If dive watches had a uniform, it would be a stainless steel case paired with a blue dial. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but Blancpain has seen fit to shake up the genre’s aesthetic status quo with its two newest Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe models, the Day Date ’70s “Desert” and the Flyback Chronograph “Green.”
At first glance, the desert-themed model, which has a sandy beige-colored dial and comes on a sand-colored sail canvas strap, seems at odds with the very notion of diving. How do you dive in a desert?
Blancpain has a fascinating answer: The model is inspired by underwater photography pioneer Ernest H. Brooks II’s 1962 dive at Devils Hole, a chasm in Death Valley National Park that leads to an underwater aquifer home to the only naturally occurring population of the endangered Devils Hole Pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis).
The watchmaker looked to a 1970s dive watch from its archives for design inspiration, including a gradient-colored dial and date and day-of-the-week windows at 3 o’clock. For the mechanism, however, Blancpain relies on an ultra-modern in-house 1315DD movement with a five-day power reserve and a silicon balance spring, which lends the timepiece greater accuracy and resistance to magnetic fields.
The day-date model is housed in a 43 mm satin-brushed steel case and is available in a limited edition of 500 pieces, each priced at $12,700.
The flyback chronograph, meanwhile, is bathed in a singular shade of green that looks metallic from certain angles. The dial requires two stages of polishing: first, to remove any scratches and, second, to ensure it has a smooth appearance. Next, Blancpain’s dial specialists focus their efforts on creating the texture visible on the finished product, including the distinctive sunray effect. The final coloring process involves several coatings of material, all designed to produce a shimmery green dial that can change hue based on the angle of illumination.
Equipped with the in-house F385 caliber, visible through a sapphire crystal caseback, the model’s self-winding high-frequency chronograph movement features a vertical clutch and column wheel. Its flyback function enables the wearer to reset the watch to zero and restart it instantaneously by pressing the pusher at 4 o’clock.
The model, which comes in a 43.6 mm satin-brushed black ceramic case complemented by a rotating bezel with a green ceramic insert, retails for $17,200.
Both models are the product of Blancpain’s nearly seven decade-long connection to diving. With the 1953 Fifty Fathoms, the watchmaker introduced what’s often described as the first modern dive watch—a timepiece originally developed for an elite squad of underwater commandoes. In the years since then, the brand has played a key role in making the dive watch into a pillar of the sport watch category.
“When you see the rotating bezel, readability at night, you immediately say, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a dive watch,’” says Blancpain CEO Marc Hayek. “But you didn’t see that before. That’s what made the Fifty Fathoms so special. It was created out of necessity; purely to keep time underwater. It didn’t start as a watch but as a pure diving instrument.”