Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Gray Plasma
The other Fifty Fathoms (updated)
The origins of diving
It took me a while to understand the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe, both the timepiece itself and Blancpain’s choice to insert the modern re-edition of this watch in their Fifty Fathoms collection. The classic Blancpain Fifty Fathoms with its sapphire-made bezel was originally crafted as a professional diver’s watch in the 50s when exploring the depth of oceans and seas had reached its peak of interest. The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe, on the other hand, was the bourgeois commercial alternative to a real professional tool that was conceived for a military use too (Jean-Jacques Fiecther, the CEO of Blancpain, was a professional diver back in those days). We are in an era before the first Sea-Dweller was officially launched (1967).
The first Bathyscaphe used a Perlon strap
The original Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe used a strap made of woven fabric that was very similar to what we call today an aftermarket “Perlon strap” and it sported an oversize buckle while the first Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe that was released in 2013 featured a NATO strap that reminded us of the original one. The 2013 Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe made it to the Blancpain catalogue on a different pace than its original counterpart because today, the brand would need to add in my opinion something to what is probably the most classic and authentic diver’s watch ever crafted in history, something that could attract the interest of a different Fifty Fathmos’s fan, who is currently looking for a modern take of the diver's watch, equipped for example with a ceramic bezel. The style of a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe is, without a doubt, the most linear, no-frills and most simple style that a premium diver's watch has to offer, it is the quintessence of simplicity.
Blancpain have also simplified the original timepiece by faithfully copying the shape of the case and of the bezel and by replacing the baton-like indexes with round indexes on the dial. The date has been moved to 4 o’clock, a visual choice that enhances even further the perception of lightness and order if compared to the date’s original location at 3 o’clock.
What could not be achieved through style, was nevertheless achieved through the use of colour. In conjunction with the Ocean Commitment project, Blancpain have launched, last year, a limited-edition Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Chrono (you can discover the standard version by taking a look at the photos we took during the Lamborghini Super Trofeo) that has caught everybody by surprise for its beautiful blue dial and a Liquidmetal-made bezel that are coupled with the gray colour of plasma-treated ceramic. Two years ago, the very same features have been applied to the three-hands Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Gray Plasma also.
About Plasma Ceramic
The plasma ceramic of the case (the brand has perhaps drawn technical inspiration by their sister company Rado) of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Gray Plasma features a brushed gray colour (the brushing treatment involves the use of a diamond tool) that makes this material resemble a titanium alloy and gives it a surface hardness of 1,800 Vickers. Coupling this case with a blue dial and Liquidmetal bezel is the cherry on the cake.
The Liquidmetal technology applied to watch-making (it debuted on the Omega Planet Ocean) features a characteristic that makes it different to all the other technologies used to craft ceramic-made bezels for diver’s watches and I am always eager to remind my reader what this is all about; the scale and the numbers are not engraved within the ceramic material but it looks as if they were actually floating inside the bezel. Besides, if the light hits the dial from different angles, the blue colour of the bezel emanates different hues ranging from a blurred blue to a bright one. Apart from the scratch resistance and durability, two characteristics that you learn to appreciate with the passing of time, this is actually the feature that makes this timepiece quite unique and cool.
When the timepiece is hit by a feeble ray of light, you can’t almost distinguish between the bezel and the dial, but when you look at this watch under direct light, the bezel’s colour is suddently transformed into a bright blue hue that completely clashes with the almost blurred deep blue colour of the dial and viceversa. In the second case scenario, you could spot three different hues, ranging from the gray colour of the case to the blue colour of the dial, an extraordinary sensation that I first experienced a few years ago when I first saw a Planet Ocean Chrono made of titanium.
The caliber of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Gray Plasma is the 1315 caliber whose balance-spring was later updated with a silicon-made balance spring that debuted first on the professional diver’s X-Fathoms. This is an extremely refined movement that perfectly shows Blancpain’s ability to minimize the size of components and complications and integrate them at the same time by providing their timepieces with out of the ordinary performances like the 5-day-power reserve obtained through the use of three barrels in series. The retail price of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Gray Plasma falls slightly below the 13,000 US dollars threshold.
It is quite an important retail price for a three-hands Bathyscaphe, a type of watch whose technical features, style and colour I have never had any doubt about but that I couldn’t quite grasp from a quality point of view. As I wrote to one of my readers a few days ago in reply to a comment, the retail price of a timepiece is linked to its exclusivity and when you buy a Blancpain, be sure you are purchasing a very exclusive timepiece. It is an extremely rewarding sporty watch with no “ifs” or “buts” and I am sure that it will maintain this look for quite a long time. This is definitely not a secondary aspect and only a selected bunch of people will decide to opt for this timepiece. The only flaw is that that retail price overlaps a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Chrono and this consideration, together with the fact that two of the technologies used by this timepiece have been borrowed, I guess, from other brands belonging to the same group, I would have personally kept the retail price under the psychological 10,000-US-dollar-threshold.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®