The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms needs no introduction anymore. It was, back in 1953, one of the very first purpose-built dive watches and has since been in the minds of most collectors as a true icon. This watch – which production stopped when the brand was out of business during the 1970s – has been revived in 2007 and since then, multiple versions have been created. This year, the brand presented a new version with updated display, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Grande Date – which has more than a new date window to offer.
For over 10 years now, Blancpain has been playing hard with its dive watch – the standard Fifty Fathoms, not the more classical and restrained Bathyscaphe. This watch, which mixes vintage and modern features, luxurious and utilitarian design codes, can indeed be ordered with various displays and movements – time-and-date, chronograph, annual calendar chronograph, tourbillon – or styles, including cool vintage-inspired models or extreme versions. Back on the most classical model, the automatic time-and-date (ref. 5015), it has always been offered with a date positioned at 4h30 on the dial, with Arabic numerals at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock and encased in steel. At Baselworld 2018, Blancpain had a new model to present, this time with a large date positioned at 6 o’clock – and you’ll see that it isn’t the only new feature found on this Fifty Fathoms Grande Date ref. 5050.
At first, the new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Grande Date seems to be just a change of display, with the only addition of a large date – meaning a date displayed with two separated digits – taking place at 6 o’clock on the dial. The rest is apparently equal to the standard reference 5015, including the shape of the case, the signature sapphire bezel or the dial/hands combination. Yet, this is where we were wrong. The Fifty Fathoms Grande Date evolves (discreetly) on most parts.
First of all, the case of this new Grande Date model isn’t made of shiny polished steel but Blancpain made the choice of utilitarian, discreet and more tool-ish satin-brushed titanium. Not only this has an effect on the look of the watch – which feels sportier, less luxurious, less shiny and darker – but it is also a positive update once on the wrist. Titanium is indeed lighter and considering the 45mm diameter and the 16.27mm height, this isn’t a detail. Titanium is also more suitable for sports/dive watches, as more resistant to corrosion and to scratches.
The shape of the case doesn’t evolve however and the proportions are the same as before. This means a rather large but still comfortable watch. It sits rather high on the wrist, it is large and thick, however well balanced and pleasant thanks to short lugs. Far away from me the idea to say that the Fifty Fathoms Grande Date is a tuxedo watch, yet it can be worn by people with smaller wrist – as you can see on the photos, the watch has been photographed on my 17cm wrist. It is more compact than the specifications let you think.
One of the signature features of the Fifty Fathoms has however been kept on this Grande Date version: the glossy and domed sapphire crystal bezel insert – which was created to recall the bakelite bezel found on the 1953 model. This specific design is part of the DNA of the FF and it is with much pleasure that Blancpain still uses it. This bezel is very well executed and offers nice reflections and depth when worn. The sapphire crystal has a 60-minute diving scale printed on its inner face and has a unidirectional rotation – it is, after all, a true dive watch with 300m water resistance.
Moving to the dial, besides the addition of the large date at 6 o’clock, several other updates can be seen. First, the new position of the date window offers a greater balance to the dial. Then, to even accentuate this visual balance, Blancpain has removed the applied Arabic numerals at 3 and 9 o’clock to only leave the large 12 on top. All other indexes are applied triangles filled with luminous paint. This creates a cleaner and slightly sportier dial compared to the time-and-date reference 5015. For the rest, no evolution. The dial is still stepped and the hands have the signature sword design of the collection.
The movement of this Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Grande Date can be seen through the sapphire caseback – and it is a movement with impressive performances. The calibre 6918B is based on the well-known 1315 found in various watches of the brand. This in-house engine is known for its long power reserve – 5 days of 120 hours, thanks to three mainspring barrels. It also features an antimagnetic silicon hairspring, avoiding the need for a soft-iron cage around the movement. All adjustments are done by the crown, including the date. This automatic movement, with a central rotor, is nicely decorated with polished bevelled angles and industrial-like radial brushing on the bridges.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Grande Date is available with two different straps: the classical black fabric (sail-canvas) strap seen on the photos, as well as a black fabric NATO strap for an even sportier look. Overall, not only the addition of the large date creates a more balanced watch but the titanium case and the slightly updated dial are also giving this Fifty Fathoms Grande Date a more utilitarian and less flashy style. It will be priced at EUR 16,370 (for both strap options). More details on blancpain.com.
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