Category: Blancpain Watches

Blancpain Ladybird Colors

While fans eagerly await the next Act of Blancpain’s year-long celebration of Fifty Fathoms’ 70th anniversary to drop, the brand deems it an opportune time instead to shine a spotlight on another well-loved model from its repertoire that couldn’t be more different from the iconic modern divers’ watch. Besides being a delightful palate cleanser with its effervescent pop of summery hues, the new variants of the Ladybird Colors are a timely reminder of Blancpain’s pioneering role in the history of feminine timepieces.
Since as early as 1930, Blancpain has been a proponent of feminine mechanical watches when it launched the first self-winding wristwatch for ladies, the Rolls. When Betty Fiechter took over the company’s helm in 1933, she became the first female to head a watch Maison, blazing a trail for women in the industry. Under her leadership, Blancpain unveiled the first Ladybird watch in 1956, fitted with the smallest round movement of the time. Launched in 2021, the Blancpain Ladybird Colors is a modern expression of Fiechter’s visionary spirit, embodying style and substance with an irresistible combination of striking colours, dazzling diamonds, and technical brilliance.
Retaining the 34.9mm case size, which asserts just the right amount of presence without overwhelming dainty wrists, this year’s Blancpain Ladybird Colors continues to be adorned with 59 diamonds, totalling more than 2.22 carats, from its bezel, lugs, and folding clasp to its dial and crown, the latter set with a rose-cut diamond. Available in 18K red or white gold, the latest references feature Roman numerals in new colours of midnight blue, peacock green, forest green, lilac or turquoise, with matching alligator leather straps. Against a white mother-of-pearl dial are two overlapping rings of bling, gently tapering to a gap at 6 o’clock, providing visual intrigue as well as a testament to Blancpain’s mastery of high-end gem setting, which requires meticulous hand-adjusting to ensure unparalleled radiance.
Also new to the collection are the small seconds and moonphase indications, thanks to the self-winding 1163 and 1163L calibres, respectively. Boasting a 100-hour power reserve and a silicon balance spring, these are accurate workhorse movements designed for fuss-free daily use. That said, the same amount of effort taken in creating the pleasing visage of the Ladybird Colors is also lavished in the decoration of the movement. Flip the watch over, and you will be greeted with, via sapphire crystal caseback, a satin-brushed red or white gold oscillating weight (matching the case material) with an open-worked circular motif that echoes the aesthetics of the dial. The finishings on the rest of the components are no less stunning, such as the Côtes de Genève decoration on the bridges.
With the introduction of a moonphase complication as well as a small seconds model to the Blancpain Ladybird Colors collection, it doesn’t take a clairvoyant to foresee that Blancpain will be incorporating more complications into the burgeoning range in the coming years. And we’re confident that Betty Fiechter would be proud to see her legacy carried forward to new generations of female watch connoisseurs in such a spectacular manner.

Blancpain Ladybird Colors Phase de Lune

Blancpain’s ultra-feminine Ladybird watch spreads its wings with a new, larger 34.9mm case size in red or white gold with diamonds and seven colourful strap combinations. A signature model in Blancpain’s history of women’s timepieces since 1956, the diminutive Ladybird is now joined by a larger three-hand model fitted with the brand’s powerful ultra-thin calibre 1153. Let’s have a closer look at the new Blancpain Ladybird Colors collection.
There are some surprising facts about Blancpain’s history of women’s watches. Founded in 1735 by Jehan-Jacques Blancpain in Villeret, the company remained in family hands until 1932. Following the death of the seventh-generation Blancpain, the watchmaking brand was entrusted to a loyal assistant of Frédéric-Emile Blancpain. What is remarkable for the day is that the assistant was Betty Fiechter, who became the first woman CEO in the Swiss watchmaking industry in 1933. Other milestones in Blancpain’s portfolio of women’s watches included the 1930s Rolls, the first automatic wristwatch for women. (Another famous platinum and diamond cocktail watch produced by Blancpain and worn by Marilyn Monroe was revisited in 2020 in a stunning high jewellery version with a rectangular-shaped movement.)

