The past few years have seen the launch and steady expansion of Blancpain’s Bathyscaphe line up. In 2013, we saw the original three-hander, 2014 gave us the Bathyscaphe Chronograph, and then the beautifully blue Bathyscaphe Ocean Commitment Chronograph came in 2015. This year, Blancpain completed the family portrait with the latest iteration of the Bathyscaphe, which quite successfully puts the look and construction of the Ocean Commitment Chronograph into the original three-hand design.
In broad strokes, if you know the standard Bathyscaphe three-hander, you are well on your way to understanding this new version. While the basic form remains thankfully unchanged, this new model is more than just a blue dial and bezel as its 43.6 mm case is made of grey ceramic. This is not the first time that Blancpain has used ceramic for the case of a Bathyscaphe three-hander and, much like the preceding Ocean Commitment Chronograph, this version has a lovely brushed blue dial and ceramic bezel with Liquidmetal hour markers.
Until you have it in your hands, you could be excused for thinking that the case was metal, as it carries the warmth of titanium and a beautifully brushed finish. Upon lifting this diver from the table the ceramic feels solid, smooth like glass, and lighter than you might expect. The official reference is 5000-0240-NAOA (with the nato strap) but I wish they had called it something, anything, aside from just Bathyscaphe. I suppose we’ll all just know it as the blue Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe.
Still 13.8mm thick and water resistant to 300m, the blue dial and bezel make for a considerably different vibe than its siblings, perhaps not quite as austere. Less tactical than the monochromatic alternatives, the blue Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe (aside from its ceramic case and 43.6mm sizing) has the demeanor of a watch designed in the early days of diving. Its crystal-clear legibility and razor-sharp detailing is juxtaposed by the warm and inviting blue tones of the dial and bezel. If the Bathyscaphe is an attempt to carry vintage Blancpain design elements into a modern luxury diver, I think this blue version is the most successful iteration we’ve seen to date.
Visible via a display case back, the blue Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe uses Blancpain’s calibre 1315 – the same movement used by all of the three-hand Bathyscaphes. This 4Hz in-house automatic movement uses three mainspring barrels to offer 120 hours of power reserve for its display of the time and date. Designed to be tool-ready, the 1315 is function over form and has been used in several of Blancpain’s dive watches in the past.
Cost however, there is a lot to love about this new limited-edition entry into the Fifty Fathoms lineup — that is likely why the watch is enjoying dive watch lover “sleeper hit” standing post-Baselworld. Largely released without significant fanfare, element of this Blancpain In House Movement Tribute to Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec see’s appeal are its conservative dimensions and faithful adherence to the design codes of the first Mil-Spec. But a key dimension of its appeal is probably Blancpain’s addition of a important quality of the first: a functioning replica of this “watertightness” moisture index at 6:00. Back in the morning “when sex was safe and diving was dangerous,” dip watches were not the rugged, dependable tools we’re knowledgeable about today. Though predominant to a diver’s safety, the oldest examples were still prone to damage by shock, plagued by poor visibility in low light, and constructed with cases ill-equipped to take care of great sea depths. Unsatisfied with issued watches that could not (quite literally) perform under pressure, French combat swimmer corps commanders Captain Robert Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud sought out the grandfather of the Fifty Fathoms, Jean-Jacques Fiechter, who had been already hard at work on a layout that could tackle these very symptoms.But the watch that became standard-issue into the UDT teams commanded by Maloubier and Riffaud wasn’t Fiechter’s original Fifty Fathoms layout, but one which contained an added safeguard: a quirky watertightness indicator that would alarm the wearer if their view was compromised. Now, it is worth noting that such an index is a little bit like a smoke detector — it only points out the obvious, and does little to prevent the fire. But back in 1957 when the design was initiated and shortly adopted on all dive watches issued to combat swimmers, a diver just needed to know if his view could be trusted or not.
I remember loving the original crop of Bathyscaphes back in 2013, and this blue model is an even stronger fit for my tastes while also being an incredibly unrealistic request of my wallet. The ceramic case ensures top billing in the three-hand Bathyscaphe pecking order, and indeed the blue Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe claims a tidy $12,800 USD, mounted to either the pictured high-quality blue NATO or Blancpain’s frankly excellent sail canvas two-piece strap. Following the example set by the Ocean Commitment Chronograph, the blue Bathyscaphe offers a similar appeal in a more simplified layout that is certainly eye-catching and should look even better underwater. If you happen to take one diving, I’d love to see the photos. blancpain.com