Blancpain‘s Fifty Fathoms family of high-end dive watches has been one of my favorite luxury sport watch collections for a while. At Baselworld 2018 Blancpain introduced a few new models in the Fifty Fathoms collection including my favorite, which is this Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatique Grande Date 5050. Let’s compare the Fifty Fathoms 5050 with the still rather popular Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 5015, which I reviewed on aBlogtoWatch here. The 5050 is a newer model with an updated movement and different case materials. With that said, it is not a replacement of the 5015, but rather an additional added flavor. The Fifty Fathoms collection in its current form is certainly an aging model (having been originally debuted in 2007) – though it is faring well even after over a decade of being on the market. The 2018 Fifty Fathoms Grande Date 5050 might not get owners of the 5015 to “upgrade,” but it could easily get even more people into wearing what is a really attractive and good-performing high-end Swiss diver’s watch.
Blancpain launched the Fifty Fathoms Automatique Grande Date 5050 with two model variations, which only differ in what strap they come paired with. The reference 5050-12B30-B52A comes paired on a really nice quality black-colored “sail canvas” strap as pictured, and the reference 5050-12B30-NABA comes on a black NATO-style strap. Both of these are good sporty strap options but I really want to see the Fifty Fathoms 5050 on a bracelet. The 5015 has a steel bracelet option, which I think is a good look, but the 5050 doesn’t have a bracelet option at this time. The reason I believe is because this new Fifty Fathoms Grande Date is in titanium, and producing the bracelet might be more expensive than what many customers are willing to spend. More so, this is the only titanium watch of this size for the Fifty Fathoms collection and Blancpain probably wants to wait for a few more watches with this case to be used if they are going to produce a matching titanium bracelet. I would also personally love to see a black alligator strap on this watch. The strap is an irregular size at 23mm wide.
It is true that the no-longer produced Blancpain 500 Fathoms dive watch was the first of the brand’s modern dive watch models to use titanium. That model was larger at 48mm wide (and about 17mm thick), making the already large 45mm wide (and 16.27mm thick) Fifty Fathoms seem modest in size by comparison. Unlike the dressier polished finishing of the steel Fifty Fathoms, this titanium 5050 model is given a more tool-style satin-brushed finishing for the titanium. As is the case with Blancpain’s prestigious sport watches the case is produced with beautiful precision and the overall quality of all the components in the Fifty Fathoms Automatique Grand Date feels excellent.
Case water resistance remains at 300m and dial legibility continues to be excellent. Blancpain also continues using their fantastic curved sapphire crystal-topped rotating diver’s bezel that has luminant painted numbers. Sapphire crystal over the bezel is highly scratch-resistant. The dial itself now has a big date indicator at the 6 o’clock position. Blancpain has had big date watches in the past but most of them had the date window eccentrically placed on the dial. With this new movement the big date display with its two windows is placed in a more symmetrical position. I do miss the 6 o’clock hour indicator but the dial symmetry with the big date complication makes it work out in the end for me. What I am not sure of is whether the big date numerals are painted with luminous material. If that is the case and the date itself is also presented with Super-LumiNova, then I feel the dial will be just that much more appealing.
Otherwise the dial of the 5050 is mostly the same as the dial of the 5015 with some other small changes. The strong and elegant sword-style hands remain, but the Arabic hour numeral markers at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions have been replaced with arrow-head style markers to match the rest on the dial. Only the hour marker at the 12 o’clock position continues to be displayed using Arabic numerals. The dial is still one of the prettiest available on a diver’s style tool watch in my opinion, given its emulation of vintage functional style with modern execution.
The movement inside of the Fifty Fathoms Automatique Grande Date 5050 is the same base movement as the 5015 model with some important differences. Also of importance is that the 5050 collection comes with an exhibition caseback now allowing you to see movement while retaining the same level of water resistance. The base caliber is “100% in-house made” (as Blancpain likes to forcefully remind us all), and for the Fifty Fathoms Grande Date is known as the caliber 6918B. With haute-horology finishing but a contemporary and semi-industrial aesthetic, the automatic movement also now includes a silicon hairspring (4Hz operational frequency) while the three mainspring barrels continue to offer 120 hours (five days) of power reserve. Blancpain designed the 6918B movement to allow for all the functions – including adjustment of the big date using the crown with no need for extra pushers.
I admire this mechanical movement quite a bit and like that we can now view it through the caseback on this Fifty Fathoms model. I do however regret Blancpain’s use of a more generic Blancpain brand rotor design as opposed to something a bit more on-theme for a dive watch. Previous models had an automatic rotor that was shaped like a nautilus shell. Something like that, in my opinion, would have allowed collectors to form a slightly closer, emotional bond with this watch. Finally, I want to add that because of the silicon balance spring, the 5050 (like the 5015) is an “anti-magnetic” watch with a good level of resistance to magnetic fields.
The market for high-end sport watches ($5,000 and up) is vast and collectors tend to get stuck in loops buying the same things. Blancpain never gets as much attention as I would like when it comes to the superiority of their sport watches – though I think it is related to price. Swatch Group owns both Blancpain and Omega – the former of which has a bit more momentum when it comes to luxury sport watches with collectors. Omega does indeed take a lot of luxury sport watch business at Swatch Group. Blancpain on the other hand is often seen as primarily a dress watch company with mostly watch collectors and not lay consumers being keenly interested in their sport watches – many of which cost over $10,000 in non-precious materials. If you can budget for one of these “luxury daily dive watches,” I think you’ll be really happy with both the style and quality. Price for the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatique Grande Date reference 5050-12B30-B52A and 5050-12B30-NABA is $17,500 USD. blancpain.com