Into The Reef With Blancpain’s First Fully Ceramic Fifty Fathoms
— Updated on 2 July 2024

Into The Reef With Blancpain’s First Fully Ceramic Fifty Fathoms

— Updated on 2 July 2024
Randy Lai
WORDS BY
Randy Lai

It’s not often that Aussie luxury journalists get the global scoop on a new product, but that’s precisely the situation we found ourselves in earlier this week: when Blancpain ferried a handpicked cohort up to The Whitsundays for the unveiling of its newest Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe — available, for the first time, in a fully ceramicised construction.

Against the backdrop of the InterContinental Hayman Island, the high-end Swiss watchmaker presented three ceramic divers that walk a tightrope between sporty performance and daily wearability (two defining qualities for the ‘Bathyscaphe’ sub-line).

RELATED: Blancpain’s Villeret Perpetual Calendar Celebrates The Leap Year In Style

Understandably, such a momentous occasion, and even more breathtaking setting, meant it wasn’t enough for Blancpain to simply chuck these new ceramic Bathyscaphes into a showcase and call it a day.

Instead, the brand utilised the launch as an opportunity for education: bringing everybody up to speed on the work of Biopixel, its ‘Oceans Foundation’ partner in the Great Barrier Reef. Between bouts of snorkelling and a few glasses of Brut, of course.


Biopixel & Blancpain’s Barrier Reef Connection

Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Ceramic
Pictured: Dr. Adam Barnett, Principal Scientist at Biopixel, gives a brief overview of the firm’s ongoing research into shark-human interactions.

In the past half-decade, it’s become virtually impossible to avoid the sheer amount of marketing guff luxury watchmakers deploy, asserting their (often tenuous) connection to the world’s oceans.

At Blancpain, the commitment to deep-water exploration and marine conservation is decidedly more authentic: began, in earnest, over a decade ago with the brand’s establishment of the World Ocean Summit.

You might even make the argument that this affinity for everything aquatic goes back to the 1950s — when Blancpain’s then-CEO Jean-Jacques Fiechter masterminded the creation of the Fifty Fathoms.

That, in turn, has evolved into the Blancpain Ocean Commitment: an initiative under which the makers of the world’s first original dive watch put a portion of their resources toward “[developing] concrete and tangible advances in the protection of the underwater world”.

RELATED: Blancpain Strengthens Its Commitment To Preserving The Reef, In Partnership With Biopixel

Locally, the partner organisation that Blancpain has chosen to further these aims is Biopixel. Last year, we covered the operations of the Queensland-based non-profit, led by marine biologist and award-winning oceanographer Richard Fitzpatrick, in brief detail; but it was something else entirely, to get the story straight from its source — and observe the vast 2,300-kilometre reef system across which Biopixel operates.

Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Ceramic

The team were introduced to Blancpain through fellow marine scientist — and friend of the brand — Laurent Ballesta. “Fundamentally,” says Fitzpatrick (who won an Emmy back in 2010 for his cinematography on Great Migrations), “we live in two worlds: science and filmmaking”.

Both companies entered into a formal partnership in 2022: enabling Biopixel to go full steam ahead on a range of new and ongoing projects.

BioTracker is one such initiative: drawing on the research of Dr Adam Barnett, Biopixel’s Principal Scientist, so that the public can learn more about marine animal behaviour and observe human-shark interactions in real-time.

In line with his team’s recent focus on providing a comprehensive analysis of megafauna, Fitzpatrick also took media on a quick dip around Whitehaven Bay: to better emphasise how reef inlets of this quality (marked by ample algae and good water visibility) are under threat from coral bleaching.

Education through direct exposure was obviously the main takeaway; but, for such weighty subject matter, it was also incredibly beneficial to have the core Fifty Fathoms references (sized at 42mm and 45mm) on wrist.

Watertight to 300m and outfitted with 5-day power reserves, they were suitably serious instruments to accompany our reccy around the world’s largest coral reef system. True to their reputation: they look and wear fantastically in the water.


The Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe — Now With A Bracelet In Bold Black Ceramic

Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Ceramic

The interactions with Biopixel were contrasted with the comparatively straightforward matter of seeing a new product: the aforementioned Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe in full ceramic.

Blancpain is celebrating the 70th birthday of the original Fifty Fathoms military diver this year; and thus, these new Bathyscaphe models are the latest in a progression of submersible models you can expect to see before the sun sets in 2024.

What makes this release so notable, however, is the material innovation. To date, the brand has only offered a Fifty Fathoms with a ceramic case and/or bezel. These Bathyscaphes — available in time-and-date, an annual calendar, or flyback chrono configurations — mark a change of pace for Blancpain: fitted with ceramic bracelets which are all hand-finished and produced in-house.

Perfectly in keeping with the launch’s Hayman Island setting, the Bathyscaphe models we went hands-on with were kitted out with blue or green dials. In the past, this is an aesthetic element that Blancpain has iterated on extremely well.

Even in photos, you get an impression of the dramatically layered effect achieved via a combination of gradient colouration and sunburst finishing — shimmering or darkening, based on your immediate surroundings.

The Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphes above ($41,400) combine a fully ceramic case and bracelet — a new achievement for Blancpain — with complete calendar displays and your choice of green or blue dials.

These expressionistic qualities are echoed in the new ceramic bracelet and case. One of the biggest challenges associated with the material is its waxen, plasticky sheen. To ensure a finish that feels suitably polished, Blancpain cooks its ceramic at temperatures over 1400°C.

The resultant cases and bracelets are then satin-finished using diamond-tipped machinery — down to the lugs and individual twin-lock clasps — so that collectors are left with a black ceramic that alternates between being matte and faintly luminous. (As you can see above, there’s an almost silvery sheen when these Bathyscaphes are worn in sunlight.)

Pictured: Those Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe models updated with the new ceramic bracelet include a small-seconds version, priced at $33,900 (left); and a flyback chronograph, priced at $41,400 (right).

For various reasons, Blancpain has opted to make the new Bathyscaphe Complete Calendar the star of the ceramic show.

Chief among these is the fact that it successfully integrates serious diving heritage with all the “haute horlogerie elements that characterise Blancpain”. (Namely, a complete calendar complication decorated with the brand’s smiley moonphase.)

In the coming months, we’ll be getting our hands on the remainder of the new all-ceramic models — notably including the green-dialled flyback chronograph pictured above — but for now, the general sense is that these extensions to the Bathyscaphe range bring a welcome dose of material ingenuity to the world of Fifty Fathoms.

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Randy Lai
WORDS by
Following 6 years in the trenches covering consumer luxury across East Asia, Randy joins Boss Hunting as the team's Commercial Editor. His work has been featured in A Collected Man, M.J. Bale, Soho Home, and the BurdaLuxury portfolio of lifestyle media titles. An ardent watch enthusiast, boozehound and sometimes-menswear dork, drop Randy a line at [email protected].

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