5 alternatives to the Swatch x Blancpain Fifty FathomsTom Austin
The watch world is currently riding high on another wave of hype as Swatch recently released its latest collaboration, the Swatch x Blancpain Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms collection. It arrives as the successor to the wildly successful Swatch x Omega MoonSwatch collaboration, and which as many of us predicted, would see Swatch Group begin to leverage the iconic watches within their brand arsenal, reimagining them as affordable, fun timepieces. That last point, however, has become a bit of a sticking point. Swatch’s choice to release these in select boutiques not only means that not everyone can make that journey, but even if they do, they have to stand in a line with no real guarantee that they’ll get their hands on that new BlancSwatch – or is it SwatchPain? I’m not sure. With supply issues sending secondary prices to frankly ridiculous levels, and queues around the block just to get a whiff of one, maybe we should look at what else is on offer?
Baltic Aquascaphe Classic
Founded in 2016, Baltic has gone on to become one of the most well-known microbrands in watchmaking. Based in France, they produce watches that capture timelessness along with functionality, at an affordable price. The Baltic Aquascaphe was born in 2018, positioned as a retro-styled diver’s watch bringing together vintage touches and modern elements to ensure it can perform as well as it looks. Despite being a touch larger than the historical pieces it’s based on at 39mm, it retains versatile proportions with a 47mm lug-to-lug and 13mm height. There’s a domed sapphire along with a unidirectional bezel, retaining some appeal of the domed crystals of vintage divers. It can indeed dive too, with a water resistance of 200 metres thanks to a screw down crown, protecting the automatic Miyota 9039 when submerged. Available with a grained black, white and sunburst blue gilt dials, there are a few options to choose from, along with some strap and bracelet alternatives too – all waiting in the T+T Shop, with prices starting from A$1,000.
Unimatic stands out as a very different brand in the watchmaking scene. Based in Italy and established in 2015, Unimatic set out to produce watches with all the functionality of traditional timepieces, yet with a much more minimal approach to design. The U1 Classic is part of the four-piece staple Unimatic collection, with which they took design cues from the classics, and applied a unique flavour of modernism to produce a functional and distinctive watch. At 41.5mm wide, 13.6mm thick, and with stocky, angular lugs and crown guards it’s built like a tank – but an elegant one, if you can imagine that. It features a matte black aluminium bezel insert and dial, with large Super-LumiNova-treated indices for ultra-high legibility when underwater. Water resistance is taken care of by an engraved screw-down caseback and crown, providing a depth rating of 300 meters. Powering the watch is the trusted NH35A movement from Seiko, a solid automatic calibre with a 41-hour power reserve. Just don’t try timing your dives with that bezel, or you might be in trouble. Price: €525
Luminox Pacific Diver
Though you might not necessarily put them through their paces in the pool on holiday, divers need to be designed to be able to withstand anything you can throw at them, and that’s where Luminox comes in. The Pacific Diver is a 44mm diver, perfect for exploring outdoors and everyday wear – especially if your wrists evoke oak tree trunks. Its construction consists of a stainless steel case, paired with a unidirectional rotating bezel made from Carbonox, Luminox’s proprietary composite material. Such a combination is so hard wearing and durable, the watch is used by the elite Navy Seals divers. As such, it’s water resistant up to 200 meters and features a screw-down crown. Powered by a Ronda 515 quartz, the movement is specifically chosen for its reliability and accuracy. It’s not all hardcore military functionality though, as it’s available in a range of dial colours and numerous rubber strap choices, with prices starting at A$999.
Boldr Odyssey Freediver 40
The dive watch category can be a relatively understated place, with lots of black dials and bezels in stainless steel. Boldr take a different approach with the Odyssey Freediver 40, opting for a colourful and unique look with bright citrus orange, mint green or white frost. The Singapore-based brand manufacture some of the best value propositions on the market, meant to be worn and enjoyed no matter what you’re doing, and the Odyssey Freediver 40 is the personification of what they’re trying to do. The angular case is a well-sized 40mm, constructed in 316L stainless steel, and features a unique take on the octagonal style, finished with a lumed bezel and screw-down crown, water resistant to 300 metres. Powered by the automatic Miyota 9015 movement, the watch features a respectable 42-hour power reserve and is fitted with a colourful grained dial with brushed hands. Complimented by a matching quick-release rubber strap, it also features an engraved caseback because each watch is numbered, limited to 100 pieces in each colour variation, so it’s not likely you’ll come across anyone else wearing one. Head to the T+T Shop to check out our Boldr Supply Co. collection.
In 1957, Bulova created a set of prototype dive watches for the US Navy, designed for military frogmen to use on covert diving missions. This all happened around the same area that Rolex introduced the Submariner and Blancpain created the Fifty Fathoms, and it was a time where underwater exploration was in high demand. Bulova joined the party with the MIL-SHIPS-W-2181, a watch made to the strict specifications of the military. While the original never made it into production, Bulova rectified this with this retro re-release. The modern Mil-Ships-W-2181’s features are identical to the prototypes, with a 41mm stainless steel case, rotating dive-time bezel, double-domed sapphire crystal, and a screw down crown, providing the watch with 200 metres of water resistance. The retro black dial is finished with beige markers and hands for that classic 1950s look. Price: A$1,450