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Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Annuel Hands-On

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Annuel Hands-On Hands-On

I had two options: a) write about the morbidly random Fifty Fathoms Moonphase – that appears to have disappeared from the internet as we know it and so, on a dark and gloomy day, I apparently will have to write it up anyway; or b) discuss the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Annuel, hoping that I’d like it a bit more. The common theme shared by the two is Blancpain lifting totally-non-dive-watch-specific complications into the Fifty Fathoms line, the daddy of all dive watches.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Annuel Hands-On Hands-On

All images by David Bredan

The one with the moon phase is so bad, I feel tempted to write about it here, but I’ll keep my positive mindset and instead bring you the details of this cool-ish, albeit confusing new Bathyscaphe. Before we set off, allow me to suggest a fun mind game. As you are reading through and are looking at the images, try and make an educated guess on the price. Now, don’t cheat, it’s only fun if you consider where the dive watch market currently is and with that in mind, try and guess how well (or unwell) this steel watch is priced to fit into it all. Without further ado, behold, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Annuel.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Annuel Hands-On Hands-On

An original Fifty Fathoms from around 1953.

Let’s clear something up right away: I called the Fifty Fathoms the daddy of all dive watches and I want to clarify that I understand that is a big claim to make. To anyone with a doubt, I’d suggest reading our exhaustive History of Dive Watches article, where I discuss in more detail why this claim stands. In short, for now, all I’ll say is that the 1953 Blancpain Fifty Fathoms was the first ever dive watch that contained and defined all the functionalities and considerations in terms of design and capabilities that all dive watches that came after it were expected to have. It, in many ways, was an ISO 6425 dive watch… before that ISO standard was even a thing. The Bathyscaphe was launched as the “civilian version” of the Fifty Fathoms – hence the full name Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe – in 1956, bringing the original’s size down to more wearable levels. Again, for more, please check out the article.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Annuel Hands-On Hands-On

The Bathyscaphe, as such, is of course a full-on dive watch and although Blancpain has produced countless iterations of it over the last number of years, this particular, new-for-2018 piece that we are looking at today does, in Blancpain’s own words, “pair for the first time sport with a useful complication in a new annual calendar.” Now, for the longest time I have been wondering whether Blancpain has been living under a rock – or, perhaps rather more fittingly, somewhere deep under water – and this bold claim has, I think, brought me closer to an answer.

Let me jump right into it and say what I’ve said before: annual calendars and perpetual calendars, although technically impressive, are some of the least “useful” and, I think, least entertaining complications hitherto invented in horology. An annual calendar is useful a whopping four times a year with February not counting into the number of months in a year when the annual calendar can show what it does best and jump 31st straight to the 1st of the following month. I get that it’s cool to know that the watch is capable of keeping track of these things… but I think we’ll agree while it is “cool,” it isn’t nerve-wrecking exciting.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Annuel Hands-On Hands-On

Don’t get me wrong, I can sympathize with Blancpain’s struggle of running out of Bathyscaphe-permutations, and the annual calendar with triple indications is certainly something that was never done – but maybe that was for a reason. I mean, if you are the sort of business guy who’s going to wear a big arse dive watch all year round, are you really in the 0.00001% of the sort who’s been counting the days until you could wear a dive watch and know what day of the week it is? And do so for… $xx,xxx – I almost told you the price there, but nah, I’ll maintain the suspense!

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Annuel Hands-On Hands-On

Clearly, a quirky, luxurious diver like this is not the sort of watch that had been sorely missing an annual calendar – or, often, even a date, for that matter. So, should we open our minds and look at it in another way? Is this a tour de force, perhaps? I mean, we have seen Blancpain do some genuinely mind-boggling stuff, just look at this metiers d’art piece or this daftly named L-Evolution tourbillon-carousel… Not to mention the fact that they have launched a dress watch with this exact same annual calendar layout and that this Bathyscaphe also has the annual calendar module’s not exactly impressive corrector pushers. In short, there doesn’t appear to be anything technically new or cutting edge about this Bathyscaphe under its hood, so I can’t consider it an exercise that had to be done to show off something novel.

