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In The Metal: New Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Models in Full Black Ceramic

In The Metal: New Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Models in Full Black Ceramic

27. June 2024

From complicated Chinese calendars and ground-breaking diver’s watches to serene Villeret moonphase models, Blancpain has long been a master of not only horological finesse, but also design. Now, the brand is opening a new chapter with the introduction of three new Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Complet Phases de Lune variations, alongside additions to its three-hand and Chronographe Flyback models. Quite a mouthful – and accordingly, there’s plenty to be said about the watches, too, which are now available with a black ceramic bracelet for the first time.

Breaking down the Bathyscaphe line

Following closely behind the brand’s ultimate diver’s watch, the Fifty Fathoms, it appears the Bathyscaphe watches were introduced slightly later in the 1950s. Unlike their tool watch relatives, these hardy timepieces offered a more everyday option to Blancpain’s clientele. This comprised the introduction of a date window, as well as a smaller diameter. Today, the Bathyscaphe model still incorporates these characteristics, as well as enticing collectors with its sleek dials, lollipop minute hand, and clean baton and dot hour markers. Oh, and for those such as myself with limited nautical knowledge: a bathyscaphe is a manned free-diving, self-propelled deep-sea submersible.

Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Complet Phases de Lune

The Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Complet Phases de Lune models, however, turns the model into something of a horological canvas for the manufacture, with plenty of feats packed in. This includes, for the non-French speakers amongst us, a complete calendar. Accommodated by the calibre 6654.P4, this practical complication indicates the date, day of the week, and the month alongside the animated reproduction of the lunar cycles.

Boasting a 72-hour power reserve courtesy of its dual barrels, the model features a secure mechanism that allows its owner to adjust the calendar indications at any time without risk of damage. In addition, the inclusion of a silicon hairspring renders the movement impervious to magnetism, ensuring precision and reliability in any setting. Finally, the movement is adorned with exquisite bevelling, perlage, and snailing, as is visible through the sapphire crystal caseback.

Up until now, there were eight variants of the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Complet Phases de Lune. This included two red-gold models with varying fabric straps, while the remaining editions came in titanium or steel with matching bracelets or fabric straps. That’s where things get exciting for us: the latest additions for 2024 offer up several black ceramic models with matching bracelets. This marks a first for the collection. These latest editions also come with a satin-brushed black unidirectional bezel with ceramic insert, alongside a handsome sunburst blue dial with subtly graduated colouring.

Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Chronographe Flyback

Blancpain aficionados will know that the flyback chronograph contingent of the line is no stranger to ceramic, as we’ve already seen a handful of ceramic variations, including limited editions, on the market. Up until this point, though, the models were only available with a fabric strap, while the latest iteration with handsome sunburst green dial offers up a black ceramic bracelet alongside the preexisting straps. The watches are powered by the F385 manufacture calibre, which was launched in an updated version in 2015 and offers a solid power reserve of 50 hours. The special feature here is that the watch does not have screw-down chronograph pushers, but is still water-resistant to 300 metres, meaning the pushers can be operated under water without any problems.

Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe: Three-hand date models

The same goes for the collection’s classic three-hand editions with a date function: while there are black, blue, or green dial Bathyscaphe watches housed in a ceramic case, none up until this point have been available with a matching black ceramic bracelet.

The latest iteration comes with a sultry black dial, alongside a unidirectional satin-brushed black ceramic bezel with ceramic insert. Meanwhile, as with all models in the line, Liquidmetal provides round-the-clock legibility in the darkest of conditions.

The 43.60 mm Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe models x 13.83 mm remain ergonomic as ever, offering water resistance to 30 bar (~300 m) while still integrating a sapphire crystal caseback that reveals the highly finished calibre 1315 with 120-hour power reserve.

Why ceramic?

Obviously, given the complications on this watch, Blancpain had a good number of different material options to choose from. So why go for full black ceramic? Firstly, high-tech-ceramic, with its unique properties, is a fitting material for this line, thanks to its versatile nature. Notably durable, highly scratch-resistant, and hypoallergenic, the material is five times harder than stainless steel and nearly four times harder than grade 5 titanium, while being 25 percent lighter. Compared to a fabric strap, there’s naturally no doubt that a black ceramic bracelet is much longer-lasting and can easily stay in mint condition even under the most challenging circumstances.

Over to production

The black ceramic’s production, which takes place in Switzerland, involves a complex process including a 25 percent volume reduction during firing at over 1400°C and machining with diamond tools, culminating in a sleek satin finish that defines the Bathyscaphe collection’s aesthetic. Following this process, the links, buckles and cases are all individually hand-finished by in-house experts at the Swatch Group’s Comadur factory. There are only two polishers at Blancpain who have mastered the craft of polishing ceramic – accordingly, the finishing of the ceramic components of the new models is particularly impressive, as is immediately obvious to anyone who has spent a little time with ceramic watches. The clasp alone takes 27 steps to complete.

The Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe bracelet: In the metal

Of course, we took the watch and its accompanying bracelet for a good spin in order to share a bit of experience of the watch on the wrist. The bracelet evidently lays focus on ergonomics and comfort, with each link individually measured for an optimal fit. Turning the bracelet onto its side, the exposed titanium screws are also a nice touch with a bit of an industrial vibe.

However, as ceramic ultimately remains a sensitive material that can break under certain amounts of pressure, Blancpain has come up with a special and patented fastening system. Cam-shaped pins between the bracelet links ensure that the individual links do not come into direct contact with each other during movement, and therefore do not wear out. It also ensures that the bracelet has an extremely high-quality appearance and is very comfortable to wear on the wrist.

The verdict

Pragmatism aside, full black ceramic watches also exude a very contemporary, slick aesthetic, and they’re really a statement piece. As competitors such as Tudor’s Black Bay or Panerai’s Radiomir models make clear, it’s also decidedly sporty, not to mention increasingly trendy. Black ceramic watches are really a matter of taste, and not exactly one for the traditionalists – but seeing these watches in the metal (and, hopefully our photography can convince you) is proof of how a modern material can be translated into something luxurious and still full of tradition.

The price for the three-hand model is 22,900 euros. The model with a full calendar and the flyback chronograph are available for 27,900 euros each.