In 1956, under the direction of Fiechter and her nephew Jean-Jacques Fiechter, Blancpain Ladybird Colors produced the Ladybird, the world’s smallest round watch with a mechanical movement and a winding crown on the caseback. A pioneer in the world of petite ladies’ watches that were all the rage in the 1950s, Blancpain’s Ladybird evolved over the decades and in 1993 was equipped with the thinnest manual-winding movement (calibre 610) of the day. This was followed by the ultra-thin automatic calibre 615 (15.70mm x 3.90mm) that is used for the current Ladybird Ultraplate models.
It is not only the larger 34.9mm case size of the new Blancpain Ladybird Colors collection that distinguishes it from the diminutive 21.5mm Ladybird Ultraplate models. The new collection, available in 18k white or red gold, is more jewellery oriented and features 2-carats worth of diamonds set in the bezel, lugs and crown. Using a technique known as ‘recutting’, Blancpain’s gemsetters hollow out the gold using scorpers to create a thin clean-cut band (fillet) of precious metal on either side of the diamond. This technique produces a mirror effect allowing the facets on the diamonds to reflect the light. To secure the diamonds, the gemsetters delicately push down the gold prongs to hold the stones in place. A labour requiring great accuracy to avoid damaging the stones, only the most experienced gemsetters are qualified for the task.
The natural iridescence of white mother-of-pearl on the dial provides an ever-changing background, depending on the light. Applied directly to the mother-of-pearl, twelve slanting Arabic numerals surround a central ring set with smaller diamonds. The characteristic hollowed sage leaf hour and minute hands of Blancpain are accompanied by a thin central seconds hand with a JB counterweight (a reference to the initials of the founder).
Seven colourful straps can be combined with the red and white gold cases. The red gold model can be matched with a peacock green, midnight blue or satin white alligator strap, while the white gold watch can be paired with a lemon yellow, tangerine orange, lilac or satin white alligator leather strap. The straps are fitted with a gold pin buckle or a folding clasp set with nine diamonds.
Powering the new Blancpain Ladybird Colors Collection is the in-house calibre 1153 is an ultra-thin automatic movement with a silicon balance spring, a 3Hz frequency and a robust 4-day/100-hour power reserve. Many of you will be familiar with the movement that is also used to power the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe and the Villeret Ultraplate. While it is larger than the calibre 615 used inside the Ladybird Ultraplate models, the calibre 1153 is actually slimmer with a thickness of 3.25mm compared to the 3.90mm thickness of the 615. Designed to power the hours, minutes, seconds and date, the latest Ladybird Color models have suppressed the date window. Visible through the sapphire crystal caseback, you can see the openworked satin-brushed red or white gold rotor and the refined finishings, including the Côtes de Genève decoration on the bridges.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Tech Gombessa

Many watches can feel like a solution in search of a problem, but for decades Blancpain has been a leader in building tools to solve challenges faced by divers who push human ability to the extreme. Today, Blancpain is announcing the first Fifty Fathoms “Tech” watch – part of a new line dedicated to technical diving – the Fifty Fathoms Tech Gombessa.
Just like the original Blancpain Fifty Fathoms drew on the needs of the most technical divers of its time in 1953, Blancpain CEO Marc Hayek worked with the brand’s close partner, diver, photographer, and underwater biologist Laurent Ballesta to engineer a specialized technical tool to suit a modern technical diver’s needs. The watch, cased in Grade 23 titanium (surgical titanium rated higher than grade 5), measures 47mm wide and 14.81mm thick, features a helium escape valve, an unusual central lug design, an integrated strap, and houses a brand new caliber. This triple-barrel-powered movement has five days of power reserve along with a three-hour hand and matching bezel.
As much as recreational diving is a beloved hobby, technical diving (which often combines greater depths, mixed gasses, rebreathers, or even extended saturation dives) is a whole different – and potentially dangerous – ballgame. But it’s just another day at the Gombessa Project, which Ballesta founded to study some of the rarest, most elusive marine creatures and phenomena. He and his fellow aquanauts wore four prototypes of this watch on an almost 50-day trial period at a depth of 120 meters as part of the Gombessa V and Gombessa VI missions in 2019 and 2021. On these Mediterranean expeditions, the team combined saturation diving with closed-circuit rebreather diving for the first time.

Over the course of a 28-day saturation dive, Ballesta’s dive computer tracked his entire dive and all the necessary stats to keep him safe as he breathed helium-enriched oxygen to live and work at pressure and depth. When he entered the water, Ballesta would set the three-hour bezel on the Tech Gombassa to time how long he was in the water specifically. Using a rebreather means almost no bubbles (which can, among other things disturb the marine life you’re photographing) and allows more time underwater as your exhaled CO2 gets cycled, cleaned, and turned into once-again useable oxygen. But the standard recommended maximum rebreather time is three hours, hence the dedicated three-hour hand (which is always running, you just spin the bezel to align for the start of the dive).

That’s a long dive time for anyone, let alone at those depths, but while presenting the watch Ballesta casually mentioned he once dove for 24 hours using three different rebreathers and, if necessary, could push that time to nine hours per tank with “careful breathing.”
When he was asked what he needed in the ideal dive watch, Ballesta mulled over the question, eventually saying “the idea of a traditional watch for modern diving didn’t work together until I realized it’s not about the depth, it’s the duration.”

All of this testing led to refinements like the integrated rubber strap with a central lug system, big block luminous orange indices which stand out against a black dial that absorbs 97% of light, and a touch of the original Fifty Fathoms design in the bakelite-esque bezel which has been subtly adjusted so it can be more easily gripped underwater with gloves on. The bezel also features luminous numerals that help track the three-hour hand as it counts the elapsed dive time.

