Blancpain finally released a Fifty Fathoms Automatique in a smaller 42.3mm size for its regular collection. There’s one in rose gold, but we especially thought the titanium version was interesting. Most of all, that’s because it’s the perfect candidate to compete against the Rolex Yacht-Master 42, which since last year, has also been available in titanium. Both watches have a 42mm titanium case, feature bold numerals on their bezel inserts, and are made by some of the most legendary brands in the industry. But apart from those similarities, there are also more than enough differences that Thomas and Daan will make sure to point out in today’s installment of Fratello’s Sunday Morning Showdown.

The chaos of Watches and Wonders 2024 is just around the corner. But just before we deliver you the latest news about all those upcoming releases, it’s time to relax and watch a good fistfight. Grab yourself a nice cup of coffee and a croissant. Sit back, relax, and make sure you get ready to vote.

Your Rolex AD 2024 Rolex price increases Daytona

Last week, on Sunday Morning Showdown…

But first, we’ll take a look at what happened during last week’s confrontation. In it, another Rolex watch — the current Daytona ref. 126500LN — took on the challenge against the Zenith Chronomaster Sport Titanium. For some, the Chronomaster’s 4:30 date window messes up the dial. Others get frustrated by the Daytona’s sub-dials that don’t align with the central pinion. However, in general, people were quite friendly in the comments about both these watches. In the end, though, I guess it was the Daytona’s legendary celebrity status that made it take the win with 58% of the votes. Let’s see how Rolex does in this week’s face-off against Blancpain.

Daan: Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatique in titanium

Like many of the commenters on Lex’s introduction article, I’m also very glad Blancpain finally launched a 42mm version of its Fifty Fathoms. All right, it still doesn’t come in stainless steel, but I think this titanium version makes a lot of sense. I used to own the current 38mm Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe. It was a very nice-looking watch, but it was also a little too petite for a diver. I could’ve opted for the 43mm version of that same watch, but that felt way too big and heavy for my 17cm wrist.

Now comes the new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatique in a 42.3mm titanium case. I haven’t seen or tried the watch in person yet. Still, something tells me that this size and weight just might work perfectly on my average-sized wrist. I own the Arctic Ocean version of the Blancpain × Swatch Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms. That’s the same size, and it’s probably even a bit lighter than the titanium Automatique. It’s on the large side for me, especially because of the two-layer NATO strap, which makes the official 14.3mm thickness even thicker. Actually, though, I think this bulkier fit perfectly suits a classic dive watch like the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms.

More daring

What I also really appreciate about the Blancpain is how it’s a little different from the original Fifty Fathoms from the ’50s. The hints to the original are certainly still there. Therefore, it’s still very recognizable as a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. But nothing is the same as in the original. It takes courage to steer away from the first successful design and come up with something new. I applaud the designers at Blancpain for doing so in the case of the Fifty Fathoms. They truly brought it up to the modern standards.

I know Rolex is often celebrated for how it can improve its watches and their designs with only the slightest changes. That’s why the brand’s watches are so very recognizable. But on the other hand, it’s also a little boring, don’t you think? The Yacht-Master has now existed since 1992. However, right from the get-go, its design has always been heavily influenced by the Submariner. This titanium Yacht-Master brings it even closer to that initial inspiration. I mean, sure, it looks great. But wouldn’t it be nice to finally see a Rolex that’s significantly different than its vintage counterparts?

Beautifully finished

Another asset I’d like to bring to the fore here is the Blancpain’s 1315 automatic movement. It comes with a very impressive power reserve of 120 hours. The Rolex’s 70-hour power reserve for the automatic 3235 movement isn’t bad either. However, having five days of power reserve is very comfortable. That increased power reserve isn’t the main benefit, though. I’d say the modest but beautiful finishing on the Blancpain caliber is.

This was something I also thoroughly enjoyed on my Bathyscaphe. The polished bevels on the bridges and the NAC-coated 18K rose gold rotor are a joy to look at through the sapphire window on the back. Again, I’m sure the Yacht-Master’s movement does just fine as well, but at this price point, I think it’s nice to have something to look at when you turn the watch over. What do you think, Thomas?

Thomas: Rolex Yacht-Master 42 Titanium

Thank you, Daan! This is an interesting matchup, even if it is a diver versus a yachting watch. Both are luxury titanium watches built for aquatic use. There are very few use cases for which either will come up lacking, even if the Rolex has a third of the depth rating of the Fifty Fathoms Automatique.

The great divider between these two is design. Daan, you describe the Blancpain as more daring. Now, I would agree…if Blancpain had made it better than the original. Unfortunately, I feel the updates have left the Fifty Fathoms Automatique suffering from a bit of an identity crisis. Is it a hardcore tool? Is it a Haute Horlogerie creation? The Fifty Fathoms was born as a serious diver, but the Biver era turned Blancpain into high horology. And today? Well, it isn’t quite clear, is it?

The new Fifty Fathoms Automatique looks a bit messy, for lack of a subtler way to put it. Modern case, classical handset, so many fonts, a dull titanium exterior paired with a sunburst dial… Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I feel I am looking at the ingredients of three watches, rolled into one. I honestly want Blancpain to win, and I want to love every new version of the Fifty Fathoms. Unfortunately, I just don’t. This watch could have been a titanium version of the Act 3 (above, right); just imagine that!

Rolex Yacht-Master 42

The Yacht-Master does what the Fifty Fathoms Automatique doesn’t

The Rolex Yacht-Master 42 Titanium, on the other hand, is a feast of design clarity. Granted, you might wonder why it wasn’t the Submariner to get the titanium treatment, but Rolex never releases the watch you expect, right? Aesthetically, the titanium YM is close to perfection.

Yes, the completely blacked-out ceramic bezel insert features very bold numerals. But they are balanced by the maxi indices on the dial. The monochromatic look, paired with matte surfaces with only a handful of glossy details, is fantastic. It is supremely legible and appears to follow from function.

Crucially for this matchup, the Rolex is cohesive. What do I mean by that? Well, imagine you were handed a box of random watch parts and tasked to pick out parts that belong together. I feel it is extremely likely that you would easily pick out all the parts of the YM Titanium 42. In this sense, the Yacht-Master does what the Fifty Fathoms Automatique doesn’t. Oh, and compared to the Blancpain, you get to hold onto almost €7,000 if you find one at retail. In other words, you can buy a Yacht-Master Titanium 42 and a mint vintage Datejust for less than the Blancpain. I know what I’d pick!

Rolex Yacht-Master 42 RLX Titanium

Cast your vote!

There you have it — two titanium sports watches for those who want to enjoy their aquatic leisure time in pure luxury. Which, in your view, pulls it off best? Cast your vote, and share your motivations in the comments section below.

Rolex Yacht-Master 42 Titanium vs. Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatique