Category: Blancpain Watches

BLANCPAIN Fifty Fathoms Automatique

Last year was a big year for Blancpain, with several new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms limited edition releases to celebrate the model’s 70th anniversary. The “Act III” model hit many high notes for Mil-Spec models of the past, but the one thing that caught my eye was the new 42mm “Act I” release in stainless steel. I was hopeful it would be an adjustment for the brand down to more reasonable sizes; not just a flash-in-the-pan but rather a sign of good things to come. Well, those good things are here, with new 42mm by 14.2mm Blancpain Fifty Fathoms now coming in titanium and 18k rose gold in two different dial colors. The new ref. 5010 line of Fifty Fathoms can be broken down essentially two ways: blue dials or black, titanium or rose gold. You can get either combination, with matching color straps in sail-canvas, NATO, or (my pick) a tropic textured rubber inspired by the 1953 model. Unfortunately, there’s no gold Fifty Fathoms bracelet, but the titanium comes with the option for a bracelet (for $2,700 more than on the strap).
This is the more modern iteration of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms , reminiscent of its bigger, older brother in a 45mm case. You get the applied and lumed Arabic numerals on the sunburst dial, with arrow hour markers and a minute track around the outside. This time, the lume comes with metal surrounds, not just bare lume like the Act I release, bringing it a bit more into the modern design language. The uni-directional 120-click sapphire dive bezel has colors to match the dial. Unlike the 45mm Fifty Fathoms Automatique, the dial is flat, not stepped, simplifying the look quite a bit. There’s also a display caseback to see the caliber 1315 automatic movement, with 120 hours of power reserve thanks to the three series-coupled barrels and magnetic resistance due to the silicon hairspring. The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms watch has a number of different prices depending on your choice of strap, bracelet, pin buckle, or deployant, so I’ll just paste what I put below in the specs: $16,600 (Titanium on Strap with Pin Buckle), $18,400 (Titanium on deployant), $19,300 (Titanium on bracelet); $30,900 (Gold on pin buckle), $34,300 (Gold on deployant). Again, it’s not a limited edition, so you have a little while to save up before running off for your new gold Fifty Fathoms.
Last year Tony Traina asked for a 40mm Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and while we’re not quite there yet, these new Fifty Fathoms are great in their own right. It’s also a massive improvement on the past Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatique. Take a look at the photo below and then the following comparing the new 42mm with the (until now) only standard option at 45mm. It’s night and day and the 45mm looks almost comically large. There are certainly other things I’d change, but I liked these a lot in my short time with them. I might as well call out those issues, just for the sake of clarity. The lug width is a very strange 21.5mm, so good luck finding other NATOs in the drawer to fit your new watch. That’s more apparent on the bracelet, where the taper looks a bit odd. The date window is always going to irk people. I don’t find it necessary but it seems to be a top-down edict in the Swatch Group to put dates on watches when they can, and at 4:30 come hell or high water. Also, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms on the side of the case really needs to finally make its exit from the Fifty Fathoms.
Would any of this kill my excitement for the new watches? No, not really. I’m still a fan and these watches wear super, super comfy on the wrist which is essentially the first criteria I have for a watch. The 45mm Fifty Fathoms basically precluded a large number of potential buyers who couldn’t begin to justify wearing a watch that large. Now, at least one problem is fixed. As for the price, that’s largely up to you. I think the unique design touches of a Blancpain certainly make it an enticing option for an eye-catching take on a classic dive watch, now at a more reasonable and widely-wearable size.

BLANCPAIN Villeret Quantième Perpétuel

Following the release of the Villeret Traditional Chinese Calendar to commemorate the Lunar New Year, Blancpain now unveils another iteration of the model: the Blancpain Villeret Quantième Perpétuel.

Faithful to the roots of the model, the new reference continued the Maison’s longtime inspiration from its home base. Its sunray-finished dial boasts a calming dark green, which is a direct reference to the scenic forests of Le Brassus Manufacture in Switzerland.

Adorning the dial are Roman numeral indices, a leaf handset, and three subcounters that make up the Gregorian calendar, alongside Blacnpain’s iconic moon phase at 6 o’clock. Its sapphire exhibition caseback provides an unobstructed display of its incredible 5954 self-winding movement, which is made up of 351 components, 32 jewels, complete with 72 hours of power reserve. Sitting on top of this exquisite piece of mechanical engineering is a stunningly crafted honeycomb oscillating weight crafted from red gold.

