Hands-On With The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar Watch
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar combines the best of both worlds — the underwater world and the world of complications. The result is an accomplished diver with a calendar that goes into great detail and even keeps an eye on the moon. But does combining the robust, no-nonsense qualities of a tool watch with the refined characteristics of a traditional Haute Horlogerie complication make any sense? Let’s find out in this hands-on with the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar in gold and titanium.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar is what happens when a standard Fifty Fathoms and a Villeret Quantième Complet 6654 “crash” into each other at the Blancpain atelier. We reported about this event a few months ago when Blancpain released the news of the “accident” right here. Now, though, I’ve had a chance to make a very close inspection of what really happened because both the red gold and titanium Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar arrived at Fratello HQ.
Hands-on with the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar
If you’re like me, you can’t help but ask if a complete calendar has any place in a dive watch. To answer that, some historical perspective is important. Answering the question based just on looks isn’t fair to the watch and its creators. I will keep it short and sweet and rush through the centuries. But what you have to know is that Blancpain was founded in 1735 in the Swiss town of Villeret by Jehan-Jacques Blancpain, making the brand one of the oldest names in Haute Horlogerie. Fast-forward to 1961 when, in order to grow, Blancpain merged into the largest Swiss watch group of the time, SSIH — the conglomerate that later became Swatch Group — joining Omega, Tissot, and Lemania. The Quartz Crisis hit the brand hard. In 1983, SSIH sold the brand to Jean-Claude Biver, and in 1992, SSIH bought Blancpain back.
Dive back to 1953
But where does the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar fit in historically, you ask? The first part of the watch’s name trails back to 1953, the year when the Fifty Fathoms was launched. This pioneering dive watch was actually the world’s first modern diving watch. It was made for the French Navy to meet the specific requirements of Captain Robert “Bob” Maloubier. Later, the watch also saw duty with, among others, the Spanish and Israeli militaries. It even went on to become standard equipment for US combat divers and Navy SEALs. Yes, both the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and Rolex Submariner originate from 1953, but only the Fifty Fathoms had a unidirectional bezel and could safely be used by scuba divers.
Design cues from the past
Fifty Fathoms translates to a depth of just over 90 meters, and it is also the 1953 watch’s depth rating. At the time, 50 fathoms was considered to be the maximum depth for a diver diving using compressed oxygen. The use of the name Bathyscaphe started in 2013, referring to the vehicles used for deep-sea exploration. A bathyscaphe is a special kind of submarine with a spherical watertight cabin attached to its underside. The most famous one is the Bathyscaphe Trieste that, back in 1960, descended to the deepest part of the ocean, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench.
The regular Fifty Fathoms with its bezel made from sapphire glass is the evolved model of the original watch from 1953. The Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe, however, is much more of a philosophical (rather than stylistic) homage to the original Fifty Fathoms. The Bathyscaphe is a retro-modern design that takes its cues from the past. And adding a complete calendar is nothing short of long-term retro; it is pure, historical, centuries-old Haute Horlogerie, just like Blancpain.
Is the mix of different traditional elements the reason why the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar makes sense? I think so. Also, it’s because of the workings of a complete calendar. The complete calendar displays the day of the week, the date, the month of the year, and, of course, the time. With a complete calendar, you have to change the date from the 30th to the 1st when the month doesn’t have 31 days. And that comes down to five times a year. Next in line is the annual calendar, with a mechanical system that you only have to touch once a year. And the calendar to rule all calendars is, of course, the perpetual calendar (Quantième Perpétuel) that needs way less manual assistance. The big plus of the complete calendar is that it presents itself in that grandiose QP style without the heavy price tag.
The portal to complications
The complete calendar does look very complicated — and stylishly classical because it often comes with a moonphase indication, one of the most traditional looking features in watchmaking — but it is also surprisingly affordable. Consider the complete calendar watch a portal to high complications. And another plus is the technical fact that a complete calendar is quite a robust mechanism, meaning it can safely be put in a sports watch. And Blancpain has done so since 2018 when it presented the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar in steel with a dark gray dial and black ceramic bezel. But now there are two new versions: one in technical titanium and one in lavish red gold.
Brushed gold and titanium
Both the gold and titanium complete calendar divers measure 43 × 13.3mm. The titanium Blancpain uses is Grade 23 titanium, a purer version of the more common Grade 5 titanium. Grade 23 titanium is mostly used in medical applications, and the material works like a charm for a large wristwatch as well because it’s lightweight. When I say large, I mean large in every way. The lug width, for instance, is a whopping 23mm, but also the presence of the complicated dive watch in its gray attire is grand. The dial speaks of traditional horology, but the unidirectional satin-brushed titanium bezel with ceramic insert and Liquidmetal hour markers tells the story of Captain Maloubier and those that dove after him. The bezel reminds you that the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar is water-resistant to an impressive 300 meters.
How does it wear?
There’s no denying that the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar is a large watch. But it needs to be large in order to present all of its features in a decent way. And it does. The contradiction is part of the attraction. The Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar is an astronomically inspired underwater-adventure watch. You might call it eclectic. The more I wore the titanium version, the more I liked it. It sat well on my wrist, the different shades of gray — I especially liked the classic moonphase in all its silvery glory — played most dynamically with the light, and the red details on the seconds hand and the pointer date hand livened things up functionally. The dial is complete, so to speak, just like the name of the calendar, but not full or cramped. Every indication has plenty of room to shine, making each one perfectly readable.
The pleasures of a pin buckle
Both the gold and the titanium Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar models that I wore come on a sailcloth strap. They are perfect for both the titanium and gold versions based on looks and comfort. The nautical material makes sense thematically, and although you might think the fabric is a bit too sporty or informal, it is not in real life. It feels luxurious. And let’s not forget that society is getting more and more informal as time goes on.
If denim in the boardroom is acceptable, so is a sailcloth strap on a sporty watch with complicated bonus features. Blancpain didn’t fall into the trap of the big, clumsy, and uncomfortable folding clasp that’s often perceived as a luxurious touch. Instead, the brand opted for a gold or titanium pin buckle that makes more sense from a practical and aesthetical viewpoint. The clean look of the nicely detailed pin buckle is another bonus feature.
Complicated with stamina
Speaking of features, the movements inside the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar is the automatic 4Hz in-house caliber 6654.P.4 with 72 hours of power reserve. This is the same 321-part movement that Blancpain uses in the much more traditional Villeret. There are corrector pushers on the side of the case, and there are four central hands, a feature that adds visual proof of traditional expertise.
Final words on and prices of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar in Grade 23 titanium has a price of CHF 14,800 on the sailcloth strap. The brushed red gold version costs CHF 28,000 on the blue sailcloth strap. Yes, these watches have a premium price, but they’re also the result of the very rich history and important achievements made by Blancpain. The basis is one of the original dive watches. On top of that, you get a traditional Blancpain specialty, a complicated calendar movement with a moonphase complication. So no, this watch is not a completely nonsensical creation. It actually makes complete (Blancpain) sense. The mix of styles and themes makes the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar quite the versatile gentleman — a veritable Renaissance man with plenty of fascinating stories to tell.
For more information, visit the official Blancpain website.
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