Once you think about a dive watch, your thoughts possible conjures up a really particular and stereotypical picture. It’s most likely a bit on the bigger aspect, it’ll have well-lumed indices and possibly a distinct color on the minute hand for ease of legibility, and it’ll undoubtedly have a count-up, 60-minute bezel with a lumed pip triumphantly on the prime. There’s an excellent purpose that is what you think about. Whereas these units had been groundbreaking devices after they started arriving on the scene within the Fifties (partially due to Blancpain), they’ve modified little or no within the many years since. And that has been simply high-quality; if it ain’t broke, don’t repair it, because the previous adage goes. As diving know-how advances, nevertheless, so should the standard dive watch, and Blancpain is on the forefront of that effort, with the brand new Fifty Fathoms Tech Gombessa reimagining the idea of the count-up bezel with a brand new 3-hour show.
Beginning again in 2011 with the Fifty Fathoms X-Fathoms, Blancpain got down to push the boundaries of what a mechanical diving watch can do. Together with a twin depth gauge and a five-minute security cease timer meant that you would theoretically dive with simply your trusty mechanical watch, no high-tech pc crucial (Disclaimer: I extremely suggest taking a backup, simply in case). Now, in 2023, Blancpain is continuous that spirit of innovation with one other piece that goals to redefine the capabilities of a dive watch, they usually graciously invited us alongside to the Rangiroa atoll in French Polynesia for a couple of days of open-circuit SCUBA diving, and an introductory course within the extra superior, closed-circuit rebreather diving, to actually check out what this new launch is able to.
Rangiroa is the most important atoll within the Tuamotus and one of many largest on the planet. It’s a well-regarded dive spot because of the huge array of sea life that may be seen within the space, from dolphins to sharks and the whole lot in -between. It’s also the house of a bunch supported by Blancpain Ocean Dedication: the Mokarran Safety Society, a non-profit group that goals to review and shield the Nice Hammerhead Shark which might be discovered within the space.
This 12 months marks the Seventieth anniversary of the primary Fifty Fathoms dive watch again in 1953, and Blancpain is celebrating with a trio of recent watches cut up into “Acts”. Act 1 was the Fifty Fathoms Seventieth Anniversary restricted version launched again in early January, and Act 2 is the watch we convey you at present, the intimidatingly named Fifty Fathoms Tech Gombessa.
Developed by Blancpain CEO Marc A. Hayek in collaboration with diver, photographer and underwater biologist Laurent Ballesta, the watch was created to fulfill the extremely technical wants of the Gombessa Expeditions divers. The Gombessa Expeditions, helmed by Laurent Ballesta and funded by Blancpain Ocean Dedication, is a undertaking that focuses on learning among the rarest, most elusive marine creatures and phenomena on Earth. Up to now there have been 5 Gombessa expeditions, learning issues just like the uncommon coelacanth up-close and private at a depth of 120 meters, and documenting and buying among the first pictures of Antarctica’s deep-sea ecosystems. This 12 months additionally marks the tenth anniversary of those expeditions. So many milestones to maintain monitor of.
A watch made for closed-circuit rebreather diving
For the uninitiated, closed-circuit rebreather diving, or CCR for brief, is diving utilizing a tool that recycles the air you exhale to be re-breathed, relatively than counting on a finite air provide in a tank, like normal scuba diving. That is achieved throughout the unit by passing the exhaled air via a CO2-absorbent materials, sometimes Sodalime, then including a small little bit of pure oxygen again in, to replenish the quantity metabolised by the earlier breath. The result’s the flexibility to remain underwater far longer than the standard hour or so restrict imposed by normal air tanks utilized in diving, as much as 3 hours and past for many who push the boundaries. And since your exhalation simply goes proper again into the gadget as a substitute of out into the water like common diving, there aren’t any bubbles in any respect, and thus nearly no sound. That is extremely preferable when making an attempt to review any wildlife up shut, because the sounds of air bubbles scare lots of them away.
Say goodbye to the same old cacophony of breaths and bubbles, and howdy to an eerily silent maritime world, with nothing however faint, haunting marine sounds throughout you. If all of it appears like Sci-Fi or witchcraft or warlockery, I agree. And now, due to Blancpain, I can personally attest to the truth that it is vitally unusual the primary time round. The respiration feels completely different than normal scuba, not worse however simply completely different, and holding your buoyancy in test works barely otherwise as effectively. And the silence… it takes some getting used to however I can undoubtedly see the attraction and hope to do extra rebreather diving within the not-too-distant future.
As you possibly can think about, in case you are staying underwater for 3 hours, you may have principally rendered an ordinary, 60-minute bezel ineffective. Positive you would simply let it hold going and hold monitor of the hours in your head, however in the event you’re 150 meters underwater, your nitrogen narcosis’d mind won’t be as much as that specific problem, with harmful penalties. With the Gombessa crew needing to dive for for much longer durations, Laurent Ballesta requested Blancpain if it might be attainable to make a mechanical watch with an extended timer, and with avid diver Marc Hayek on the helm, Blancpain accepted the problem. Now let’s speak about that watch.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Tech Gombessa itself
At 47mm in diameter and slightly below 15mm thick, the case of the Tech Gombessa is totally made out of Grade 23 titanium, a cloth lately launched in Blancpain’s collections. This metallic is also referred to as grade 5 ELI (further low interstitials) and is the purest sort of titanium out there. This makes it very robust whereas additionally staying very gentle for its dimension. The case has a brushed end and is machined with the precision and a focus to element you’ll count on from Blancpain. It additionally features a helium escape valve, as the newest Gombessa expedition dabbled in some saturation diving, so at the least we all know somebody, someplace is definitely utilizing that characteristic.
