Blancpain Bathyscaphe: From The Desert To The Deep

by Nicolette Wong

The latest iterations of Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe watch exalt the brand’s longstanding spirit of adventure.

Would you take a deep-water dive in the desert? In Death Valley? In an unexplored underwater cavern called the Devil’s Hole? That is precisely what an intrepid photographer named Ernest “Ernie” H. Brooks did in 1962.

Ernest H. Brooks – Death Valley.
Ernest H. Brooks – Death Valley.

The trip was perilous — the cave was pitch-dark, and so dangerously narrow in parts that Brooks and his compatriots had to take their tanks off to pass through — but the divers were rewarded with photos of the rare Devil’s Hole pupfish Cyprinodon diabolis, which had never been photographed before that point.

It is no wonder, then, that this adventurous dive still resonates decades after the fact. So much so that luxury watchmaker Blancpain was inspired to create a new edition of its legendary Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe watch in memory of the dive.

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is one of the most legendary dive watches available — indeed, it could be said to be the originator of the modern dive watch, having been launched in 1953, a year before the Rolex Submariner. The Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe was launched later in the decade and named after the submersible vehicle created to explore parts of the ocean too deep for an unprotected diver.

Bathyscaphe Day Date Desert Edition.

The new Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date Desert Edition bears a sandy beige dial with sunburst pattern and gradient colouring that recalls the dry dunes of Death Valley. And as befits its tool watch heritage, the watch also has large rectangular hour markers and a chapter ring with large Arabic numerals for maximum legibility, and the needle hands are thick and coated with Super-LumiNova for luminosity in the darkness. The surrounding unidirectional bezel is brown ceramic, with Liquidmetal hour markers. The 43mm satin-brushed steel case is water-resistant to 300 metres. It houses the 1315DD manufacture movement, which has an impressive five-day power reserve and a silicon balance spring for improved accuracy and reliability. Limited to just 500 pieces, the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date Desert Edition is equipped with a sail canvas strap.

Bathyscaphe Chronographe Flyback.

If the desert is not quite your destination of choice, perhaps Blancpain’s other Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe release will be more to your taste. Instead of sandy desert duds, new 2020 Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Chronographe Flyback is cloaked in verdant green from dial to bezel. The dial has a gradient sunray finish, with a combination of round and rectangular hour markers that are a tad more subtle than the Day Date Desert Edition. Its thick needle hands, however, remain the same for prime legibility. The tip of the seconds hand is coated in red for the same reason, so you can see the chronograph counter clearly as it counts down the seconds. The self-winding manufacture-made F385 movement beats at a high frequency at 5Hz, which means that it oscillates 10 times a second — which in turn means that the watch is highly accurate. The flyback function allows the chronograph to be reset to zero and restarted instantaneously using the push piece at 4 o’clock — convenient, if you are on a dive and have limited mobility.

Blancpain Ocean Commitment Partnerships.

Creating dive watches is not the only link Blancpain has to the ocean. The brand has always been supportive of the exploration and preservation of the world’s oceans — seen most credibly through its continued Blancpain Ocean Commitment programme, which supports oceanographic and scientific initiatives. Plus, to spread the love for ocean life, Blancpain has also created the Edition Fifty Fathoms project, a collection of annual publications dedicated to the world’s most stunning underwater photographs — yes, including those of Ernest H. Brooks.

This year, 12 years after its launch in 2008, the project will be closing its final chapter. “Edition Fifty Fathoms epitomises Blancpain’s genuine passion for the ocean,” says Blancpain president and CEO Marc Hayek, “and illustrates our commitment initiated with the creation of the first modern diving watch almost 70 years ago.”

Edition Fifty Fathoms.

Whether you choose to wear one of Blancpain’s watches on your wrist, page through one of the Edition Fifty Fathoms photo books, or admire both from afar, you cannot deny that Blancpain has a true sense of adventure and dedication to the oceans.

Images courtesy of Blancpain, artwork by Curatedition. All rights reserved.

Related Links:

Blancpain: The Fifty Fathoms Ocean Commitment III

Blancpain: The Hybrid Diver 

Blancpain Classics: Villeret 2020

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