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms watch has been in development for five years and while it wasn’t slated to necessarily be a part of the 70th Anniversary celebration of the Fifty Fathoms, the timing worked out perfectly. The watch will be available later this year for $28,000 and comes in a Peli (a durable and waterproof storage) case with dive extension, divers logbook, and other accessories.
When I was a kid, I said I wanted to be a marine biologist and recently I’ve dreamed of learning to dive in order to photograph marine life like many of the iconic photographers I met at National Geographic gatherings. And while I’ve been aware in some form of Laurent Ballesta’s work for some time (and of course I love the iconic original Fifty Fathoms) I truly had no idea how far he was pushing himself as a diver in pursuit of both great images and conservation efforts. This Blancpain Fifty Fathoms watch is a testament to that spirit and on that alone, I was hooked.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1

Blancpain will be releasing a three-part series of special-edition timepieces in celebration of the Fifty Fathoms dive watch’s 70th anniversary. Kicking off with the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1, the watch carries most of the 1953 model’s quintessential characteristics — notably the extra large numeral, black dial design, iconic 4 to 5 o’clock date window, and vintage-looking luminescent hands for underwater readability.

As other modern-day Fifty Fathoms models usually come in a 45mm size, the special-edition piece sets itself apart from most of Blancpain’s collections with an exclusive 42mm steel case. Aligning with the times, the original epoxy bezel inlay has also been updated to a scratch-resistant, dome-shaped sapphire crystal. On the technical side, the piece receives an upgraded water resistance of up to 300 meters, while its movement is powered by Blancpain’s staple Calibre 1315, which offers an impressive five-day power reserve. The watch is also fitted with a black NATO YTT+ strap, composed of recycled and recyclable thread deriving from fishing nets recovered from the oceans.

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1 timepiece will be a super limited release, as only 70 units will be available for select regions. The watch is due to launch later this month, and its retail pricing is yet to be revealed. For more information, head to Blancpain’s official website.
Two dive watches have long battled for the title of the original diver’s watch: the Rolex Submariner and the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. Technicalities can drag this debate into murky deep waters, but irrefutably the pair are the founding blueprints of what we all expect from a dive watch. Born in 1953, the Fifty Fathoms has a long history in professional and military usage, which you can read more about here, and would be later resurrected in 2003 by Marc A. Hayek. Therefore 2023 marks not only the 70th anniversary of the Fifty Fathoms, but also the 20th anniversary of its modern production. In homage to both anniversaries, Blancpain has just unveiled the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1. This three-series limited edition kicks off the 70th anniversary celebrations with a limited edition that debuts a 42mm case that’s new to the contemporary catalogue – although it’s actually the very case diameter of the original Fifty Fathoms diver from 1953.
Blancpain explains: “To kick off year-long celebrations highlighting the 70th anniversary of the Fifty Fathoms – whose arrival set the benchmark for diving watches – the Manufacture is unveiling a brand-new timepiece that is also a nod to the 2003 “renaissance” model. Three series are once again being produced, this time each comprising 70 watches. Each series is dedicated to a region of the world – EMEA, Asia-Pacific, the Americas – and bears a number from I to III on the dial.”

To be perfectly clear, this means 210 pieces will be made but only 70 will be allocated to each region. So, what makes the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1 so special? Let’s dive in.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1 is the first contemporary model – from 2003 and onwards – to utilise a new middle-ground 42.3mm diameter. Typically Fifty Fathoms of standard production come in a 45mm case, with 40mm cases many of us wish were standard production reserved for special limited editions. To appeal to both those who prefer the larger 45mm size, and others who crave a more compact 40mm version, Blancpain has opted for compromise – effectively splitting the difference at 42.3mm. The remainder of the watch externally is every bit what you already know and love: a polished stainless-steel case, domed sapphire insert bezel with a luminous timing scale, and a screw-down crown secured 300m depth rating.

When you look at the seemingly familiar black sunburst dial, with their commonly used handset and 4:30 positioned date window, you will notice something a tad different aside from the 70th anniversary text at 6 o’clock. Upon closer inspection of the hour numerals and indices, you will see that they are not metallically framed as we have seen in the past. The applied batons and quarter numerals appear to be solid block of luminous material. This results in not only a more interesting aesthetic in the dark, but actually heightens the legibility of the dial – an advantage well-received within the scope of a legendary dive watch.
While not by any means game-changing, if there is any moment to upgrade a winding rotor from solid gold to platinum it would be a 70th anniversary celebration. The advantage of platinum as a winding rotor is its greater mass than gold, which, theoretically, should increase the efficiency or efficacy of the automatic winding system. The rotor’s design is a nod to the architecture of the winding rotors found in the original Fifty Fathoms watch, the rounded rectangular cut-out designed to increase the suppleness and shock-resistance of the winding mass. Beneath this commemorative rotor you will find the Blancpain manufacture calibre 1315, which offers five full days of power reserve and a silicon balance spring that affords greater resistance against magnetism and is strikingly decorated with frosting, chamfering and radial graining.

