Diving watches nowadays comply with a set of standards that seem to have become universal and permanent: 300 meters water resistance, graduated unidirectional bezel, increased readability and large crowns. According to watch aficionados, Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms was undeniably the first watch to feature all these characteristics.
An outstanding and trailblazing diver
The first Fifty Fathoms, a functional dive watch intended for professional use, was released by Blancpain in 1953. Scuba-diving was far from being an accessible and democratized sport at the time. It was exclusive to naval commandos, deep-sea explorers and also companies who specialized in underwater drilling and construction sites.
To suit the needs of these professionals, the brand’s CEO at the time, Jean-Jacques Fiechter, decided to create a visionary watch. This led to the birth of the Fifty Fathoms, originally designed as a tool and not available on the retail market. It was delivered to specialized diving equipment suppliers only.
With its 40-41mm-diameter, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms was huge in comparison with other standard watches of the time. The idea was to enhance readability to meet the requirements of professionals. But its dimensions had little to do with what the regular public expected of a watch. Jean-Jacques Fichter then introduced the Bathyscaphe – a more accessible watch than the Fifty Fathoms – as a tribute to the submersible designed by Auguste Piccard. The Bathyscaphe models were smaller in size and had large, luminescent hands and baton indexes, which allowed more space on the dial for the luminescent coating.
Blancpain Bathyscaphe 2013: heritage and innovation
Blancpain’s commemoration of 6 decades of its iconic timepiece was awaited with bated breath at the opening of Baselworld 2013. Some ventured that it would be a neo-vintage model inspired by the 1953 original. It turned out to be quite the opposite. Blancpain had decided to reinterpret the Bathyscaphe with a modern touch.
This was definitely an unsettling move. Rather than produce a limited series commemoration watch, Blancpain reintroduced one of their Bathyscaphe model series inspired by the aesthetic codes of the original model from the 1950s. This proved to be the most coherent approach as it allowed the brand to remain within its own historical continuity while at the same time paying tribute to its legendary diving watch.
In fact, the 2013 Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe goes beyond the functional codes of the professional diving watch introduced in 1953. It offers maximum readability, a unidirectional, graduated bezel plus it features an oversized crown. Thus, this new timepiece not only pays tribute to past innovations, but also introduces a number of technological developments.
The in-house Caliber 1315 is equipped with a silicon balance-spring, which guarantees more accuracy and constancy while the energy stored in the three barrels is gradually released. It's a material that requires great precision to process, and it has the additional advantage of being anti-magnetic.
The insert is made of ceramic, which gives it a very contemporary touch, and the bezel features the famous luminous index at 12 o’clock.
Another major innovation is that the indexes were made using Liquid Metal®, a patented alloy enabling perfect cohesion between the material and the ceramic insert. As was the case at the time of the release of the Bathyscaphe in the 1950s, a smaller version of the watch was produced for women. Though the dimensions may be better suited for the female wrist, the timepiece still boasts the same professional touch as the men’s version.