Deep beneath the ocean, enjoy high horology

Angus Davies reviews the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Chronographe Flyback Quantième Complet, a diver’s watch from the haute horlogerie brand from Le Brassus.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Chronographe Flyback Quantième Complet

My daily exposure to deep waters invariably means running the bath too long. Twice a year I venture into the sea with snorkel and mask and transcend into an aquatic world which soothes the soul and captivates me with the vibrant colours of marine life.

After entering the sea, I swim a little further from the shore, excitedly watching fish swim past the elliptical view of the world afforded by my mask. I note that the fish begin to increase in size. Suddenly it dawns on me as I look at fish in excess of 30cm in length and start to think “What eats them?” A moment of panic hits me. I have gone beyond my comfort zone and I swim back to shallow waters with the alacrity of Mark Spitz.

I have done scuba diving on occasion, but with the perils of the deep, a sense of foreboding overwhelms me. Why do I want a diver’s watch? Because I love a watch which has a mechanical integrity made for a professional use.

The very nature of divers’ watches is that they are over-engineered for use on terra firma. They are designed to withstand incredible pressures for use in deep waters. It is the tolerances these pieces can endure which makes them appealing to me.

Blancpain takes this further by introducing another want of mine, haute horology with flawless finissage.

Blancpain made its first diver’s watch in 1953, the Fifty Fathoms, and the name continues to this day. Originally designed for the French Navy, it was soon embraced by several other navies in quick succession. It has always been a true diver’s watch, even Jacques Cousteau and his team of divers wore the Fifty Fathoms. It offers a robust reliability capable of enduring the most extreme conditions.

The name originates from its ability to withstand the high underwater pressures at a depth of 50 fathoms (approximately 91 metres) which back in 1953 was a new depth record for a wristwatch.

The watch has an overtly masculine character, with wonderful legibility in the reduced visibility available underwater thanks to the luminescent Superluminova.

Today several variants exist within the range but for me a model which catches my admiring gaze is the Chronographe Flyback Quantième Complet.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Chronographe Flyback Quantième Complet

The case

The dial and bezel are blue. Blue is the colour of the moment and clearly it is a metaphor for the sea. The watch is able to reside at 1 Ocean Drive for extended periods of aquatic adventure.

The bezel is uni-directional, a pre-requisite for any true divers watch. It is made from blue coloured sapphire crystal, an incredibly hard material surpassed only by diamond on the Vickers scale.

The 45mm diameter of the case is not excessively large and affords a comfortable fit for my wrist.

The movement

A manufacture movement incorporating 448 parts, it is an exquisite example of haute horology, typical of the oldest watch company in existence.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Chronographe Flyback Quantième Complet

Stare at the movement through the sapphire back and you will see a rotor, elegantly formed into a shell design. No simple half moon shape but it has an aesthetic allure reminding the wearer of its considered fabrication.

Look beyond the rotor and you will see perlage, beautifully executed and testament to the artisans who work from the Atelier in Le Brassus.

This watch is not merely about aesthetics. It has a flyback chronograph, full calendar display showing; date, day and month and moon phase indicator.

A cornerstone of the Blancpain brand is mechanical innovation and this is wonderfully demonstrated by the under-lug corrector system. “Normal” calendar watches require correction using a dimple in the side of the case in conjunction with a tool. Blancpain has invented a patented system where date correctors on the underside of the interhorns allow adjustment using merely a finger, no tools required, no interruption of the beautiful curves of the case wall. It is the attention to detail which differentiates Blancpain from many lesser brands.

Conclusion

The sea has always held a mystique for me. I recall sitting with my parents on the settee as a child watching Jaques Cousteau documentaries with divers always appearing to be in imminent danger.

It was exciting, fascinating and like millions of other viewers, I immersed myself in the wonder of oceans deep.

The Fifty Fathoms will seldom be tested by many wearers to the extremes experienced by Jaques Cousteau et al, but it is fantastic to have a true tool capable of deep exploration, no faux macho replica, feigning pedigree, but the “real deal”.

Technical specification

  • Model: Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Chronographe Flyback Quantième Complet
  • Reference: 5066F-1140-52B
  • Case material: stainless steel case; diameter 45 mm; height 17.4 mm; water resistance to 30 bar (300m approximately); blue coloured uni-directional bezel made of sapphire crystal
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; seconds; calendar with date, day and month; flyback-chronograph; moon-phase; under-lug correctors.
  • Movement: calibre 66BF8; self-winding ; Frequency 21,600 vph (3 Hz); 37 jewels and 448 parts; Power reserve 40 hours.
  • Strap: sail-canvas strap.

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