After writing on the Baltic Aquascaphe a few weeks ago, I started thinking back to the original watch that inspired it: the Blancpain Bathyscaphe. Historically, the Bathyscaphe was something of the younger brother to the famed Fifty Fathoms series, the original model designed in 1952 for the French Navy— an industry -changing dive watch known for both its excellent design and diving capabilities. The Bathyscaphe, in comparison, was a few millimeters smaller, significantly less popular, and ultimately discontinued about a decade or so later. Needless to say, it was not the most successful watch ever produced by the Swiss brand. However, the Bathyscaphe name has been revived in the modern era as something of a sub-series within the larger Fifty Fathoms collection, primarily used as a canvas for more experimental designs compared to the more traditional Fifty Fathoms watches.
Today, we come to one of those most recent designs brought to market by the brand in the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date 70s. The piece is inspired by a 1970s Fifty Fathoms watch (pictured below). Housed in a 43-mm brushed steel standard Bathyscaphe case, it’s distinguished by its large crown, wide 23-mm lugs, and trademark diamond-topped unidirectional black diving bezel. On the black-to-gray fumé dial, the vintage traits shine through; on the outer edge is a charmingly clunky minute ring with squared off and red-accented Arabic numerals for every five minutes, a printed triangle at the top of the face, and a borderless day and date window at 3 o’clock for which the piece partially draws its name. Interior to these features are the applied double rectangular hour markers with luminescent accents, two needle-tipped rectangular hands for the hour and minute, and a red-tipped “lollipop” seconds counter.
Inside the 300-meter water resistant case is Blancpain’s Caliber 1315DD, an impressive and durable automatic movement produced in-house and capable of a 120-hour (five-day) power reserve. The movement (below, photo by Monochrome Watches) and its signed rotor is lightly finished, while the exhibition caseback displaying it is unadorned, two traits which add to the utilitarian and function-over-form focus that Blancpain prizes in the contemporary Bathyscaphe watches. Currently the watch is listed by the brand at 11,900 CHF, which is about $11,800, and will be limited to 500 models.
While the modern watch is historically inspired and features a number of traits in common with the vintage model, Blancpain has clearly kept an overarching modern design. For reference, the vintage Fifty Fathoms (which was not a Bathyscaphe model) that inspired the contemporary model held a number of signature 1970s elements that represent a large step from the modern Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe collection. These are seen in the “super compressor” diver design indicated by the double crowns and rotating inner diving bezel; the large, chunky cushion case and correspondingly clunky dial markers; the prominent, bordered day and date windows; and, most eye catchingly, in the gray fumé dial.
Today’s Day Date 70s opted to keep many of the interesting dial features (with changes), while eschewing the more dated case and technology. We notice what it’s kept in the outer gray minute ring (though now printed directly on the dial, sans a super-compressor inner diving bezel), the Day-Date windows (though now more subtle and without the prominent bordering), the applied rectangular hour markers (which are actually pretty much the same on both models), and the gray fumé dial with an apparent update in its application and gradient. A more subtle homage can be found in the red accents below each of the Arabic numerals, and tipping the seconds counter, which together help recall the red accents on the ‘70s model while ensuring an overall cleaner design for the modern watch.
For all its historical influences, the Day Date 70s is foremost a modern diving watch. These attributes are clear in the large 43-mm case, which is now standard for the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe line; in the high-end movement, now standard in the brand’s dive watches; and on the dial, which has been rendered in a vintage-inspired fashion while not sacrificing its practicality, as seen in the generous use of luminescent paint and highly visible rectangular hour and minute hands. In this way, the piece is as cool and fashionable (at least to people interested in historical dive watches) as it is functional, which is what one should expect from an almost $12,000 luxury dive watch.
To conclude, the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date 70s is a piece that — beyond its interesting, neo-vintage look and popularity among Blancpain fans — demonstrates a greater willingness by the brand to expand its historically inspired collections. It also comes a year after the well-received Blancpain Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC (pictured above), and is now likely preceding more historically inspired follow-ups to come.
For the most recent article in the “Vintage Eye” series, in which we compare the Weiss 38-mm Standard Issue Field Watch with its historical influences, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first discovering horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.