Blancpain has an excellent history in dive watches, and among the most coveted are the military-issued pieces. In this already hyper-specialised niche, the MIL-SPEC I and MIL-SPEC II watches stand head and shoulders above the rest. These watches were first created in 1957 to meet the very specific needs of the United States Navy. In fact, if you really want to nerd out we’d highly recommend reading the actual military specification – MIL-W-22176A(SHIPS). The most distinctive feature of this watch is the hemispheric moisture indicator on the bottom half of the dial. It’s this feature that Blancpain has celebrated with the MIL-SPEC, and that lies at the heart of its charm. Before we dive into the current model, let’s first look back at the Tornek-Rayville. Created to meet MIL-SPEC II, this watch is a great example of what makes watches in general, and vintage in particular, so cool. Roughly 1000 of these watches were issued to the United States Navy in the early 1960s, as part of a tender won by Allen Tornek’s company Rayville. Now, American naval divers had been using the Fifty Fathoms for some time, but the Buy American Act required government bodies to prefer US-made products…. Read More
If you love dive watches but don’t love the wrist-dominating size that typically goes along with the genre, you’ll want to pay close attention to Blancpain this year. Alongside new 38mm versions of the pared-back Bathyscaphe, they’ve also released a particularly hot limited edition – the Tribute to Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec. Not only does this heritage-inspired little legend come in at a crowd-pleasing 40mm, it’s also got a funky-yet-functional dial decoration in the form of a moisture indicator. If that bi-colour circle at six changes colour, time to get your watch out of the water and into the service centre. But as you should know, there’s more to Blancpain than the Fifty Fathoms – there’s also a Villeret Day-Date, a good choice for an everyday wearer if your style sits on the formal end of the spectrum.
Dive watches, almost by their very definition, tend to be oversized creatures from the deep. Historically the reasons for the chunky cases and gargantuan proportions were very clear, these watches were pushing the boundaries of what was possible – serious tools for a serious purpose. Somewhere along the way the functionality started driving the aesthetic, to a point where helium escape valves, 100 bar ratings and innovative bezel lock systems were implemented on watches that barely (if ever) saw any bottom time. It was starting to get a little ridiculous. If you wanted a solid timepiece you could swim with that didn’t do double duty as a dive weight your options were limited. Baselworld 2017 changed all that. Restraint was the order of the day all round, and the underwater world was no exception. There was a marked resurgence in the reasonably sized (sub 40mm) diver, and just as in the ‘50s, Blancpain led the charge with their 38mm Bathyscaphe model. The Bathyscaphe, originally released a few years after the first Fifty Fathoms, was always the civilian younger brother to the more military-minded original, so it makes perfect sense for the brand to shave 5mm off the diameter, and 2.63mm… Read More
It’s one of the original (if not THE original) dive watches – the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. And since its introduction in 1953, it has proved to be a rugged and versatile design. Today though, the two main pillars of the Fifty Fathoms collection are the regular version, styled after that 1953 original, and the Bathyscaphe, which takes its look from the simpler, civilian version of the watch, first released in the ’60s. Given that this week has been all about the latest (and greatest) addition to the Bathyscaphe family on Time+Tide, we thought it’d be a good idea to compare this angular, stripped diver to its curvier sibling. Luckily we happen to have some truly sumptuous pictures of the Fifty Fathoms handy – from a photographic love letter penned by pro-shooter Kristian Dowling, who makes the FF look more beautiful than we’ve seen it before or since (seriously, hit the link and get ready to swoon). Rather than give you a blow-by-blow account, we’d prefer to let the pictures speak for themselves, with just a touch of commentary thrown in for good measure. The dial Fifty Fathoms: The dial of the original is a deep, glossy black – a classic, slightly vintage… Read More
The story in a second Blancpain has upped the ante on last year’s excellent Ocean Commitment watch, with a second – even bluer – limited edition. These days it’s not unique for a watch brand to have a corporate social responsibility program, usually tied in with a limited edition product. Few, however, do it with the level of integrity and (dare we say it) commitment as Blancpain’s work in marine conservation and research programs. Though the Ocean Commitment program itself is comparatively young, Blancpain has donated a total of roughly seven million Euro over the past seven years. But beyond this, the Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph Ocean Commitment II wears its marine allegiances on its sleeve, so to speak, thanks to a unique case. The case The most arresting feature of this watch is the case. On last year’s version, we swore black and (appropriately enough) blue that the case was metal rather than brushed ceramic. This year, the hi-tech nature of the material has been made abundantly clear. For the first time, Blancpain has produced an entirely blue ceramic case, made possible thanks to the addition of pigment and a binding agent into the powdered ceramic during production – a… Read More
There are a few things everyone in the Time+Tide office can get behind 100 per cent: coffee, classic ’70s rock and blue watches. In fact, we spent a good portion of 2015 quietly losing it over how stunning Blancpain’s Bathyscaphe Ocean Commitment was, with its lustrous blue dial and grey ceramic case. So when we heard earlier this year that the brand would release a follow-up watch, we were honestly sceptical as to how it could be topped. As it turns out, all it took was for Blancpain to flip it. The dial is now a slate grey sunburst and the case is an incredible blue brushed ceramic. It’s a simple change, but the result is a startlingly different watch, more understated than last year’s effort, which is somewhat surprising given the remarkable case. What hasn’t changed is the tangible good that buying this watch does for the world. At the Australian launch, VP and head of marketing Alain Delamuraz revealed that Blancpain has been donating one million Euro a year to marine conservation for the past seven years, resulting in three million square kilometres of ocean being protected. In addition, one thousand Euro from the sale of each and every Ocean… Read More
It’s usually the most innocuous part of the night. The official speeches are out of the way, the bar once again beckons, and the speaker says, to be polite, “Are there any questions?” A guest at the Blancpain Ocean Commitment event 2016 – following on from the 2015 evening at Icebergs, which had the coolest night-time projection since the bat symbol – put up her hand, and asked – “I was wondering how much money does Blancpain actually contribute to the Ocean Commitment cause?” The VP and Head of Marketing, Mr Alain Delamuraz to his enormous credit, did not even clear his throat. Earlier, he’d disclosed that 1000 Euro from every OC Limited Edition (250 pieces) model sold goes to the cause. But it turns out, with pun fully intended, this is a drop in the ocean. “We have contributed 1 million Euro per year for the last seven years,” he said. “It’s a big percentage. For us, it’s a lot.” There was a notable inhalation of breath by the entire room. “This money has led to three million square-kilometres of ocean being protected, and many other meaningful advancements in marine conservation.” My companion (and younger brother) nudged me and said,… Read More