Aside from the resulting scarcity due to its limited-edition status, ultimately I believe the return to a 42mm diameter, in line with the original Fifty Fathoms, is what makes this series so special and potentially attractive for buyers. In a world where there are people simultaneously advocating for more compact cases and gravitating to larger modern diameters, the 42.3mm size is a welcome goldilocks proposition sandwiched between the more common 45mm and 40mm within the catalogue.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Valentine’s Day

Although Blancpain has been celebrating Valentine’s Day for more than two decades, the Manufacture had never yet honoured it with a Fifty Fathoms model. It is now doing exactly that with the 2023 release of a limited-edition Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe emblazoned with the emblems of love: the colour red and the heart symbol – Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Valentine’s Day 2023.
Love and Fifty Fathoms go hand in hand at Blancpain. This collection of diver’s watches was born of the Brand’s passion for the underwater world, which it has cherished since the early 1950s. It therefore makes total sense to dedicate a Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe model to Valentine’s Day. The timepiece that the Manufacture is unveiling today to celebrate 14 February is for all lovers who, like Blancpain’s executives when diving, lose track of time when they are enthralled.
With its satin-brushed steel case measuring 38 mm in diameter and water-resistant to 30 bar (approximately 300 m), the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe “Valentine’s Day 2023” is made to brave waves of strong feelings. Its unidirectional rotating bezel with ceramic inlay and Liquidmetal

 hour-markers is an indispensable asset for immersing oneself in the depths of love. The luminous, immaculate white bezel matches the dial graced with 3, 6, 9 and 12 numerals and a minutes track in soft pink. This delicate colour also rims the luminescent heart positioned like a signature at the tip of the seconds hand. The universal symbol of love also sets the finishing-touch to in-house Calibre 1150, which is nestled behind a sapphire crystal case back revealing its robust architecture and refined decoration.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Valentine’s Day  “Valentine’s Day 2023” is thus characterised by a blend of impetuosity and gentleness. These apparent opposites expressed on both the front and back of the 99 timepieces composing the limited series represent the very essence of love.
Blancpain is proud of its history dating back to 1735, making it the world’s oldest watch brand. Over the centuries since its foundation, the Maison has maintained its commitment to innovate and has constantly pushed the limits of watchmaking. At Blancpain, the expression “Innovation is our tradition” is a fundamental guiding principle.
The attachment to innovation is reflected each year in the development of new timepieces with innovative calibres, often a world’s first. Most recently, in a little more than 10 years, the quest for innovation resulted in the creation of 43 new, in-house, exclusive and varied calibres or movements, which includes: the Calendrier Chinois Traditionnel, the Tourbillon Carrousel, the Carrousel Répétition Minutes and the Tourbillon Volant Heure Sautante Minute Rétrograde. Thanks to constant innovation and complete control over the manufacturing process, Blancpain has absolute freedom of creation. In-house design and manufacturing of a significant part of the components and tools; manual assembly of each movement by a single watchmaker; fully handcrafted refined finishes, even down to the last detail: the strength of the Manufacture lies in our capacity to create timepieces that are at once innovative and respectful of the Swiss watchmaking tradition. This philosophy is reflected in eac Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Valentine’s Day the models and all of our collections, like the classic Villeret pieces, the emblematic Fifty Fathoms diving watches, the elegant Women models or the exceptional Métiers d’Art watches.

Blancpain Air Command Replica

The Blancpain Air Command was originally produced by Blancpain in the 1950s, and was supposedly intended for use by the US Air Force, the US Navy having already adopted the 50 Fathoms diver’s watch. The Air Command was a flyback chronograph, constructed somewhat along the lines of the Type 20 spec, and supposedly 12 watches were made and offered to USAF pilots through Blancpain’s US distributor, Allen Tornek. It’s now an extremely rare grail watch for vintage  Blancpain Air Command   collectors – they’ve appeared at auction very rarely. One is coming up at Phillips Hong Kong later this month, with an estimate of $50-100,000; and prior to that, another one (not the same watch) hammered in 2016, also at Phillips (in the 88 Epic Stainless Steel Chronograph auction) for CHF 100,000. 
The lot notes for both watches are pretty much the same in the essentials. The catalogue essay for the 2016 auction reads, ” … scholars have asserted that it was never serially manufactured or commercialized,” and then continues, “Like many other Swiss manufacturers, Blancpain was hit by the quartz crisis and … had to sell many of its assets, including some unfinished watches. With only a handful of specimens of this mythical model known to have survived, it is hard to determine what the exact specifications of the Air Command are.”
It then goes on to say, “However, as some of the Air commands have Blancpain-signed movements, it is possible that examples like the one presented here have only been assembled and fitted with a Valjoux 222 after the sell-off of the cases, dials, bezels and pushers and hands.” While the origins of the original Air Command seem to be destined to remain a mystery (albeit if we had records from the era, many passionate collectors would doubtless be deprived of the pleasure of arguing with each other) it was a handsome flyback chronograph, with classic mid-century instrument-timepiece good looks, and Blancpain has in terms of cosmetics, stayed very close to the original.  Indeed, from the dial side, at first glance it would be difficult to distinguish one from the other. The new-for-2019 model is very slightly larger than the original (42mm, vs. 42.50 for the new model). The Arabics are larger in the new model (as is the crown), the word “Flyback” is present in a very subdued fashion on the new guy, and of course, the difference in chronograph pusher positioning gives away the newer movement. The new model has no running seconds, with a 12 hour counter where there was a running seconds on the original; but taken as a whole, it’s a pretty faithful reproduction, right down to the elongated 3-minute markers in the 30 minute register. The new watch, however, has a very different movement from the flyback Valjoux caliber 222 in the vintage model. It uses the Blancpain caliber F388B – this is a column-wheel controlled, flyback automatic chronograph with vertical clutch, and which runs at 5 hertz, or 36,000 vph, giving the chronograph a 1/10 of a second resolution. 
If you’re going to do an homage to a vintage model this is a great way to do it. What a lot of us love about vintage watches is, yes, the nostalgia they can evoke, but of course functionally vintage watches are generally inferior to their modern counterparts, especially with the advances in materials technology, lubricants, gaskets and seals, and movement design which the last ten or fifteen years have brought us. The overwhelming tendency from a design standpoint, from modern brands, seems to be to use ecru Super-LumiNova (somewhat ironically, it turns out that “ecru” actually means “raw” or “unbleached”) in an effort to reproduce the look of yellowed radium or tritium paint, but as Jason Heaton mentioned in one of his stories for us, you don’t necessarily have to see this as an attempt to drape oneself in borrowed glory – at this point, and despite the fact that “fauxtina” is a term that seems to be here to stay, you can as easily look at it as just another color choice if you want. 