The exquisite watch face is housed in a polished-finished 18k red gold case, measuring 40.3mm in diameter. To complete the subtle warm hue in its materiality, the wristwatch is paired with an elegant brown leather strap.
Every four years — a.k.a. when the Summer Olympics happens — February gets a novel change-up, in the form of a 29th day, and watch collectors around the world are able to pick up their perpetual calendars, and adjust them on the basis of this slightly inconveniencing astronomical phenomenon.

To mark the leap year of 2024, the watchmakers at Blancpain Villeret Quantième Perpétuel have revealed a new take on the classic Villeret Quantième Perpétuel — decked with a particularly lush green dial.

It’s not necessarily a new watch for Blancpain Villeret Quantième Perpétuel , which currently has close to a dozen different perpetual calendar references in its catalogue. However, the contrast between the red gold case and darkly sunburst green is bang-on: doubling as a nod to the coniferous forestry that surrounds the Blancpain manufacture in Le Sentier — one of Switzerland’s cradles of fine watchmaking.

The Swatch X Blancpain Scuba Fifty Fathoms

It’s here. Say hello to the Blancpain x Swatch Scuba Fifty Fathoms. It’s not quite as elegant a name as its hype-creating predecessor, MoonSwatch, but this new in-group collaboration – quietly called the “Scuba Fifty” at Swatch HQ – is kind of amazing and left me with one singular reaction upon seeing it: They did it. We knew that anything was possible when it came to a second collab from Swatch in Bioceramic. Most of us thought, given the anniversary year, that it would be the Omega Seamaster. But Blancpain is also celebrating this year. It’s the 70th birthday of the massively important Fifty Fathoms dive watch. While we never really thought a Blancpain x Swatch Scuba Fifty Fathoms would come to pass… they did it.
I’m lucky enough to experience this new release in person, and boy, is it something. Honestly, the brand knows how to roll out a long red carpet. Over the past week, we’ve seen a masterful hype campaign put on display. First, it was the cryptic two-page advertisements in 41 global newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and LA Times in the U.S. Then, a few days later, was the proper announcement that Blancpain and Swatch were partnering up (this also was printed in those same newspapers). In both instances, we were teased that something was coming on September 9th. In Swatch and Blancpain stores across the globe sat yellow zip-tied Pelican cases with the co-branded logo. Nobody knew what was inside. Now we know.

So, what is it? Well, it’s exactly what it appears to be – a Blancpain x Swatch Scuba Fifty Fathoms in Swatch form. Where there were 11 celestially themed MoonSwatches last year, there are now five ocean-themed Scuba Fiftys this year in five distinct colors. The Atlantic model is blue, the Pacific is yellow-orange, the Arctic is beige (with orange bezel), the Indian is green, and the Antarctic is white. If you’re wondering why these colors, and why we aren’t seeing a black Scuba Fifty, it’s because Swatch has decided not to use any pre-existing color it’s used in Bioceramic before.
The model we have live in our possession is the blue Atlantic edition. It features the modern Blancpain logo and wordmark at the top of the dial, followed by the Swatch logo. On the bottom half is the Scuba text, the classic Fifty Fathoms script, and depth rating – a very specific depth rating, in fact. It’s 91m (300 feet), which equates to exactly fifty fathoms. It features triangular markers as well as Arabic numerals 12, three, six, and nine (a design we utilized on our own Blancpain LE!). All of this sits atop a fumè-like dial with gradient coloration that goes from dark at the edges to light at the center.
The same design is shared on the yellow-orange model with its deep black bezel insert and the green edition with its orange accents. It’s the Arctic and Antarctic models that we see a very neat design departure. These feature vintage throwback elements, including applied circular indices and a specific old-school Blancpain wordmark with flat A lettering. But it gets better than that. The Arctic model is a callback to the famed No Radiation (No Rad) Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, and the Antarctic features a moisture indicator (also featured on one of our Blancpain collaborations). Both also happen to be in no-date configuration.
The cases of all five watches are identical. They measure 42.3mm in diameter by 14.4mm in depth and a 48mm lug-to-lug width. The lugs feature drilled holes, and the watch is accompanied by a NATO-style strap fashioned from recycled fishing nets. In typical Blancpain fashion, the Swatch logo is etched into the side of the case.
But there’s more. You might be wondering if the Swatch Group would go so far as to create a Blancpain and make it a quartz watch. Fear not, the words of Jean-Claude Biver reign true. There remains no quartz Blancpain as this is powered by Swatch’s Sistem51 movement famously known for its one-screw design and hermetically-sealed construction with 90 hours of power reserve. That movement is visible via an exhibition caseback and reveals a laser-etched Easter egg present on each watch. You’ll find a highly detailed printing of a nudibranch – a sea creature indigenous to the specific ocean connected to the watch. The movement itself is also decorated with laser printing of the specific body of water. It’s not haute horology; it’s plain old fun.
It’s impossible to say how this watch will land on September 9th. I cannot predict whether or not a BlancSwatch (trying this out) will produce lines around the block around the world, but I can tell you that I had a very positive reaction to seeing this watch – a reaction that took place in two parts. The first moment was just seeing the five models and the transfusion of high-end Blancpain into bioceramic form. The second was one when I realized it was automatic. In retrospect, the inclusion of a Sistem51 movement was obvious, but still, in the moment, it produced a gasp out of me.

