If there was one refrain echoed around Baselworld 2018, it was that far too many brands were playing it safe, hedging bets on the vintage re-issue trend with forgotten, back catalog editions. Blancpain sort of did this last year with the Milspec, but that watch was tied to a very specific vintage Fifty Fathoms model, and didn’t feel like too much of a departure from the modern Fifty Fathoms collection, which has consistently maintained strong ties with its source material over the years. This year, Blancpain is again reaching into its back catalog with the new limited edition Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date 70s, but this watch is more “inspired by” vintage editions, than a direct re-issue of one. Is that a good thing? Well, it’s certainly not a bad thing – here’s why.
All images by Ariel Adams
The Bathyscaphe was introduced to the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms diver line back in 2013, where it brought a healthy dose of vintage-inspired, but tech-savvy modernity to the collection. Soon to be available in titanium and ceramic along with the inaugural stainless steel, its 43mm case carried clean lines, interesting bevels, and muted finishes. It was finished with the Swatch Group’s signature technologies, like finely machine-finished movements, a Liquid Metal bezel, and later, colored ceramic cases, yielding a stealthy, albeit truly luxury product that quickly earned plenty of fans at aBlogtoWatch.
Image: Courtesy of Watchonista
If the Bathyscaphe had any detractors, they were generally of the mind that the expansive dial was perhaps too open – no thanks in part to the small, conical hourly indices, which don’t seem to match the proportions of the wider paddle-shaped hands. Those shortcomings have all but been rectified with the new Seventies Day Date, which borrows the exact dial layout from a vintage tonneau-shaped Fifty Fathoms from the early 1970s, and neatly drops it into the Bathyscaphe case. The end result is a more proportionately filled-in dial, whose applied rectangular indices are a better match to the handset. Even still, I can’t help but feeling like the whimsical minute track running the outer ring of the dial is a slight mismatch against the striking modern angles of the case and bezel.
Additionally, the 913 includes a glucydur equilibrium wheel with golden micrometric regulating screws, making it flexible and also more shock-resistant compared to its predecessor. There’s also a better winding system that employs a ball-bearing mounted rotor. The sapphire case back reveals the rotor, which can be reddish gold using a snailed bevel, polished chamfers and straight and round C?tes de Genève patterns. The Caliber 913QL is fitted with a moon stage module, a wheel using 59 cogs covering two complete 29.5-day lunar cycles. It’s a 40-hour power reserve.At 29.2mm, the Blancpain watch value Replica Villeret Date Moonphase is a very small watch considering there’s a moon phase plus a date and a seconds hand, a rare edge in a little ladies’ automatic. It’s evidence of Blancpain’s devotion to creating size-appropriate high-grade calibers devoted to ladies’ watches in its own elite groups. The date is elegantly spaced out only in the hour trail, indicated by a red-tipped pointer. The bezel is set with 48 diamonds and you will find eight diamond indexes in addition to four applied Roman numerals from the signature Villeret font. There are two references, one in 18k gold, priced at $19,900, and in steel at $16,600. Even as purveyors of arguably one of the world’s first genuinely purpose-built dip sequences, there’s no denying it has been a long time since Blancpain has even been remotely close to the tool watch realm it once initiated. That said it’s still neat to see the brand revisit those days using a marked degree of panache from the newly announced Tribute to Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec — a watch that may cost $14,000, but it is still every bit the capable tool once relied upon by battle divers from the late fifties.
Visible through the sapphire caseback, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date 70s is powered by Blancpain’s automatic 1315 “DD” Calibre, a 4Hz (28,800vph) movement with a generous 120-hour power reserve and a day and date window at 3:00. The aperture for the date extends to the very outermost edge of the dial, placing it directly in-line with the silver chapter ring, which is a nice detail. It’s worth noting that this is the first time Blancpain has introduced any sort of complication to the 3-hand Bathyscaphe (outside of the Flyback Chronograph), but it’s not alone. Blancpain also debuted a trio of complicated Bathyscaphes, including an Annual Calendar and Calendar Moonphase – any of which should satiate anyone who thought the original 3-hand Bathy was too ‘sterile.’
The dial itself is now a graduated grey, which darkens towards the outer ring of the dial, rendering itself as a warm beige under direct light, not unlike what you’d see on a vintage watch with a faded ‘tropical’ dial. It’s definitely a neat effect, and one that starkly contrasts the clean, “Meteor Grey” sunburst dials found on the standard Bathyscaphes. Those warm tones are complemented by the ‘antique’ chocolate leather strap which also comes standard on this edition. On the wrist, the 43mm x 13mm case wears physically identically to the standard 3-handed Bathyscaphes (and by extension, identical to the new complicated models as well). But the warm, retro tones couldn’t yield a more different presence than the starkly modern, minimalist look and appeal of the standard version.
It’s odd that the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date 70s (ref. 5052-1110-63A) is limited to only 500 pieces, as it would make for an excellent in-line companion to the standard Bathyscaphe for those looking for something a little more classically vintage-inspired. Intent notwithstanding, that limited nature also lends it a higher starting price of €12,000 on either sailcloth, NATO, or the distressed leather strap. That price jumps to €14,500 if you’d rather have it on the excellent bracelet. blancpain.com