Inside Basel.Geneva 2014 Showcase: Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback ChronographWatchTime and noted watch collector and expert Jeff Kingston are teaming up again to present the 2014 edition of the popular “Inside Basel.Geneva” live event series, kicking off September 5 in Chicago. The series also visits New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Blancpain returns this year as a core sponsor, and at the show, you will be able to try on the new Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph.

For 2014, Blancpain has created an exciting new Bathyscaphe model powered by the new, self-winding, manufacture F385 flyback chronograph movement. New movements are always big news, and that is especially true in this case.Why big news? The answer is simple: 5Hz, or 36,000 vph. That is the rate at which this new movement ticks, and it represents a kind of holy grail in watchmaking. This rate is significant because it allows the chronograph to measure elapsing time to the tenth of a second – by far the most commonly used fraction in timed events. The great majority of chronographs sold today have a rate of 28,800 vph, which means they measure eighths of a second, a fraction that is rarely used. It’s not an overstatement to say that this new movement from Blancpain is a milestone.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph

Beyond achieving the perfect rate, this chronograph offers a flyback function that enables the user to instantly stop, reset, and restart the chronograph with the push of a single button. The movement also features three additional hallmarks of a top-shelf chrono. The first is the vertical clutch. This device helps assure smooth starts when the chronograph is engaged, and it allows the owner to let his chronograph run continuously, if he chooses. The vertical clutch replaces the “meshing wheels” engagement system found in more traditional chronographs. Meshing or sliding wheels can make the center seconds hand jump when the chronograph starts, and because of differently shaped teeth, the wheels can wear when the chronograph is allowed to run full-time.

The second mark of quality is the column wheel mechanism that controls the stop, start and reset functions. Compared with other mechanisms, the column wheel is more expensive to manufacture, and more time consuming to set properly, but purists prefer the column because it lets you watch the chronograph mechanism’s intricate action. This system also provides better pusher feel, another sign of a fine timepiece.

The final technical flourish is the silicon hairspring. Silicon offers several advantages over traditional metal alloy springs. Silicon is non-magnetic, and the springs can be produced in shapes that are not possible with traditional bending. The shapes can be optimized for specific balance wheels and movements to produce improved isochronism (equal oscillation periods at different balance wheel amplitudes). The manufacturing process also provides extremely high consistency throughout the production.

All of this technical achievement should be topped off with a very special rotor, and Blancpain delivers with a solid 18k gold piece with a sculpted logo wearing a platinum alloy NAC coating. The rotor winds a mainspring that delivers a 50 hour power reserve. The movement can be appreciated through a sapphire caseback.

Aesthetically, the Bathyscaphe Flyback picks up the original model’s signals. The numeral-free, domed black dial marks hours, minutes and seconds with subtle dots and lines that allow the bold hands and chronograph subdials to take center stage. The dial’s sunburst finish and the snailed chronograph counters add a sense of depth. The rectangular hands are reminiscent of those featured on the 1950s Bathyscaphe models. The ceramic unidirectional rotating bezel features hour-markers filled with LiquidMetal, a patented metal alloy that bonds perfectly with the ceramic bezel, forming a surface that is highly resistant to scratches.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph - frontThe Bathyscaphe Flyback has a 43-mm case, available in brushed black ceramic with black dial (pictured, priced at $17,000) or in brushed steel with “meteor gray” dial ($15,000). Both cases allow the owner to use the chronograph underwater, all the way down to the rated 300-meter depth. Most chronographs can’t be safely used under water all, let alone at 300 meters. The cases are fitted with either a NATO fabric strap or sail canvas strap. The steel version also comes on a metal bracelet, a first for this collection.

To try on the new Blanclain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph, and many other new Blancpain models, stop by and see us at Inside Basel.Geneva 2014. We’re coming to Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Click here for more on the event and to order tickets for one of the four event cities.


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  1. Mark Lewis-Jones

    I haven’t seen the back of the watch case case to verify that the depth limit is 300m. However, a fathom is defined as 6 feet, so 50 fathoms would be 300 feet, or approximately 91.44 meters. Could you please clarify? Thank you.

    • Mike Disher

      Hello Mark. Thank you for your question. “Fifty Fathoms” is the name given to the watch when it was originally created back in the early 1950s. At that time, the name accurately described the water-resistance capabilities of the watch. As the watch has been improved over the years, Blancpain has maintained the historic name, which became widely recognized. This is similar to an automobile manufacturer keeping an engine displacement number as part of the model name, even after the engine displacement has changed.

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