The NATO-style strap, while comfortable, is quite long, and I had some issues feeding back through the keeper to get a solid fit. The good news is that you can always swap out the strap, and with the drilled lugs, that swap is very simple to execute.
Look, the MoonSwatch has a very specific design. It’s basically a Moonwatch but with rough tweaks to the dial layout to make it very clearly something else. This, on the other hand, is basically a Fifty Fathoms that has been Swatchinated. For that reason, this has a far more premium feeling than that of the MoonSwatch. Of course, with that feeling comes a higher price tag. The Blancpain x Swatch Scuba Fifty Fathoms will retail for $400 when it hits stores this Saturday. The price increase over the $260-ish MoonSwatch takes into account elements like the movement and dial, but also the quality bezel (which happens to be fully lumed).

A lot of these details feel squarely aimed at enthusiasts. But I have to think Swatch knows what it’s doing here in cooperation with Blancpain. There is no doubt that this watch will bring a massive volume of eyeballs to the Blancpain name and the historically significant Fifty Fathoms diver. The next couple of days will tell us more about the sheer level of hype. One thing is certain: If you do line up this Saturday and wind up too late to grab a watch on day one… you’re going to feel that Swatch pain. Before I see myself out for that terrible joke, I will add that – like the MoonSwatch – these won’t be limited edition watches. They’ll be serially available in Swatch stores (only) right alongside their Blancpain x Swatch Scuba Fifty Fathoms MoonSwatch siblings. No matter where you fall on this release, it’s great to see these collaborations continue for the sake of democratizing luxury watches (and watches of historical significance). It also makes you wonder, what watch are we going to see next? For now, we have the Scuba Fifty to wrap our heads around. If you plan to queue for one this weekend, send us photos. And as always, good luck.

Blancpain Ladybird Saint-Valentin 2024

Once again, Blancpain shows the way for ladies watches, designed to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day. Our most recent coverage was Fifty Fathoms Colors of Love for 2022. But we have covered their Valentine’s Day watch in 2015, 2016, 2020 and 2021. Each year, a different model was chosen. This year, it circles back to the Ladybird, an exceptional wristwatch for the ladies. Beautiful, with tastefully restrained use of diamonds, and the magnificent caliber 1153 automatic movement.
For more than two decades Blancpain’s watchmakers have created a special timepiece for Valentine’s Day. For 2024 the inspiration comes from the Ladybird Colors line. With its vibrant red color palette, heart motifs and brilliant diamonds, this special edition Blancpain Ladybird Saint-Valentin 2024 is a perfect expression of Valentine traditions.
The Ladybird Colors line is home to the most recent members of the women’s timepiece collection with, as the name suggests, a broad and rich color palette. For Valentine’s Day, Ladybird Colors glows red. Its dial fashioned from an exclusive variety of mother of pearl features red roman numerals to which extra visual depth is given by a time-consuming process that requires five separate applications of color. All of the Ladybird Colors dials showcase a fine gold ring at 6 o’clock, set by hand with graduated diamonds. For the Valentine’s edition, the lower portion of the diamond set ring has been given the shape of a heart. Cupid’s arrow adds to the Valentine’s theme as it forms the large seconds hand, carrying a small red heart and a feather-shaped counterweight. The movement is Blancpain’s in-house 1153 automatic winding caliber beating at 3 Hz. The movement’s two mainspring barrels ensure that the watch will achieve a four-day power reserve.
The Blancpain Ladybird Saint-Valentin 2024 white gold winding rotor has been open worked with a heart motif, which is visible through the sapphire case back.

The Blancpain Ladybird Saint-Valentin 2024 34.9 mm case is carried out in white gold with hand set diamonds upon the bezel and lugs. More than 2 carats of diamonds have been bestowed upon the bezel, lugs, dial and buckle.