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Comments

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  • Alexander Hilsbos

    That price is insane, IMO. (I played your game and grossly underestimated.) The dial of this watch seems out of balance, with the three rectangular windows somehow squeezed on the right side and a lot of unused real estate on the left.

    Man, I was hunting all shops in downtown Bud last week to find this shirt, to no avail.

    If this is “the daddy of all dive watches”, which one is mummy?

  • ProJ

    Hands down one of the (if not THE) best sports watches produced in 2018 in my opinion. And with a price not far away from what people are paying in reality for a steel daytona, I don’t think this is too expensive. The way the annual calendar is arranged on the dial is BRILLIANT. A minimalist design at its best. I am not a fan of rectangular hands, but I really wouldn’t mind to add this watch to my collection someday.

    • They took a hole punch and cut out two extra windows, and, without giving any thought to symmetry or balance, did it all on the same side of the dial.

      ‘Brilliant’ is not the first word that would pop into my head. ‘Lazy’, yes. ‘Amateur’ is another.

      • IanE

        To be optimistic, they have got up/down symmetry – and at least the date isn’t at 4.30. Rather optimistically priced though!

        • I rather like the arrangement of the date windows. Different (from other brands) and still has bi-lateral (top/bottom) symmetry.

  • Mikita

    Longines proved that a mechanical annual calendar is actually.. cheap to make ($2,400 MSRP, remember it?). This one is almost $25,000 more expensive – well, it’s Blancpain after all, but their regular diver can be found at $7,000 any time. BTW – honestly the placement of the day of the week window is so close to the logo that makes it kinda uncomfortable to look at.

  • Horum Positivium

    I truly don’t understand the love this range gets. The calendar windows look horrible and … oh everything really. Just no. Buy a Sky-dweller and just remember what day of the week it it.

    • 5 more

      Indeed. The original Fifty Fathoms is praised for its elegant legibility, yet the current catalog is littered with lazy/indifferent — possibly ugly — treatments of that original.

  • I have been on innumerable dives; not during any of them have I ever wondered what month it was. In fact, if you’re the kind of person who has trouble keeping track of such things, I posit that diving may prove to be a bit too challenging of an activity.

  • TheChuphta

    Excellent review that leads me to ask a question Blancpain should have considered; Who is going to actually pony up the cash to buy this bizarre thing?

    • David Bredan

      Thanks for the kind feedback. I’m wondering just the same.

  • SuperStrapper

    I’m less offended by having these complications in a dive watch than I am the execution utilized to present them. All that empty dial real estate doesn’t leafs a ‘clean’ look as I see it, more a disjointed one. Having all indication pushed off to one side doesn’t reduce clutter, but it does increase the number of questions. Mostly why.
    Not a fan of the bracelet. Its fussy in design but doesn’t appear so in execution. The end links does seem to try and match the case in any real regard. The weight is far less of a putoff than Titanium would have been though.
    2/10 would not buy.

    • egznyc

      You think you’ve got a problem with this bracelet?!? For $2,500 I think a lot of us have a problem with it ;-). There are plenty of fine bracelet + watch options at that price.

      Given the overall package I’m not surprised – why not gorge the gullible wherever one can?

      • SuperStrapper

        The surcharge on the bracelet would basically be meaningless as long as it was a great bracelet. You’re not wrong for saying it’s a $2500 bracelet, but its also a 10% price increase to obtain an item that will give 1000%+ more life than the “free” strap would. If this is your only watch for 20 years, how many times will you replace the strap. And if you’re not WIS, you likely replace your straps at the dealer you bought the watch from. OEM straps are like cheap drugs: the first hit is free, but you’ll be back and bring your wallet. I bet the strap would be $500 to replace. You might get the bracelet re-brushed when you have a watch service done, but you wont need to replace the bracelet.

