

Another consideration might be sister company Omega who makes many amazing dive watches. Our pick would be the Planet Ocean Seamaster (S$ 7,150 in a rubber strap) is also rated to a water depth of 300m but the Seamaster is capable of use in saturation diving as it includes a manual helium escape valve. The watch also features a ceramic dial with a ceramic bezel in a stainless steel case. The movement is the advanced Master Chronometer Calibre 8800. The Planet Ocean Seamaster is also equipped with a date but not a day of week display, and the power reserve is only 55 hours.

However both Rolex and Omega are more tool like in their approach to the dive watch genre than Blancpain. If we draw from a more comparable landscape, we might consider the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver. At this level of haute horlogerie, the AP has an asking price of S$ 29,500. It is also rated to 300m, and is built on a steel case with rubber straps. The movement has a 60 hour power reserve, just half of the 5 days on the Blancpain.

The Glashütte Original Sea-Q (S$ 13.500), also from a sister Swatch Group company might also be another consideration. However, it is rated to a lower depth rating of only 200m, and shows only the date with no day of week indication on the dial. The bezel is also in ceramic inlay, and the movement is a rather nice GO Kal. 39-11. The GO movement is rather more haute horogerie in its design intentions and finishing than either Rolex or Omega and more in line with that offered by the Blancpain.

Another to consider might be one of the various Panerais. Our pick would be the Panerai Luminor Submersible PAM00959 (S$ 14,000). It is also rated to 300m, and is fitted with a ceramic bezel, a date display (but no day of week), and an automatic movement which is manufactured inhouse – the Caliber OP XXXIV with 72 hours of power reserve.

Concluding thoughts

During our hands on session with the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscape, we had both the Day-Date as well as the new Chronographe side by side. And even though we are usually more enamoured with chronographs, being fascinated with the marvelous mechanism, it was the Dessert Sand coloured Day-Date that stole the show. The watch has such a beautiful hue, and so magnificently matched dial with the dégradé brown/beige sand tones.

The Fifty Fathoms certainly has a place in diving watch history, and perhaps have more claim to it than even Rolex, Omega or Doxa. And the coupling of a fine manufacture movement, handsome good looks with robust construction makes the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe a real winner in our books, its more ambitious pricing notwithstanding.

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