While the new  Blancpain Air Command really succeeds in general of capturing the charm of the original vintage model, the one other niggle I can see folks having with it is the propeller-shaped rotor. This is the sort of thing that tends to come across as either an annoying bit of kitsch, or a harmless bit of fun, depending on who you are (and maybe on which side of the bed you got out of this morning). Propeller-shaped winding rotors on aviation-themed watches are, like ecru lume, present in large enough numbers that I personally don’t object to them as much as I did even a few years ago (perhaps this is just a sign of age-related resignation, but I can’t manage to rouse much outrage about it). The rotor in the Air Command is reasonably well done, anyhow, and the rather sober brushed finish the red gold has been given, is pleasantly harmonious with the style in which the rest of the movement has been finished. A propeller on a watch whose design originated in the 1950s is a bit of an anachronism, as by the early 1950s most air forces were falling over themselves trying to switch as fast as possible to jet aircraft, but it’s still a handsome looking rotor.

All praise, incidentally, to  Blancpain Air Command   for omitting a date window – normally I don’t mind them but a date guichet would have been jarringly out of place on this watch (ditto for sticking to a two-register design). Overall, this is a very respectful as well as faithful homage to one of the most interesting, to say nothing of mysterious, vintage Blancpain watches, and the use of modern materials and a modern movement adds significantly to the appeal. These will be produced in slightly larger numbers than the very few surviving vintage  Blancpain Air Command watches – Blancpain is offering this watch as a 500 piece limited edition.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Complet Phases de Lune

Expanding on a dive watch collection — especially one with such a rich history as the Replica Blancpain Fifty Fathoms — is a challenge at the best of times. Do you stick to classic tool watch roots? Do you step outside the box with a complication or design with more commercial appeal? Do you start toying with unorthodox case materials? There are a lot of ways to go here, and as we’ve seen year after year, the results can be fantastic, just as easily as they can be questionable. We’ve seen Blancpain take some interesting approaches with the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe collection recently, including the blue ceramic-cased flyback chronograph Ocean Commitment II, but for 2018 we were presented with a couple of very unexpected dive watches from the longstanding brand. The most curious is the complete calendar moonphase (Quantième Complet Phase de Lune, per the brand), taking the classic 43mm satin-brushed Bathyscaphe case, and fitting it with a very vintage-y dressy-feeling triple calendar moonphase complication. It’s weird, it’s confusing, it’s the first and only diver with this complication, but it also makes the mind roam to the much-loved phrase: “That’s so crazy, it just might work!” Will it? Let’s find out.
Of the many details about this latest release, its case design is the least altered when compared to prior Bathyscaphe watches. Entirely brushed in finish, as would be expected of a proper tool Replica Blancpain Fifty Fathoms , the only noteworthy change to the 43mm steel case of the Complete Calendar Moonphase is the addition of a pair of corrector pushers located on the case barrel around the 2 and 4 o’clock position. On one hand, the idea of adding pushers to a 300m dive watch sounds a little sketchy, but in practice we don’t suspect they will cause any issues with water resistance. For one, these will not (we can say will not, and not just might not) engage in serious diving, and flyback chronograph variants of the Bathyscaphe already use non screw-down pushers, at this depth rating, so there’s really nothing to be concerned about here.
Here’s where we get to the good stuff, as there’s a lot going on on the Complete Calendar Moonphase dial. Compared to a conventional 3-hand Bathyscaphe diver, the slate grey sun-brushed dial is definitely a little busy, though it kind of works. Blancpain stuck with the traditional triple calendar moonphase configuration, with the day and week near 12, a pointer date indication, and a large moonphase indication at 6 o’clock. This is a configuration the brand has been using for some time now in the Villeret, though to make it work in the Bathyscaphe is a relocation of its pointer date track. Rather than having this indication at the outer perimeter of the dial, it has been moved inbound of its hour indices. This helps ensure that its minute track is free of clutter when its timing bezel is in use.
As we’ve mentioned, this is a complication the brand has been using for quite some time, and the caliber 6654.P is by no means a new addition to the brand’s repertoire. That said, it’s a well-executed caliber, good for a power reserve of 72 hours, and fitted with a blackened 18k gold decorated rotor. A minor tweak was required to relocate its corrector pushers to the side of its case (rather than between the lugs, as we see in the Villeret line), but otherwise this is a case of grab a caliber from the shelf and find it a new home.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe is one of those watches that quickly reminds its wearer that case diameter spec is not a good benchmark of how a watch will be on the wrist. At 43mm across, I wasn’t expecting it to be quite as chunky on the wrist; however (thankfully), it still wasn’t overpowering. The piece was launched on bracelet, NATO, and a sailcloth canvas, the latter of which has consistently proven very comfortable. Its bezel action is as expected from one of the most well-respected dive watch manufacturers out there, and the same can be said for its brightly glowing Super-LumiNova indices.
Spending some time with the Complete Calendar Moonphase, to be frank it took some time for me to warm up to it. Aesthetically, it’s a mighty sharp looking piece, and I’m a fan of how well executed the calendar complication was integrated into a dive watch. At its root, the hangup is entirely the melding of a dress watch complication and a tool watch case. That said, I soon realised how foolish the hangup was. Crossing design codes is something I’ve often encouraged in other categories, and once again acknowledging that this new Replica Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is not meant as a pure tool watch per se … where’s the real harm, right? It’s a sharp-looking watch, it has practical complications, and it’s built to Blancpain’s exacting standards. This is certainly worth a second look if you’re in the market for an out-of-the-ordinary diver from a legacy brand.

