EDITOR’S PICK: Forget about bell-bottom jeans, the ’70s was all about stellar watch designsCameron Wong
Editor’s note: Let’s be honest, there are a few fashion mistakes from the ’70s that are best left forgotten. But it wasn’t all platforms and hip-huggers, no. When it comes to watches, there are some standout design hits that are more than deserving of a remastered tribute. Take Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date 70s for example…
We’ve come to associate Fifty Fathoms with minimalistic dials, so this Day Date model – one of three new pieces released at Baselworld 2018 to mark the 65th anniversary of the original diving watch – is a real shift in style. This doesn’t mean that Blancpain are suddenly getting all decorative, though; rather, they have looked to their 1970s archive for the design cues.
While the aesthetic is retro, everything else is bang-up to the minute, with all of the technical advances that Blancpain have brought to their dive watches in recent years. The movement is based on the acclaimed calibre 1315: the balance is non-magnetic silicium and the three barrels deliver a mighty five-day power reserve.
The Day Date 70s comes in the same 43mm brushed steel case and its unidirectional bezel has a ceramic insert and markers filled with Liquidmetal – a scratch-proof alloy developed by Swatch Group and used by several of its brands, notably Omega.
There’s a choice of four different wristbands: vintage-style antiqued leather, sail-canvas or NATO straps, or a steel bracelet.
On the wrist
Three years after launching the original Fifty Fathoms, Blancpain introduced the Bathyscaphe explicitly for civilian, rather than professional use. So there’s no reason not to be a little playful with it. No reason, also, not to have a date – however much some dive watch purists may grumble about it.
In the vein of retro-revival watches, the Day Date 70s is very much in the ‘tribute to’ style, not a slavish reissue of an earlier model. So, yes, there’s a definite whiff of nostalgia but it comes with a strongly contemporary twist.
The dial is where the fun happens: graduated from lighter in the centre to darker at the outer edges, the sunray-brushed surface appears to change from anthracite to almost-brown as you twist your wrist to catch the light. A series of circles surrounded by circles draws your eye to the periphery of the dial: first is a ring of rectangular hour markers, then comes a silvered ring with bold squares on which the five-minute intervals are marked (it took me several looks to realise that the digits are indeed minutes and not hours – such is the way we instinctively read information on a watch face). The day and date windows are arranged together at 3 o’clock, just as on the ’70s watch that inspired this one.
The final circle is the rotating bezel with a shiny black ceramic insert and crisp white markers holding the whole watch together visually.
Flip the watch over and you can see the movement. That’s still relatively rare in dive watches, but with the silicium balance meaning no need for a soft-iron inner case to protect against magnetism, Blancpain began fitting the Bathyscaphe models with a clear sapphire caseback a few years ago. The decoration is fairly straightforward (appropriately for a sports watch) and nicely done – not least the eye-catching rotor with its brushed surface and high-shine polished edges.
On the wrist the Day Date 70s feels exactly like any other 43mm Bathyscaphe model, with which it shares the same case. The brushed finish has a nice tool-watch look, contrasting with the shine of the bezel, and the bevelled outer edges of the lugs add more visual interest.
The distressed-leather strap is super-stylish – matte-finished and just roughed-up enough to look as if you really have been putting it to work in the great outdoors for a couple of years (in a good way). It’s also very supple – which means no running-in required to make it comfortable. That said, it’s hard to look past the NATO strap option: it just looks and feels really right as part of the ’70s-inspired package. There’s a steel bracelet, too, but to my eyes it doesn’t bring anything much to the party.
Who’s it for?
Fans of ’70s style wanting a dive watch that will take them from the beach to boardroom (although at a shade over 14mm thick it will be no friend of your shirt cuffs). This is a properly solid and functional diver’s watch with a ton of extra style.
It breaks the Fifty Fathoms’ rule of keeping the dial as clean and simple as possible – yet it totally works.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date 70s Australian pricing and availability
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date 70s, limited to 500 pieces, $15,900