        Aesthetics are a far worse crime here. This bracelet looks like it was designed by a committee on bring your kids to work day. And the committee didnt even consoder the actual watch when designing it, I find the fit little less than abhorrent:

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3ce23bcd0357f5e018d9e8fb4c42acfa0b7ae6a02ad9d5e56914e3a57a53ac19.jpg

        I see it as a $25,000 insult. Not a $2,500 one.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    What a strange way to place the complications. really bizarre.
    Another winner from the fashion house of le David. Croc Jacket?

  • Bill Davidson

    Somwhere in the Barents Sea…
    ‘Vladimir, how lonk haf we bin down ?”
    ‘Let me czech Olaf”….

  • Raymond Wilkie

    If it was 4 or 20 past i wouldn’t know what month it was and that’s just not acceptable.

    • IanE

      I know people who’ve had that problem since Woodstock!

    • John Taylor

      Good point Ray.

  • Sylvio Bertoli

    I find it hard to believe anyone with a sound mind would pay that much for a watch like this. Blancpain should go back to basics and remember that on what diving watches are concerned, less is almost always more.

  • Those bracelet components took some time to machine and finish. So the delta does not surprise me. I’m happy to see a manufacturer putting that much time into bracelet development.

    David; you noted this was a prototype. Did you see it at Basel? Have they assigned it a cataloged reference number? Just seems like an experiment to me.

    • David Bredan

      Mark, this indeed was a prototype, but this was presented to us as something that is very much happening. Official renders show the case-back will have some engravings – and hopefully some updates, especially concerning the clasp.

  • Pete L

    Great review. Baffling placement of day and month I have to agree and no place on a diver really – although this is not the first time they have put complicated calendars on the Fifty. For me this does however make the standard date only version look more attractive by comparison and I really like the bracelet. Too much money though.

    • David Bredan

      Thanks for the kind feedback.

  • At half the price I’d “get it” (not buy it, but gork it). Considering that the Bathyscaphe chronograph has a street price of around $12K and a chrono should roughly be on the same order of complexity as an annual calendar, the price makes zero sense to me (and I’m a huge FF Bathyscaphe fan).

    • Berndt Norten

      Like you, I can’t fathom the price.

      • IanE

        Ha ha!

    • egznyc

      Loved your comment – totally agree. (But not familiar with the verb to “gork.”)

      • Spangles

        Grok

      • Yeah, as Spangles noted, I meant to write “grok”.

  • Jason Mirabello

    This watch should be 40 mm and 10K.

  • PR

    Good review and well deserved. I want to like BP but the Milspec appears to have been an anamoly. Their pricing is getting increasingly absurd year on year. This watch is the pinnacle of mish mash Swiss pointlessness

  • hatster

    Like the review and the guessing game. I have to admit, as soon as you raised it, I trebled my estimate of cost and was still under by a few thou. At least people are bothered to talk about it, eh? I quite like the date window placements but the width of the hands clashes with the impact so needs a little more thought……

    • David Bredan

      Thanks for the kind feedback.

  • Marius

    The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms has always been my favourite dive watch. To this day I remember dearly the moment I bought my Fifty Fathoms in Berlin, from Blancpain`s beautiful authorized dealer situated in the lobby of the Adlon Kempinsky, next to the Brandenburger Tor. Nevertheless, I have never really liked the Bathyscaphe line, and I’m not too keen on this watch either.

    Firstly, I don’t see the raison d’être of the Bathyscaphe line. According to Blancpain, this line was introduced as a more modern and technical interpretation of the Fifty Fathoms. That’s great in theory, but I don’t think this concept actually works in reality. To me, the Bathyscaphe looks like a decaffeinated and less characterful version of the original Fifty Fathoms. Granted, the watches from the Bathyscaphe line are slightly cheaper than the Fifty Fathoms; however, considering that a Bathyscaphe three-hander costs €10,000, I’d much rather slightly increase the budget, and get a real FF, which I find much more attractive, characterful and iconic.