Blancpain Air Command

The Blancpain Air Command was originally produced by Blancpain in the 1950s, and was supposedly intended for use by the US Air Force, the US Navy having already adopted the 50 Fathoms diver’s watch. The Air Command was a flyback chronograph, constructed somewhat along the lines of the Type 20 spec, and supposedly 12 watches were made and offered to USAF pilots through Blancpain’s US distributor, Allen Tornek. It’s now an extremely rare grail watch for vintage Blancpain collectors – they’ve appeared at auction very rarely. One is coming up at Phillips Hong Kong later this month, with an estimate of $50-100,000; and prior to that, another one (not the same watch) hammered in 2016, also at Phillips (in the 88 Epic Stainless Steel Chronograph auction) for CHF 100,000. The lot notes for both watches are pretty much the same in the essentials. The catalogue essay for the 2016 auction reads, ” … scholars have asserted that it was never serially manufactured or commercialized,” and then continues, “Like many other Swiss manufacturers, Blancpain was hit by the quartz crisis and … had to sell many of its assets, including some unfinished watches. With only a handful of specimens of this mythical model known to have survived, it is hard to determine what the exact specifications of the Air Command are.”
It then goes on to say, “However, as some of the Air commands have Blancpain-signed movements, it is possible that examples like the one presented here have only been assembled and fitted with a Valjoux 222 after the sell-off of the cases, dials, bezels and pushers and hands.” While the origins of the original Air Command seem to be destined to remain a mystery (albeit if we had records from the era, many passionate collectors would doubtless be deprived of the pleasure of arguing with each other) it was a handsome flyback chronograph, with classic mid-century instrument-timepiece good looks, and Blancpain has in terms of cosmetics, stayed very close to the original. Indeed, from the dial side, at first glance it would be difficult to distinguish one from the other. The new-for-2019 model is very slightly larger than the original (42mm, vs. 42.50 for the new model). The Arabics are larger in the new model (as is the crown), the word “Flyback” is present in a very subdued fashion on the new guy, and of course, the difference in chronograph pusher positioning gives away the newer movement. The new model has no running seconds, with a 12 hour counter where there was a running seconds on the original; but taken as a whole, it’s a pretty faithful reproduction, right down to the elongated 3-minute markers in the 30 minute register. The new watch, however, has a very different movement from the flyback Valjoux caliber 222 in the vintage model. It uses the Blancpain caliber F388B – this is a column-wheel controlled, flyback automatic chronograph with vertical clutch, and which runs at 5 hertz, or 36,000 vph, giving the chronograph a 1/10 of a second resolution.
If you’re going to do an homage to a vintage model this is a great way to do it. What a lot of us love about vintage watches is, yes, the nostalgia they can evoke, but of course functionally vintage watches are generally inferior to their modern counterparts, especially with the advances in materials technology, lubricants, gaskets and seals, and movement design which the last ten or fifteen years have brought us. The overwhelming tendency from a design standpoint, from modern brands, seems to be to use ecru Super-LumiNova (somewhat ironically, it turns out that “ecru” actually means “raw” or “unbleached”) in an effort to reproduce the look of yellowed radium or tritium paint, but as Jason Heaton mentioned in one of his stories for us, you don’t necessarily have to see this as an attempt to drape oneself in borrowed glory – at this point, and despite the fact that “fauxtina” is a term that seems to be here to stay, you can as easily look at it as just another color choice if you want.
While the new Blancpain Air Command really succeeds in general of capturing the charm of the original vintage model, the one other niggle I can see folks having with it is the propeller-shaped rotor. This is the sort of thing that tends to come across as either an annoying bit of kitsch, or a harmless bit of fun, depending on who you are (and maybe on which side of the bed you got out of this morning). Propeller-shaped winding rotors on aviation-themed watches are, like ecru lume, present in large enough numbers that I personally don’t object to them as much as I did even a few years ago (perhaps this is just a sign of age-related resignation, but I can’t manage to rouse much outrage about it). The rotor in the Air Command is reasonably well done, anyhow, and the rather sober brushed finish the red gold has been given, is pleasantly harmonious with the style in which the rest of the movement has been finished. A propeller on a watch whose design originated in the 1950s is a bit of an anachronism, as by the early 1950s most air forces were falling over themselves trying to switch as fast as possible to jet aircraft, but it’s still a handsome looking rotor.
All praise, incidentally, to Blancpain Air Command for omitting a date window – normally I don’t mind them but a date guichet would have been jarringly out of place on this watch (ditto for sticking to a two-register design). Overall, this is a very respectful as well as faithful homage to one of the most interesting, to say nothing of mysterious, vintage Blancpain watches, and the use of modern materials and a modern movement adds significantly to the appeal. These will be produced in slightly larger numbers than the very few surviving vintage Air Command watches – Blancpain is offering this watch as a 500 piece limited edition.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe

