BLANCPAIN Fifty Fathoms Automatique

Last year was a big year for Blancpain, with several new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms limited edition releases to celebrate the model’s 70th anniversary. The “Act III” model hit many high notes for Mil-Spec models of the past, but the one thing that caught my eye was the new 42mm “Act I” release in stainless steel. I was hopeful it would be an adjustment for the brand down to more reasonable sizes; not just a flash-in-the-pan but rather a sign of good things to come. Well, those good things are here, with new 42mm by 14.2mm Blancpain Fifty Fathoms now coming in titanium and 18k rose gold in two different dial colors. The new ref. 5010 line of Fifty Fathoms can be broken down essentially two ways: blue dials or black, titanium or rose gold. You can get either combination, with matching color straps in sail-canvas, NATO, or (my pick) a tropic textured rubber inspired by the 1953 model. Unfortunately, there’s no gold Fifty Fathoms bracelet, but the titanium comes with the option for a bracelet (for $2,700 more than on the strap).
This is the more modern iteration of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms , reminiscent of its bigger, older brother in a 45mm case. You get the applied and lumed Arabic numerals on the sunburst dial, with arrow hour markers and a minute track around the outside. This time, the lume comes with metal surrounds, not just bare lume like the Act I release, bringing it a bit more into the modern design language. The uni-directional 120-click sapphire dive bezel has colors to match the dial. Unlike the 45mm Fifty Fathoms Automatique, the dial is flat, not stepped, simplifying the look quite a bit. There’s also a display caseback to see the caliber 1315 automatic movement, with 120 hours of power reserve thanks to the three series-coupled barrels and magnetic resistance due to the silicon hairspring. The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms watch has a number of different prices depending on your choice of strap, bracelet, pin buckle, or deployant, so I’ll just paste what I put below in the specs: $16,600 (Titanium on Strap with Pin Buckle), $18,400 (Titanium on deployant), $19,300 (Titanium on bracelet); $30,900 (Gold on pin buckle), $34,300 (Gold on deployant). Again, it’s not a limited edition, so you have a little while to save up before running off for your new gold Fifty Fathoms.
Last year Tony Traina asked for a 40mm Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and while we’re not quite there yet, these new Fifty Fathoms are great in their own right. It’s also a massive improvement on the past Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatique. Take a look at the photo below and then the following comparing the new 42mm with the (until now) only standard option at 45mm. It’s night and day and the 45mm looks almost comically large. There are certainly other things I’d change, but I liked these a lot in my short time with them. I might as well call out those issues, just for the sake of clarity. The lug width is a very strange 21.5mm, so good luck finding other NATOs in the drawer to fit your new watch. That’s more apparent on the bracelet, where the taper looks a bit odd. The date window is always going to irk people. I don’t find it necessary but it seems to be a top-down edict in the Swatch Group to put dates on watches when they can, and at 4:30 come hell or high water. Also, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms on the side of the case really needs to finally make its exit from the Fifty Fathoms.
Would any of this kill my excitement for the new watches? No, not really. I’m still a fan and these watches wear super, super comfy on the wrist which is essentially the first criteria I have for a watch. The 45mm Fifty Fathoms basically precluded a large number of potential buyers who couldn’t begin to justify wearing a watch that large. Now, at least one problem is fixed. As for the price, that’s largely up to you. I think the unique design touches of a Blancpain certainly make it an enticing option for an eye-catching take on a classic dive watch, now at a more reasonable and widely-wearable size.

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