In an fascinating little bit of case design, Blancpain has nearly fully executed away with lugs on this watch, as a substitute utilizing a small central piece of metallic to combine with the rubber strap. The result’s a really smooth and refined look, whereas additionally making the watch put on a lot smaller than the 47mm spec would have you ever imagine. The lightness of the titanium helps lots on this regard, as effectively.
The dial encompasses a new end, referred to as absolute black, which absorbs 97% of the sunshine making an attempt to replicate off of it. It’s like Vantablack however not fairly as excessive and it matches this watch very effectively. The indices are raised, three-dimensional, and fabricated from an orange luminescent materials with a blue emission. The hour and minute palms are additionally given the orange therapy, and the distinction between all of the orange and the pure black dial makes this a extremely legible watch. There’s a slightly-domed sapphire crystal to maintain the whole lot protected. Turning the watch over you will see that a sapphire show case again, exhibiting off the properly adorned motion and the Gombessa brand emblazoned on the skeletonised rotor – calibre 13P8, based mostly on the well-known and high-performance calibre 1315, with 3 barrels, 120h energy reserve, 4Hz frequency and silicon hairspring. An computerized motion that’s properly adorned and is greater than succesful for the current job.
Now for the pièce de résistance: the three-hour timing characteristic. This primary-of-its-kind complication was achieved with the addition of a fourth hand on the watch, much like a GMT hand, however as a substitute of rotating totally each 24 hours, this one completes a full rotation each 3 hours. Coupled with the extremely seen three hours of markings on the bezel, timing your dive is so simple as lining up the pip with this new three-hour hand and going beneath. Even with an additional hand to spin round, the motion delivers a whopping five-day energy reserve. The unidirectional, 120-click bezel’s inlay is fabricated from black ceramic as a substitute of the same old sapphire and is barely tilted inward in the direction of the dial, which appears to help in lowering any distortion the domed ceramic would possibly trigger the numerals. The bezel motion is tight and strong with zero again play. The 300m water-resistance, due to the screw-down crown and screwed again, is greater than adequate in real-life diving situations.
On the wrist, the watch wears like a dream. The rubber strap is mushy and supple and the dearth of lugs and the refined curvatures of the case make it hug the wrist like that’s the place it’s imagined to dwell. The dial format could be very legible and the separate features of the watch are colour-coded: the time-telling options, such because the hour and minute hand and indices across the dial are all in orange, whereas the timing options, the three-hour hand, second hand, and scale across the bezel are all executed in white, making it very simple to rapidly parse no matter information it’s you need. Until that information is the date, as you’ll not discover that data right here. I believe the exclusion of the date was a great name, because it retains the dial clear and symmetrical. For those who’re spending hours on the backside of the ocean counting coelacanths, do you actually should be desirous about what day it’s? I believe not. Now let’s go rebreather diving!
Tech Gombessa & rebreather, underwater
Strapping on a rebreather and the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Tech Gombessa for the primary time, I really feel like a rookie member of the Gombessa crew, heading out to unravel mysteries on the excessive seas. That is all a fantasy after all, however much more romantic than my true aims that are merely to not sink and/or die. Underwater, the watch features like a high-end dive watch ought to, becoming so comfortably that you simply neglect it’s there whereas being completely legible anytime you want (or need) to look at it. Sadly, we didn’t get to remain down for 3 hours on our intro dives, however by the point we had been again on the boat the watch simply ticked previous the one-hour mark, so I believe I can say I used it for its meant goal. All in all, it is a extremely purposeful diving watch that does the whole lot you need it to do extraordinarily effectively, after which somewhat bit extra, simply in case you wish to push your diving into far more critical territories.
In a world of tens of millions of dive watches that each one do the very same factor, it’s refreshing when an organization tries to do one thing new and push the envelope – and this Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Tech Gombessa Seventieth Anniversary does that! Who is aware of, possibly in ten years all bezels will rely to 3 hours and past, and we are going to consider the 60-minute counter as an previous throwback. Whether or not you have an interest of their fascinating historical past, their groundbreaking dive-focused issues, or their heavy give attention to ocean conservancy, Blancpain is certainly a model to maintain a detailed eye on. And I, for one, am fairly excited to see what Act 3 has in retailer.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Tech Gombessa Seventieth Anniversary Act 2 is launched as a part of the everlasting assortment (non-limited) and is available in a particular Peli™ presentation field that’s waterproof and shock-resistant in addition to reusable and configurable. The watch is priced at CHF 26,300. For extra particulars, please go to www.blancpain.com.
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