The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar Moonphase Now Has a Ceramic Case & Bracelet

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar Moonphase Now Has a Ceramic Case & Bracelet

Blancpain has accomplished many watchmaking feats over its nearly three centuries in operation, but the Le Brassus-based manufacture has arguably become best known for two areas of horological savoir-faire: as maker of the world’s first and most influential modern dive watch, the Fifty Fathoms, and as an early leader in the revival of mechanical watchmaking in the late 20th Century, particularly focusing on moon-phases and cleverly designed calendar displays. One would normally think these two technical realms would rarely intersect but they do so quite elegantly in the watch that the venerable Swiss maison has just released, the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Complet Phases de Lune, a timepiece that also boasts a new breakthrough for the brand in material technology. 

As I explore in much greater depth (apologies for the too-easy pun) in this article, Blancpain introduced the Fifty Fathoms in 1953, under the auspices of its then-president, diving hobbyist Jean-Jacques Fiechter, and with the input of French naval officer Captain Rober Maloubier. The Fifty Fathoms was the first purpose-built diver’s watch with a self-winding movement, an antimagnetic inner case, a double-sealed crown, and most notably, a lockable bezel with a dive-time scale that rotated in one direction. The latter, a device championed by Fiechter after he nearly lost his life on a dive after losing track of his remaining oxygen supply, was a potentially life-saving innovation, as it prevented accidental readjustments of the bezel and thus an inaccurate reading of its scale. The unidirectional rotating bezel has been a mainstay of “professional” dive watches ever since. 

The first Fifty Fathoms watches were about as “professional” as you could get — marketed at first solely to military clients, like Maloubier’s colleagues in France’s Marine Nationale, and famously worn by naval-officer-turned-oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. By 1956, the year Cousteau released his award-winning underwater documentary film The Silent World, helping to launch recreational scuba diving into mainstream popularity, Blancpain realized that it needed a version of the Fifty Fathoms that civilians would find more wearable in everyday life. Enter the original Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe, named for the deep-sea submersible vehicle invented several years earlier. It had a smaller case diameter, a utilitarian 4:30 date window, and simple geometric hour markers rather than the parent model’s combo of indexes and large Arabic numerals. The modern version of the Bathyscaphe (above) debuted in 2013 and has been growing into its own respectable sub-family ever since, offering not only more compact sizes than the main Fifty Fathoms line (though 43.6mm, the most common size, would still be considered pretty large by most, it’s still more wrist-friendly than its predecessor’s 45mm) but also an expanded range of complications. A popular example of the latter is the complete calendar with moon-phase in this new model, which is also the first in Blancpain’s collection to feature both a case and a bracelet made in black ceramic. 

Blancpain’s Quantième Complet Phases de Lune (that’s “complete calendar” and “moon phases” in French, the native language of founder Jehan-Jacques Blancpain) was a cornerstone of the elegant, historically inspired Villeret collection before it was adapted for the sportier aesthetic of the Fifty Fathoms family, but the essentials are basically the same. The day of the week and the month are displayed in parallel, adjacent windows beneath the 12 o’clock position; the date indication comes by way of a gold serpentine hand — a Blancpain hallmark, by the way — pointing to a numbered ring just within the border of the hour markers; and the distinctive, slyly smiling moon, which Blancpain refers to as its “mischievous” moon-phase, making its monthly journey across a starry field in an aperture at 6 o’clock

The dial of this new black ceramic model is an oceanic-inspired blue with a subtle gradient effect and a sunburst finish. The applied hour markers and emblematic “skyscraper” hands are treated in Super-LumiNova. The rotating dive-scale bezel features a ceramic insert (as opposed to the sapphire inserts commonly used on the larger Fifty Fathoms models), here in the same brilliant blue as the dial. The bezel's dive scale is executed in gray Liquidmetal, a proprietary amorphous metal alloy used by Blancpain and other watchmakers within the Swatch Group. 

The big news here is the aforementioned case and bracelet, made of a new high-tech ceramic that Blancpain informs us is produced locally in Switzerland in order to minimize the emissions produced by the manufacturing process. Five times harder than stainless steel and nearly four times harder than titanium (while also being 25 percent lighter), Blancpain’s ceramic is fired at above 1,400º Celsius (about 2,552º Fahrenheit) and machined with diamond-tipped tools. The finished case parts and bracelet links are not only extra-durable but highly scratch-resistant and hypoallergenic, and all feature the satin finish that is a key element of the Bathyscaphe models, applied in-house and by hand. 

The new bracelet is the product of Blancpain’s meticulous attention to detail, constructed from links that are individually measured for the best possible fit and maximum ergonomic comfort, and aligned in a patented mounting system that uses cam-shaped pins. The same case and bracelet can be found on two other Bathyscaphe models that have launched alongside the Quantième Complet Phases de Lune, which are extensions of the core three-handed Bathyscaphe Automatic and Bathyscaphe Chronographe Flyback. 

In keeping with the Bathyscaphe collection's mission statement of marrying luxurious design with robust construction, the 43.6mm ceramic case retains the professional-grade 300-meter water resistance of its steel- and titanium-cased brethren. And it accomplishes this feat despite the presence of a sapphire viewing pane in the caseback, which offers a view of the Blancpain manufacture Caliber 6654.P4, packing a three-day power reserve in its two mainspring barrels and equipped with a hairspring made of antimagnetic silicon that aids in maintaining a high and constant level of precision. The latter device is the modern-day answer to the original Fifty Fathoms’ soft-iron inner cage that shielded the movement from magnetic interference but also would have made it impossible to show off said movement behind a clear caseback like this one. As the brand’s fans know, Blancpain never skimps on the haute horlogerie decorations, which are also in full view, including beveling, perlage, and snailing, as well as the signature openworked rotor. The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Quantième Complet Phases de Lune in the ceramic case and bracelet will retail for $26,000.

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