The two most iconic diving watches of all time, the Rolex Submariner and the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, laid the foundational vocabulary for the modern diving watch. Both, which arrived circa 1953, featured rotating bezels to indicate elapsed time and provided superb legibility and water-resistance.
But while the Submariner is more associated with terra firma, the Fifty Fathoms has its feet deep in the cut and thrust of military diving, designed at the behest of the French Combat Navy School.
The Fifty Fathoms went on to see service in a bevy of guises including the Bathyscaphe, first released in the late 1950s and was named after the submersible cabin for exploring the deepest parts of the ocean.
The Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe was inspired by the exploits of Jacques Piccard, the Swiss explorer who descended into the Mariana Trench in 1960 in the bathyscaphe Trieste with fellow explorer Don Walsh.
Intended for use in a submersible, the watch was produced in a smaller size more characteristic of the time at 35 to 38mm, but was nevertheless a robust dive watch. Since the reintroduction of the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe in 2013, it has become one of the most successful reissues with even a flyback chronograph and a version in a gray plasma-ceramic case in its stable.
However, the line — save for the Revolution special edition and a white version from 2013 —had always been substantially bigger than the vintage diver that inspired it, at 43mm.
Honor-bound by the original, this year the manufacture has launched the Bathyscaphe in a size most hankered after for its comfort — 38mm, making it a part of their core collection.
Not only is the new model smaller in dimension, but it is also slimmer. It continues to pay cosmetic tribute to its 1950s-era predecessor with vintage-style hands, sharply defined case contours, and a luminescent dot on its notched, unidirectional bezel as a reference for divers.
The bezel, in satin-brushed stainless steel, has a blue ceramic insert with numerals and indices in Liquidmetal, an alloy known for its hardness, resistance and long-term stability, which has been used by Blancpain and several of its other sister brands within the Swatch Group.
The Abyss blue dial features a sunburst finish and a small date window at 4:30. The watch is powered by the automatic cal. 1150, which uses a silicon balance spring and is equipped with two series-coupled barrels, which offer an incredible 100 hours of power reserve.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe 38mm
Automatic Calibre 1150; twin barrels; 100-hour power reserve
38mm stainless steel with blue bezel; sapphire back
Padded blue sail canvas