I’ll admit my bias up front: I have a serious soft spot for Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe. I don’t think enough people give the company the credit it deserves for the role it played in the late 1980s revival of the mechanical watch industry.

I recently backed up that belief by purchasing an early-2000s Leman Ultra-Slim, from HODINKEE Pre-Owned. Four months later, I’m still absolutely smitten with my new-to-me watch, but I’ll admit that I never expected a Leman to be the first Blancpain to make its way into my collection. I assumed it would be a Fifty Fathoms dive watch, because – like many collectors today – that’s the product I most associate with Blancpain.
Thirty years ago, you would have thought that statement was crazy. A watch collector in 1992 would only know vintage examples of the Fifty Fathoms. It’s true – the Fifty Fathoms has only recently held a permanent place in Blancpain’s catalog since 2007, when it re-emerged after disappearing from production at some point in the 1970s, following its heyday in the ’50s and ’60s.

The design and technical principles of the original 1953 Fifty Fathoms laid the groundwork for the ISO 6425 standard, which now governs whether or not a watch is suitable for professional diving – and yet, the Fifty Fathoms collection laid mostly dormant for decades. Since 2007, however, Blancpain has made up for lost time. The current selection of Fifty Fathoms watches is more diverse and accessible than at any other point in its history.
That’s alright with me. I own more dive watches than I know what to do with, something I’m sure I’m not alone in, and the Fifty Fathoms has always represented an endgame in appreciating the category for me. (In other words, while some collectors go crazy for MilSubs, I’ve generally been the guy jabbering about moisture indicators.)

But it took me a while to realize just how cool the latest addition to the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe is. It’s not a precise reissue of some forgotten Bathyscaphe, which is a secondary line within the greater Fifty Fathoms family, and it’s not a collaboration with the HODINKEE team. What it does do, however, is adjust the course that the already smooth-sailing Fifty Fathoms is on to reach even greater heights.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe is the younger, slimmer (and debatably hotter) sibling to the original mainstream Fifty Fathoms watch. Named after the deep-diving submersible invented by the Swiss physicist and explorer Auguste Piccard, the original Bathyscaphe dive watch was introduced in 1956 as the civilian complement to the more professional Fifty Fathoms. It came in a smaller size and was targeted toward the recreational diving market. After officially reintroducing the Fifty Fathoms into serial production in 2007, Blancpain continued to build out the collection. Six years later, for the 60th anniversary of the first Fifty Fathoms, in 2013, Blancpain unveiled an entirely new production series within the Fifty Fathoms line – the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe. These watches maintained the core conceit of the original Bathyscaphe, with a smaller diameter and more accessible price point, and zero loss in technical proficiency or professional specification.

Using the Bathyscaphe’s now-signature 43mm × 13.45mm case profile, Blancpain has once again retrofitted the dive watch by introducing a grade 23 titanium case and topping it off with a sleek grey dial featuring some serious vertical brushing.

It’s not just the dial that’s grey. The whole watch has been rendered in a monochromatic greyscale, except for the use of off-white Super-LumiNova (it’s a lighter shade than what I’d typically characterize as faux-patina) on the hands and hour markers and the red tip of the seconds hand. The case has a slightly darker grey tone compared to the anthracite shade on the dial, featuring a completely matte decoration. The self-winding caliber 1315 inside has the same soft satin sheen, with a soleil finish on the bridges, plus the gunmetal-tone solid-gold rotor. Over on the dial side, even the date aperture is completed by a grey background! Grey is great – but let’s revisit that case metal. The choice of titanium is a fun one for Blancpain fans. It could be considered a bit of an inside-baseball nod to the first year of production for the current-gen Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe , when a 43mm ceramicized (AKA, ceramic-coated) titanium edition, the ref. 5000-12C30-NABA, debuted alongside the original 38mm and 43mm stainless steel models. Although it was included as part of the Bathyscaphe’s initial 21st-century revival, it was only produced for a short period and very few ended up in the hands of collectors. As a result, it’s become one of the most sought-after and collectible Blancpain watches of the 21st century.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms No Radiations

