Swatch is back at it again, with another one of the high-end watch brands from the stable of its parent company, the Swatch Group. Following the major success of its collaborative MoonSwatch watches based on the Omega Speedmaster, Swatch returns with a five-piece collection created with Blancpain: The Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms celebrates the 70th anniversary of Blancpain’s signature dive watch, the Fifty Fathoms.
While not as broadly known as the Omega Speedmaster, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is an icon in the horology community. Launched in 1953, when the concept of a dive watch did not quite exist, the Fifth Fathoms was conceived by Jean-Jacques Fiechter, a passionate scuba diver and then Blancpain CEO. That early dive timepiece was used by French elite combat divers, among other naval forces, as well as diving pioneers, most famously Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
Housed in 42.3mm-wide and 14.4mm-thick cases made of Swatch’s Bioceramic (two-thirds ceramic and one-third bio-sourced plastic), the Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms watches keep in line with Swatch’s Scuba dive-watch range, while reproducing Fifty Fathoms signatures. Think high legibility, rotating bezels and anti-magnetism. Each watch is named after one of the world’s oceans: Arctic Ocean (beige and orange), Pacific Ocean (yellow-orange and black), Atlantic Ocean (blue and black), Indian Ocean (green and black) and Antarctic Ocean (white and grey).
While their water resistance of 91m is hardly anything to shout about at a time when some brands are pushing out commercial dive watches with a water resistance of up to 6,000m, this depth rating is actually a nod to the heritage of the Fifty Fathoms. A fathom is a British unit of measurement, and 50 fathoms is about 91m. This was the depth rating of the original 1953 Fifty Fathoms. (Today’s Fifty Fathoms watches have the standard dive-watch water resistance of 300m.)
A winning move for the new Blancpain x Swatch watches is that instead of the quartz movement used in the Omega MoonSwatch, they are powered by Swatch’s Sistem51 self-winding movement. Comprising just 51 parts, the Sistem51 remains the only mechanical movement that has a wholly automated production process. It has a power reserve of 90 hours and an anti-magnetic hairspring made of titanium-based alloy Nivachron.
We also applaud the efforts to jazz up the movements and casebacks. Each model has a digitally printed depiction of the ocean after which it is named, and also features different-coloured versions of a sea creature called the nudibranch.
And which of the five new models to get? Well, first of all, it really depends on your colour preferences — the watches feature colours that were specially developed for the collection. The unidirectional rotating bezels here are made of Bioceramic with an anti-scratch coating, while the Nato straps are made from recycled fishing nets that were removed from the sea.
Nonetheless, we have to single out two models that have been bestowed with Fifty Fathoms signature touches, and are thus sure to be extra-appealing to fans. The Arctic Ocean model, which comes in beige with an orange bezel insert, features a “No Radiations” logo — a logo used on dive watches in the ‘60s to show that they did not contain radium, a material commonly used as lume until it was found to be radioactive.
The Antarctic Ocean model in white and grey has a cool Fifty Fathoms “Mil-Spec” — that is, in accordance with US Navy specifications — feature at 6’clock: A water contact indicator that changes colour in the presence of water. This indicator has been used by Blancpain since 1954, with the idea being to let the user know that the watch’s water resistance had not been compromised after its last use.
Spotlighting a timepiece that is not particularly well-known to mainstream audiences, this latest collaboration will probably not create the winding queues we saw with the MoonSwatch. But you know what? We kind of like it that way.
Each Blancpain x Swatch Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms retails for $565 and will be available at selected stores from Sept 9.