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 Blancpain Air Command 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 Blancpain Air Command 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 Blancpain Air Command 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.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms needs no introduction to anyone who has ever dipped at least a toe in the history of dive watches as it is widely regarded as the “first true diver’s watch.” 2023 is all about the Fifty Fathoms celebrations for Blancpain, and today marks the debut of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 watch, the third edition created specifically for the 70th birthday of this unquestionably important collection. Be sure to read the article we linked to just above, and especially its second page, to familiarize yourself with the history of dive watches and how the Fifty Fathoms became an important tool in its field through a collaboration between Blancpain and a French elite divers unit called “nageurs de combat,” led by Robert Maloubier. While the chances of such a purpose-driven item becoming a cult classic are rather high, few of those early pioneers have lasted 70 years — much to our pleasure and entertainment, the Fifty Fathoms is s We are looking at the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 watchwatch in more detail in just a moment, but first, we should reiterate how the original Fifty Fathoms, along with the Rolex Submariner, opened a new world of possibilities in what was still a rather basic stage of dive timing. The Fifty Fathoms included a self-winding movement to reduce the wear on the components of the screw-down crown by reducing the number of times the crown had to be used to revive or rewind the watch; a continuous seconds hand to indicate that the watch is still in operation; large luminous hour markers, hands, and bezel markers; a timing bezel; anti-magnetic properties (required as magnetism is present in the world of diving); and proper water resistance down to a depth of 91.45 meters — which is, you guessed it, 50 fathoms. In essence, the original Blancpain Fifty Fathoms preceded (and helped outline) the modern ISO 6425 standard by some 40 years, the very standard that defines the characteristics of the modern dive watch. The all-new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 watch (reference 5901-5630-NANA) is a heavy hitter despite its moderate size. At 41.3mm wide (like the historic MIL-SPEC Fifty Fathoms) and 13.3mm thick, it’s going to be a whole lot more comfortable and indeed more proportionate than the Fifty Fathoms Tech Gombessa (reviewed here) that debuted as “Act 2” in the 70th-anniversary celebrations. So what makes it a heavy-hitter, then? While there is no official word on weight, you can expect “Act 3” to come with serious heft as it is crafted from 9k Bronze Gold, a patented alloy that’s 50% copper allowing it to be called “bronze,” enriched with 37.5% gold allowing for the 9k hallmark, with a pinch of silver, palladium and gallium. That’s the jab, and here comes the cross: Despite the resurgence of bronze (not Bronze Gold, just bronze) in dive watches in recent years, the price does not reflect the heavy reliance on copper — the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 costs $32,000. For that sort of money, a watch on a woven strap arguably should be more gold than it is copper, but maybe that’s just us. Safeguarded by some 164 fathoms of rated water resistance (that’s 300 meters) is the Blancpain 1154.P2 caliber, a no-date version of the 1151. Again, the generously sized sapphire crystal caseback reveals a somewhat underwhelming picture: The 1154.P2 does not offer too much in the way of eye candy, which is odd given that while this technically is a tool watch, it does come at a highly luxurious price. The self-winding rotor is in solid 18k gold, which is nice, and there are a few strips of shiny anglage and polished screw heads, but, for the most part, the 1154 leans rather heavily on a “technical” aesthetic. Spec-wise it is impressively thin at just 3.55mm thick and yet it offers an extended 100-hour power reserve, although that is achieved, at least in part, at the cost of reduced operating frequency, down from the more modern 4Hz to 3Hz. It’s interesting to know that “for the first time, Blancpain is offering a 1000-gauss version of its movement, thanks to the use of [Bronze Gold] coupled with exclusive alloys for the escapement.” Sounds cool until you remember that sister-brand Omega offers 15,000 Gauss dive watches for a fraction of the price, even in 9k Bronze Gold. The black dial features the grey-white moisture indicator that was developed in the 1950s by Jean-Jacques Fiechter, the co-CEO of Blancpain who was an avid diver himself and who played a key role in the creation of the first Fifty Fathoms. Apart from having something irresistibly and intuitively cool about it, the moisture indicator is also useful because it changes color and hence tells the wearer that water or moisture has somehow entered the watch. Water inside watches is bad, and salt water is even worse, given that the early Fifty Fathoms watches had no see-through casebacks but were subjected to heavy use by various military diving units, divers had to be made aware that the movement they were relying on was being eaten away by moisture and rust.

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.

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