It’s not possible to speak in regards to the trendy scuba diving watch and its evolution with out speaking about Blancpain. As one of many earliest creators of the purpose-built software watch, they’re liable for a number of improvements within the subject, together with utilizing an o-ring to seal the case again, and a pioneering crown seal system. Their title belongs proper up there with the likes of Rolex and Omega and Panerai when discussing the inception of the dive watch as we all know and find it irresistible in the present day. And to see if Blancpain can nonetheless maintain its personal on the earth of dive watches, we go diving with the all-mighty Blancpain Fifty Fathoms X Fathoms.
Blancpain was based in 1735 when Jehan-Jacques Blancpain registered himself as a watchmaker within the village information in Villaret, a small Swiss village within the picturesque Jura Mountains. The corporate would stay within the Blancpain household for the following seven generations, changing into the biggest watch producer in Villaret. Upon the demise of Frederic-Emile Blancpain in 1932, as he had no heirs within the watch enterprise, the corporate was left to his long-time assistant, Betty Fiechter, making her the primary feminine CEO of a number one watchmaking firm. Fiechter would co-manage the corporate together with her nephew Jean-Jacques Fiechter for the following 20 years. Mr Fiechter was an avid participant within the rising sport of scuba diving, and that is the place the Blancpain scuba connection started.
Above: classic promoting – Captain Robert “Bob” Maloubier – Blancpain Co-CEO Jean-Jacques Fiechter
After one harrowing expertise of dropping observe of time and almost operating out of air on a dive, Fiechter knew that he wanted a watch that may work underwater. There have been no commercially accessible scuba diving watches on the time so Fiechter and Blancpain set to work, arising with a design mainly from scratch. This work would result in the Fifty Fathoms, one of the crucial iconic and profitable diving watches of all time. Finally adopted by army diving items around the globe, the Fifty Fathoms was an important piece of diving package.
As occasions and developments have a tendency to alter, Blancpain would finally cease producing dive watches. With the sale of the corporate to Jacques Piguet within the early Nineteen Eighties, Blancpain would shift its focus to decorate and complication watches for the following 20 years. Throughout this time, the Fifty Fathoms title lay dormant, till lastly seeing the sunshine once more in 1999 as a part of a trilogy of watches launched by Blancpain, impressed by land, sea and air. Naturally, the ocean reference needed to be referred to as Fifty Fathoms.
Whereas that watch was a Fifty Fathoms in title, it wasn’t till 2003, after Blancpain had been bought again to SMH (the Swiss Company for Microelectronics and Watchmaking Industries, which might later develop into the Swatch Group) and Mark Hayek was introduced on board to steer the ship, that we’d see the true resurgence of the Fifty Fathoms DNA, with the Fiftieth-anniversary restricted version. This watch introduced again the unique’s clear bezel, this time in sapphire, and a domed crystal to really embody the spirit of that first Fifty Fathoms watch from 50 years earlier. And identical to that, the Fifty Fathoms was reborn.
Quite a few iterations would comply with. The fashionable Fifty Fathoms line contains 3-hand and chronograph fashions, impressed by the toolish nature of the early Blancpain dive watches, in addition to moon-phase fashions, and even a tourbillon, a nod to Blancpain’s later foray into difficult watches.
By 2011, Hayek and Blancpain determined it was time for one thing new; time for Blancpain to once more make a forward-thinking and revolutionary step. They wished to create a software that may be as helpful to the fashionable diver because the Fifty Fathoms was when it was launched virtually 60 years prior. Blancpain requested themselves what a diver requires and tried to create a mechanical gadget that may meet as lots of these wants as doable. The result’s the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms X Fathoms, an absolute beast of a mechanical, state-of-the-art, diving instrument. We’re going to take this distinctive watch underwater the place it belongs, however first, let’s dig into the specs.
I generally hem and haw over whether or not to name a watch “massive” or “huge” as that sort of classification is often relative to the scale of the particular person, however that’s not the case with the X Fathoms. It is a gigantic watch. At 56mm in diameter and a whopping 24mm thick, we’re getting near literal hockey puck proportions. Being fully composed of titanium has saved the burden of this monster all the way down to cheap ranges. Nonetheless heavy, however manageable. It seems and feels extra like some form of gauge you’ll discover at a plumbing provide store than a wristwatch, however there’s a methodology to this insanity, I guarantee you.