Perhaps no other segment of watches generates more debate, more snobbery, or higher prices than vintage dive watches. Even within a single brand, the different models and variations seem to be endless, and this creates a hierarchy from most to least desirable. While Rolex often dominates the conversation, Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms has a more substantial historical claim, and the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Aqualung “No Radiations” version is one of the most sought after.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is the progenitor of the modern dive watch. The watch was developed as a collaboration between Blancpain and elite French divers—nageurs de combat—who required a watch with perfect legibility, robust construction, and the ability to measure dive times precisely. Prior to its introduction in 1953, watches had featured luminous dials and ever-increasing water resistance, but the Fifty Fathoms was the first to affix a unidirectional rotating bezel to meet the dive timing requirement. As an added perk, the watch featured an automatic movement, another first for such a watch.
When the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms was introduced, radium paint was used on the dials as its radioluminescence allowed for a bright, constant glow. By the 1960s, knowledge of the dangers of radium coupled with the Cold War pushing the world to the brink of nuclear disaster, the use of radium as no longer acceptable in the public eye. While radium remained in use in military applications, tritium paint became the preferred material for civilian watches. When Blancpain made the Fifty Fathoms commercially available in the 1960s, they wanted to make clear that the watch was safe, and so created a dial that boldly showed just that.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms “No Radiations” features a 41mm case that is fully polished. The design of the case itself is rather unremarkable: flat sides with gently downsloped lugs that feature blocked ends. While one might expect a screwdown crown, Rolex still had the patent to that technology in the 1960s. So Blancpain achieved its roughly fifty fathoms of water resistance (roughly 91m or 300ft) by installing a pair of gaskets in the crown. Furthering the water resistance is a screwdown caseback, with the usual branding and text. Around the acrylic crystal is a knurled bezel with a Bakelite bezeinsertl. Unlike many of its contemporaries, the Fifty Fathoms’ bezel is not graduated and features a combination of short and long hashes, Arabic numerals, and a triangle at 60/0. Finding an example with an intact bezel can be a challenge, as Bakelite was notoriously brittle and prone to cracking (while it was used on dive watches well into the 1970s, Rolex had already discontinued its use by 1956).
The “No Radiations” features a glossy black dial with a minute/second track and tritium hour indices in a combination of batons, circles, and a 12 o’clock diamond. Just outside of the minute/second track at 5 o’clock is the tritium indication, “T<25 MC.,” meaning that the watch emits less than 25 millicuries of radiation—a harmless amount. The white, pencil-style hands are also infilled with tritium, and the seconds hand features a lumed tip. As is common with vintage luminescent paint, one can expect the material to discolor from its original white to a brown-yellow tone (modern reissues often try to imitate this with “Old Radium” lume).
At 12 o’clock, the Blancpain name and Fifty Fathoms model are applied in block letters and script, respectively. Just below, the “Aqua-Lung” branding is printed in white script. The Fifty Fathoms was primarily made available to professionals, and as such was commonly sold through dive equipment outlets, which often cobranded their pieces. The most famous of these was Aqua-Lung, owned by Jacques Cousteau. At 6 o’clock is the namesake mark, a crossed out radioactive warning symbol with “NO RADIATIONS” printed on the lower arc.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms “No Radiations” features an automatic Blancpain R310 automatic movement, chosen to avoid the unnecessary crown and gear wear a handwound movement would cause. The R310 was in fact a Blancpain-branded A. Schild AS1700 movement. A. Schild was a massive movement manufacture all the way through the 1970s and created exceptionally reliable calibers (it’s not unheard of to encounter an old unserviced A. Schild movement running without issue). The Blancpain R310/AS 1700 movement features 17 jewels, a 41-hour power reserve, and antishock protection while beating at 18,000 vibrations per hour. Further, the movement is protected by an antimagnetic shell, hidden by the solid caseback.
The 1960s saw a surge in dive watches, and as such, vintage pieces are widely available. That said, finding the right watch in the right condition can be a challenge. As it was with Blancpain, Rolex and Omega shifted to tritium dials (in 1963 and 1964, respectively). The closest contemporary that isn’t simply another Fifty Fathoms, would be either a Rolex Submariner or an Omega Seamaster from the same era. Of course, Blancpain has revisited many of their original Fifty Fathoms designs with modern recreations.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms “No Radiations” is a historical piece not just as a dive watch, but on a larger scale as well: It acted as a symbol of an age when public fear of radiation was at its height and overtly marked the watch industry’s shift away from radium. Such a watch would be a perfect fit in the collection of a watch lover who not only treasures the early days of dive watches and unique dials, but also has an interest in that Cold War era.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms “No Radiations” is perhaps the most engaging Fifty Fathoms model ever released, and obtaining one is no easy task. With its timeless design, list of firsts, and historic importance, one simply can’t go wrong.

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