The iconic Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, and to mark the occasion, the brand has prepared several special editions. Last month, Blancpain launched the 70th Anniversary Act 1, which is a smaller and more wrist-friendly version of the existing Fifty Fathoms. However, the brand had something even more exciting in store, and now it has arrived in Act 2: the Fifty Fathoms Tech Gombessa. This important all-new dive watch boasts a unique three-hour bezel with a coupled indicator for accurately calculating underwater time, as well as updated designs for the case, dial, and strap.
The Tech Gombessa is easily recognizable as a Fifty Fathoms, but it is entirely new in terms of design, construction, and functionality. A dive watch for the modern era. The Tech Gombessa is a worthy successor to the original Fifty Fathoms from 1953, a pioneering dive watch and a historically significant wristwatch.
The highlight of the Tech Gombessa is its new three-hour bezel, which is accompanied by an indicator that makes a full rotation around the dial every three hours. This is a novel function developed by Blancpain for professionals who require dives longer than an hour, something more common for professional divers in this day and age, and something that standard dive bezels with a 60-minute scale are not suitable for.
Notably, the development of this new watch was particularly dear to the brand, as it was led by Blancpain’s CEO Marc A. Hayek and Laurent Ballesta, founder of the Gombessa, a marine research program that Blancpain helped establish a decade ago. Both Hayek and Ballesta are avid divers, and they worked together to create a watch that would meet their specific needs. The watch was born out of a genuine need, and the watches were extensively tested by the brand’s very own people in the field.
In addition to the new function, the Tech Gombessa also boasts upgraded materials. It is Blancpain’s most contemporary dive watch to date, featuring a ceramic bezel instead of the standard sapphire bezel, and hour markers made of solid, luminescent resin without metal framing. While the aesthetic might be super contemporary, the proportions of the bezel relative to the case are actually in line with the proportions of the 1953 original. The hour markers are especially striking in orange, giving the watch a modern look that is fitting for a Fifty Fathoms made for the the modern era.
At the same time, the Tech Gombessa also has a sleek new case. Despite its extra-large size of 47mm, the lugless design ensures that the case does not appear cumbersome on the wrist. The new strap, reinforced with titanium inside, has been seamlessly integrated into the case, with only a small piece of end link remaining, resulting in a notably round and stylish design.
Inside the watch beats the cal. 13P8, which, based on the layout on the back, appears to be a variation of the cal. 1315 that powers current Fifty Fathoms watches, with the added feature of a three-hour hand. Just like the standard cal. 1315, the cal. 13P8 has attractive movement finishing, including a rounded, polished bevel that had to be executed manually. This feature is unusual for both “tool” watches as well as watches at the Fifty Fathoms price point. The winding rotor also bears the Gombessa logo — a nice touch.
While Act 1 boasted a compact case size that will appeal to many, it is a relatively simple interpretation of a previously existing watch. The Tech Gombessa, on the other hand, displays a thoroughly novel design, making it an exciting anniversary edition. I’m a fan of its new, tech-savvy appearance, particularly because it doesn’t have a date window. Blancpain has done an excellent job in respecting the traditional style of the Fifty Fathoms while infusing it with creative, original elements, resulting in a timepiece that is easily recognizable yet still innovative.
The only potential drawback for some is its extra-large case size, but that is only from a daily wear perspective. This watch was designed with professional divers in mind and was even developed by professional divers, so practicality takes precedence over all else – the dial proudly displays the word “Tech” for good reason. In that light, the ultra-large dive watch is quite impressive and will distinguish itself from other similar watches in the future.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 2 – Tech Gombessa
Movement: Cal. 13P8; automatic
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, and chronograph
Case: 47 mm; titanium; water resistant to 300 m
Strap: Rubber strap