This watch is a magnificence to behold. The titanium is completely brushed throughout, giving it a high-tech, all-business look. The matte black dial is roofed in a vibrant array of knowledge indicators in blue and orange, and we’ll go into what all these do shortly. The 120-click sapphire bezel has a crisp, flawless motion and visually retains the Fifty Fathoms spirit alive and nicely. The built-in rubber strap can also be extremely engineered. Its variable-geometry construction consists of 14 articulated components, designed to make sure a seamless match with the case whereas permitting water to seep in below the watch with a view to are available in contact with the membrane. Its form resembles that of a cuttlefish and the incisions evoking the gills of manta rays spotlight the underwater vocation of this watch.
Underneath the hood, Blancpain has created a motion that’s actually outstanding in its formidable performance and groundbreaking tech. Just a few diving-centric options have been added to this mechanical marvel. Inside you will discover not one, however two completely different mechanical depth gauges. Utilizing a brand new materials referred to as “liquid steel” in a pressure-sensitive membrane made this doable. One gauge counts single metres as much as 15 (the blue scale), after which a second one counts bigger increments as much as 90 metres deep (the orange scale). As a part of the depth-gauge bundle, there’s one other hand that notes your most depth, and retains it in reminiscence till reset with a devoted button.
This button is roofed with a protecting titanium button guard to be sure you don’t unintentionally reset it. One other diving characteristic not present in another mechanical watch is the inclusion of a 5-minute countdown timer, meant that can assist you preserve observe of decompression or security stops. The timer is began and reset with a single, devoted button. Issues are rounded out with a whopping 5 day energy reserve. How Blancpain was in a position to match all of this tech right into a motion a mere 9mm thick is a thriller to me, however boy am I glad they did and this factor exists.
Underneath the Waves
We discuss often about how diving with mechanical watches within the trendy period of dive computer systems is a largely esoteric, and, actually, pointless pursuit. All the information you want when diving could be tracked extra simply utilizing a devoted dive pc. Blancpain got down to change all of that. Strapping this monster over a wetsuit utilizing the built-in, dual-pronged rubber strap, feels no completely different than strapping on a giant dive pc, and that’s by design. If I had achieved just a little little bit of math beforehand, I may have theoretically used solely the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms X Fathoms on these dives, and been simply fantastic. In all probability not advisable from a pure security standpoint, however the level is, it’s doable, and that makes this watch one thing fairly particular.
I’ll admit to feeling a pang of concern earlier than leaping off a ship with a $40,000 watch strapped to my wrist, however after submerging and getting located that rapidly handed and it was like one other piece of dive gear. Underwater all the pieces works completely. The watch is large enough that you simply at all times know it’s there and large enough that you would be able to rapidly parse any information you want from its many arms and scales. The colors chosen for the completely different scales had been all clearly seen at depth, as had been the big indices on the timing bezel. It’s arduous to put on a Fifty Fathoms underwater and never daydream that you’re doing one thing groundbreaking and vital, even when you’re simply kicking round fish and turtles. The mystique and attract of Blancpain and its iconic diving watch stay sturdy with this one.
I didn’t forswear my dive pc for my underwater jaunts with the X Fathoms however tried to do as a lot as I may utilizing solely the information it supplied. I saved an eye fixed on its depth gauges when descending, and each had been spot-on correct when in comparison with their digital counterpart. When it was time to ascend, I adopted the gauges again as much as 5 metres depth and clicked the chronograph countdown button to begin the five-minute security cease timer. Doing all of this stuff mechanically is one thing I had by no means skilled earlier than, and it was nothing in need of pleasant.
Let’s speak about that price ticket for a second. Sure, that’s fairly a big sum of cash for an pointless dive watch. However when you consider it in automotive phrases, with the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms X Fathoms being extra akin to an idea automotive than a manufacturing mannequin, it makes just a little extra sense. This watch is a proof of idea and hopefully, a few of this tech will trickle all the way down to extra reasonably priced fashions and you will note a complete subsect of steampunk scuba divers, exploring the ocean with nothing however springs and gears to information their method. One can dream. And whereas most people received’t be buying and selling of their dive computer systems for X Fathoms anytime quickly, the truth that you COULD, nicely, that’s one thing fairly particular. Out there from Blancpain for USD 40,700 or EUR 41,410.
For extra data, please go to Blancpain.com.
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