    Secondly, I really dislike the layout of the annual calendar subdials. Personally, I consider the annual calendar to be one of the most useful complications for an everyday watch because unlike chronographs, tourbillons, etc., an annual calendar provides the most relevant information (which for a wealthy Monegasque such as myself is extremely useful considering that my life is a perpetual holiday, and I often forget the dates), and is considerably cheaper than a perpetual calendar whilst basically offering the same functions. Nevertheless, I find the dial layout to be crude, boring, and everthing feels rushed. Apart from the legibility issues pointed out by the article, it looks as if the designers of Blancpain, just like myself during high school, did their homework ten minutes before class begin. In my case, this “technique” didn’t turn out so bad considering that I’m a multimillionaire, but I digress.

    Thirdly, I find the movement quite underwhelming. Granted, F. Piguet 1150 is one of my favourite calibers, but the overall presentation of the movement used in this watch is much too industrial. If this watch cost €10,000, then I would understand, but at over €26,000, I would expect to be greeted by a highly finished caliber.

    Lastly, I find the €26,000 price quite ridiculous. As Mark Carson points out, Bathyscaphe Chronograph using the great F385 caliber (flyback, 5 Hz rate, silicon escapement, etc.) costs €12,400. Why is the annual calendar almost €15,000 more expensive? For this difference one could essentially buy a brand new AP Royal Oak 15400ST. I find this price difference quite bizarre, especially considering that the chronograph uses the brand new F385 caliber, whereas the annual calendar is powered by the older Piguet 1150 fitted with a calendar module. In any case, my absolute top pick for a calendar watch at the €20,000 range would be the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master 8 Days Perpetual Calendar (€21,000) which features a perpetual calendar, digital year indication, safety zone, 8-day power reserve, as well as a more attractive movement. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b3946727efc40d251d20bf945a9155511235d5de656f446f8be5b5f5cb29ac12.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/da2b02d516378bed501e108a5ecc8f50aa596aa234ed31881027a558d3fafe31.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/446f153f0263e34dcdfb04588f90a3eacd49904e377368e482b411ce699db1b7.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c7ce2d1df3349356a3af28fcba87731da411837ff70a652d96f27fa27b02edd3.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b96bc1c82038f7540f8bfd2d75710097ea4f3d6ee7222e54233c2d429c70dd4e.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4f2953faf9a976854d1ae124889aeff7195921ad314c271538232c6eb6aabb9d.jpg

    • Thank you, Your Majesty.

      • Berndt Norten

        He wears da crown
        Lays da smack down
        He doth proclaim
        The Edict of No.

    • Juan-Antonio Garcia

      No doubt the JL is a great option, beautiful made and has all the right whistles, at a very good price. But sadly for me, I am an existentialist. just the date window makes me nervous.

    • Yanko

      LeCoultre 8 days perpetual calendar will knockout this watch faster than Mike Tyson knocked out Michael Spinks.

  • Jon Heinz

    AAAAAGGGHHHH can’t do sunburst! Just can’t do it. Flat or nothing. Other than that little bit though, yeah.

  • Dakota Dennison

    All they had to do was make the original in a 38mm-40mm version and they would sold a ton. Quit trying so hard and pick the low hanging fruit.

    • David Bredan

      Yep, good point. There’s plenty of “low hanging fruits” in the industry (in “””iconic””” collections), and one just gets the idea that they are saving these obvious models to be launched at an anniversary or something. Come to think of it, I see this so much of the time – blindingly obvious pieces are often missing or are discontinued only to be re-introduced 5-10 years later as the big thing. I guess this is a game every brand has to play to some extent, but at times collections can indeed dry up – and when that happens, but the next anniversary nonsense is still years away, we start seeing “fillers” that don’t make too much sense.

  • M’ Lord

    Perfection in an every day watch that does every practical function you need, and none that you do not. Rugged construction and practicality, superb cache, excellent quality, elegant without being ostentatious. The addition of the extra complications makes the design dynamic whereas the standard model is too bland. Only the price is off on this one. Without even glancing at the comments I predict that its incredible desirability will sail right over the heads of the usual commentators on here. So I won’t even read the other comments.

  • Mr. Snrub

    I’ll take the chrono version. Looks better for half the price.

    The bracelet is a huge part of the appeal for me. It looks very industrial and masculine.

