INTRODUCING: Blancpain X Swatch Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms
With five colourful options, the big question is which watch everyone will go for.
Earlier this week, we wrote about the latest Swatch Bioceramic collaboration with Blancpain that was announced by Nick Hayek Jr. and Mark Hayek just last week. With 48 hours to go before the launch, Swatch has released a preview of the five Scuba models that will be up for grabs. The Swatch Scuba collection has been around since 1991 and has offered multiple iterations of dive watch-inspired models as well as functional models. (Swatch, in fact, offered an analogue watch with a dive meter from 2004 onwards and still does today. It works pretty well. I still take mine out on dives occasionally.)
But this year is special: 2023 marks the 70th anniversary of the first modern dive watch. With that, Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms in a Swatch Bioceramic case certainly brings more eyeballs to Blancpain as a brand, and the Fifty Fathoms’ role in enabling early Scuba divers to discover the deep blue. The five models unveiled today are part of Swatch’s Scuba collection and inspired by nudibranchs from each of the five oceans. The watches are water resistant to 91m (or 50 fathoms), i.e., 300ft, which is more than ample for most divers.
Staying true to Blancpain’s motto of never making a quartz watch, the Blancpain x Swatch Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms will be powered by a Sistem51 movement, which also celebrates a decade this year. The self-winding movement is fully automated in production and secured by a single screw that’s on the caseback. Quick recap: the Sistem51 is made of ARCAP (a copper, nickel, and zinc alloy), with a special escapement set by a regulator. It is hermetically sealed into the watch, which means it cannot be repaired or adjusted. It has just 51 components and a 90-hour power reserve.
What’s fun about the watches is their colourful presence. Blancpain has selected five vivid sea slugs for inspiration, and Gregory Kissling has interpreted them in the form of dial and case colours, as well as colourful NATO straps that mimic their looks.
The Arctic model features Dendronotus Frondosus, which comes in various mixes of orange and white colours with protuberances on its back. The case of this watch is in a beige brown with an orange bezel and a tritium logo on the dial inspired by old Blancpain Fifty Fathoms models, which used the radioactive material for luminescence.
The Pacific Ocean features Chromodoris Kuiteri, which is found in Australian waters. The black, white, and yellow hues of this beautiful gastropod offer a very playful look to the watch, which sports a yellow Bioceramic case with a black bezel and a tri-colour strap that matches the slug.
The Atlantic Ocean model is inspired by Glaucus Atlanticus, which looks like a flying seahorse with spiky wings in blue and white. The watch follows the same two-colour code but in a more subdued tone – we kind of wish Swatch had increased the vividity of colour on this model to really liven it up.
The Nembrotha Kubaryana is one of the most famous and one that most divers in Southeast Asia will be familiar with. Its green, black, and persimmon details are dazzling and similar to the colours found in the region’s coral. The watch comes in a mint green case with a black bezel and tri-colour strap.
Finally, the Antarctic model celebrates Tritoniella Bell, an icy-white beauty that has an almost luminescent presence in the water. The white case is paired with grey details on the strap and bezel. The dial also sports Blancpain’s vintage water-resistance indicator, which changed colour when water entered the gasket of the watch.
The five models are divided into vintage and modern, most obviously on the dial, where the dot-and-bar indexes and vintage details are used on the Arctic and Antarctic models. The rest feature standard Fifty Fathoms dials with Arabic numerals at the quarters and triangle Super-LumiNova PMMA blocks. There’s also a date indicator between four and five o’clock on the modern dials. But all of them have gradient dials, which are printed pixel by pixel to create a fumé effect. The dials bear Blancpain and Swatch’s logos, as well as “SCUBA” and “Fifty Fathoms” on the dial.
What’s truly delightful are the casebacks, where the rotors have been specially designed with the shape of each nudibranch the watches are dedicated to. Give the watch a shake and watch them spin around in a playful and childlike expression of joy. This alone makes us want the watches.
Blancpain has long supported ocean conservation projects, committing to the United Nations’ efforts of protecting 30% of the oceans by 2030. It is one of the largest proponents of this work. And in order to ensure the Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms has minimal impact, the cases are in Bioceramic (duh), and the straps are made of recycled textiles. All of which are great.
However, it’s only fair to point out that the Sistem51 movement uses mined metals and cannot be repaired, although as a movement, it’s rather long-lived. The Sistem51s I own from 2013 are still working quite well. A bigger question is whether this collaboration is spurring even more mass consumption, which is something we cannot answer until 9 September arrives.
The Blancpain x Swatch Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms models are priced at RM1700 each and available at Swatch boutiques from 10 am on 9 September 2023 onwards. And we are biased towards the Antarctic model and the Pacific – the lively colours certainly stand out and make it clear that these are Bioceramic Scubas. Which are your favourites?
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