Today, September 7, Swatch revealed 5 bioceramic models inspired by the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms which are going on sale on September 9. They are picking up the theme of 5 oceans: the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic and Antarctic. Let me share my initial take on this very special project alongside the 70th Anniversary of the Fifty Fathoms and the watches.
Reflecting on the Omega x Swatch
There is quite a lineup of iconic watches made by brands belonging to the Swatch Group. Some are known predominantly to watch enthusiasts, some reach beyond that point in terms of awareness.
The Omega Speedmaster is the perfect example for a widely known icon, still the MoonSwatch collection elevated awareness to a totally different level. The colorful MoonSwatch models translated a serious iconic watch into fun and accessible timepieces, actually it did a lot more than that: it not only created a lot of traffic for the worldwide Swatch stores and massive sales growth, it also was a genius reflection on the watch market craze fueled by hype and greed.
Some argued the MoonSwatch would damage the Omega Speedmaster brand. It clearly did not, quite the contrary. A MoonSwatch is so obviously not an Omega Speedmaster that the original watch wasn’t compromised. It only made the iconic inspiration known to millions of people who had no idea of it before, and it brought the Swatch take on the Speedmaster on the wrists of those.
And now it’s time for another iconic watch from a Swatch Group brand, currently known to a smaller audience than the Speedmaster: the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms aka the first professional dive watch introduced in 1953.
The Blancpain x Swatch collaboration
I think it is fair to say that the Fifty Fathoms is a well recognized and highly regarded icon among watch enthusiasts. It not only stands for a strong heritage but also the arguably finest and best dive watch in the modern day.
Beyond that inner circle though the Fifty Fathoms name has rather little recognition. Especially in the year of its 70th anniversary the Fifty Fathoms clearly deserves more awareness, and the Blancpain x Swatch collection has already delivered that in only a few days. And now that we see the watches, the excitement is only about to grow:
The week leading up to the release with the first hint being published on September 1 initiated many opinions voiced among current Blancpain enthusiasts and the watch community. And understandably those opinions are very diverse. One stood out for me: „There has never been a Blancpain quartz watch and there will never be“. Would that now be compromised?
This mantra was created in the 1980s and it reflected on Blancpain‘s history and future. And it still holds true today no matter whether the Blancpain X Swatch would be a quartz powered watch. Remember, we are not talking about a set of 5 Blancpain timepieces: they are 100% Swatch, inspired by the unrivaled heritage of the Fifty Fathoms and the Blancpain Ocean Commitment initiative but entirely made outside Blancpain.
Yet, the old Blancpain mantra was not compromised even thought the watches aren’t produced by them. The Blancpain X Swatch models are equipped with the Sistem51 movement, but not only that: the movements are carrying digital prints of the specific nudibranch (a type of sea slug) belonging to the ocean theme.
The watches are based on the modern Fifty Fathoms 5015, with the applied numerals and characteristic hands easily identifiable. But they measure 42,3mm in diameter, so they actually pick up the new FF size we know from the FF 70th Anniversary Act 1. The watches are 14.4mm high with a lug-to-lug of 48mm. They have the typical unidirectional bezel, an exhibition case back and a water resistance of 91m or exactly 50 fathoms.
They come on colorful Nato straps made from recycled fishing nets and the tang buckle in the typical Fifty Fathoms design is again made from Bioceramic, as are the strap keepers.
Some also worry that the collaboration with Swatch „cheapens“ the Blancpain brand. Well, Blancpain has always created watches focused on the person who wears and enjoys them, not for showing off to others. This and an element of real exclusivity is important to many Blancpain enthusiasts, just as the refinement of every detail in a Blancpain timepiece.
The Swatch models of course aren’t as refined. They are not carrying all the virtues of Blancpain as a manufacturer of fine watches. They have the sole purpose to be fun to wear and making the Fifty Fathoms name more recognizable. And they are a most convincing way to do that. But it is remarkable how true to the details the Scuba Fifty Fathoms is done, it is a translation both Swatch and Blancpain can be really proud of.
Now let’s look at the 5 different watches representing the Arctic, Antarctic, Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. The different models are following the colors of a nudibranch native to the ocean the watch is named after and they either pick up the general modern Fifty Fathoms design or even go one step further and get some inspiration of two famous historic icons: the FF MilSpec and FF No Rad, which are notably not having a date window.
The Scuba Fifty Fathoms Arctic Ocean:
The Scuba Fifty Fathoms Pacific Ocean:
The Scuba Fifty Fathoms Atlantic Ocean:
The Scuba Fifty Fathoms Indian Ocean:
The Scuba Fifty Fathoms Antarctic Ocean:
Look at the attention to detail: the crown shape, the perfectly rounded case, the bezel rim and even the engraving on the case flank, although this time we read Swatch and not Blancpain.
Will the Blancpain X Swatch create as much hype as the MoonSwatch? We will find out in a few days, but I personally hope that it will be a smooth sales start without the negative aspects witnessed when the Omega X Swatch went for sale the first day. However, looking at the 5 watches they deserve every bit of the massive attention they get.
I think you can already tell my personal opinion as a 25 year die-hard Blancpain enthusiast: I absolutely love this collaboration! I like the additional well deserved attention for Blancpain and the Fifty Fathoms. I also like the concept of offering some Fifty Fathoms history and design to many people who are not familiar with this iconic dive watch.
And there’s a lot of commitment by Blancpain expressed in this collaboration. I don’t want to repeat their take on the collaboration, so here’s the official press release (click to enlarge):
In the year of the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary we had so far 210 specimen of Act 1 and an annual maximum production of approximately 100 pieces for Act 2. I think it safe to assume that also Act 3, which is supposed to be launched later in September, will only find the wrists of rather few enthusiasts this year.
On that background it is a genius move to offer an accessible, fun watch based on the Fifty Fathoms, which will undoubtedly find many happy customers and wrists. Here’s the open PeliCase in the Munich Blancpain boutique, at this point still in the calm before the storm:
The Blancpain X Swatch will be sold effective September 9 only in Swatch stores. They will not be available for purchase online, and most importantly NOT in Blancpain Boutiques or ADs. The price is a bit higher than the MoonSwatch, here in Germany it is 390€ incl 19% VAT.