  • wolverbilly

    Blanpain has this amazing ability of making a +$25K watch look like $250. What utter junk.

  • Marius

    You mentioned the weight; I’d be interested to know the figure more often in these reviews. Invest in ABTW office scales?

  • joe Shmoe

    nothing like wimps that close the comments on their sponsored post. wryst is the wyrst.

  • So, is “Wrist Racer” the equivalent of “Desktop Diver”?

    Also, what a hideous 50 fathoms!!! THREE date windows!

  • cluedog12

    Excellent critique of a watch that costs enough to bear the harsh criticism.

    When I see these Bathyscaphe watches, the immediate theme that comes to mind is “stealth wealth”. In this context, the sober movement with fine anglage makes perfect sense.

    What doesn’t make sense is that the diai’s not in harmony with the movement. That’s bean-counting, not stealth wealth.

    The annual calendar windows should have located at 4-5-6 or 11-12-1 on the dial. At the former, it is balanced by the logo; at the latter, it is placed (nearly) as naturally as the date at the top of a letter.

    My second issue, is the use of recessed pushers – it ain’t right for a sports watch.

    In my view, the 70s Day Date is the best new Bathyscaphe.

    • David Bredan

      Thanks for the kind feedback, I appreciate it!

  • I’d guessed $28,000.

    • David Bredan

      You were right on the money, then!

  • Yanko

    What a pity: no temperature window!

  • Bozzor

    In the immortal words of Cartman…

    “This watch has warped my fragile little mind.”

    Big fan of the Blancpain Bathyscape and I think it the best true dive watch that has the cleanest, most elegant office watch style. And I have to hand it to Blancpain for coming up with a very practical complication.

    But…

    The 3 day/date/month window combination does look awful: poorly integrated, like it was slapped on as an afterthought. It’s almost as if Blancpain is giving everyone a big FU, that they can do it and don’t have to try at all.

    • David Bredan

      I so want to do a faithful vlog recreation of the I Should’ve Never Gone Ziplining episode from SIHH or BaselWorld next year.

      • Bozzor

        Now that would be brilliant: not sure how some companies would react and what impact it would have on any advertising relationships, but a really vlog where you take the piss out of the stereotypes of every major watch brand (i.e. Rolex for 45 year old regional sales reps for Sears who flash in front of retirement homes, Patek Phillipes for inbred trustees who have man servants wipe their rear ends and Hublots for wanna be rappers too coked up to know any better): would be a riot…

  • Larry Holmack

    Well David, I wasn’t even close to guessing the price…I was off by $15 grand.
    Now one question, since these guys made the first real dive watches in 1953…does that mean that all other dive watches are “Homages?” Or does someone else have that honor? ( Sorry, I am disabled and have lot’s of time on my hands to think about things like this! )

    I also see you are still struggling with a complete turn to the “DARK SIDE!” Give in…you don’t know the power of the “Dark Side!” Bwaaahaha!!!!!!

  • Chaz

    Testing

  • Hour markers are very expensive so they put small dots to give us better value.

    • But the hands are a relative bargain by comparison 🙂

  • Ross Diljohn

    Pass.

  • M’ Lord
  • benjameshodges

    I had 17,000chf in mind. Good writeup. One thing not mentioned though is how the bezel turn feels like it’s from an SKX007 and that’s doing the Seiko a disservice. I can’t be the only one who has noticed?

    • David Bredan

      Thanks for the kind feedback and also thanks for sharing your estimate. It’s fun to hear and precisely on the money in terms of what I thought was going to be expected.

  • Gary Mark

    This watch costs less than the Patek Nautilus.

    • Roy Andersen

      And it is way cooler than the Patek Nautilus.

  • Steve Loader

    I’m also having a hard time accepting non dive-oriented complications in such a stylistically dive oriented design.

    As others mentioned, Blancpain could have brought the original FF back down to 40mm and nailed the Chinese market.

    My unfulfilled wish was for a blue-faced Bathyscaphe chrono, similar to the first Ocean Commitment but with a steel case and bracelet. On trend and easily done.

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