12.10.2023 | 6 MIN
And it's out. The watchmaking Blancpain and the playful Swatch revealed its spawn from the bottom of the ocean. And once again it's playful, colourful, fun and actually much more. And maybe a lot more than the original MoonSwatches were. Welcome another controversial watch series that reimagines an icon in a bio-ceramic body: the Scuba Fifty.
It's been known for a few days that something was afoot. But perhaps no one dared to guess. The cryptic messages and hints were meant to lure us in. Hook on the diving rod and don't let go until we face the long weekend queue again for more bioceramic Swatches. But this time from a collaboration between Blancpain and Swatch.
I still have vivid memories of speculation about whether there would be more to come after the MoonSwatch pandemic wave. And if so, what would be next?
Overnight legend: MoonSwatch.
But when the Blancpain logo appeared, it completely changed the game, don't you think? I mean, two years ago, all this would have been unthinkable. But now, at least it's left us more comfortable sitting back in our chairs and enjoying ourselves first, weighing up the options before we go hunting. At MoonSwatch, it was a little nuke that made a lot of people kind of sleepwalk. But that doesn't mean that SwatchPain (I'm still looking for a name) is any less worthy of attention. In fact - maybe just the opposite.
Because now we know that the yellow boxes that housed this little secret contained five colourful watches based in design on the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms.
Next to the pattern. Source.
A true dive watch icon that has been around for 70 years (yes, legend has it that it is the Fifty Fathoms that can claim the status of the first true dive watch), it has been given a bio-ceramic case. That's two-thirds ceramic, one-third organic castor oil. The watch glass is also made of Biomaterial, which also has a special anti-scratch coating.
All 5 models have the same dimensions: 42.3 mm in diameter, 48 mm from lug to lug and 14.4 mm thick. From this, one can predict that they will be well wearable for many, but not exactly small. And above all, they will be quite thick. On the comfort side, the lower weight of 44 grams can be tipped to the side of comfort thanks to the material used and the textile strap.
Surprisingly, they all have pre-drilled holes in the case feet for easier strap replacement. The NATO straps are then always in matching colours to the model and are made by recycling fishing nets fished out of the oceans (the buckles are again bioceramic). Not exactly a surprise anymore, given Blancpain's great efforts to protect the oceans.
The colours and other small details of each model are also linked to the oceans. Each model is named after one of the world's five oceans:
Atlantic = blue. Pacific = yellow-orange-black. Arctic = beige-orange. Indian = green. Antarctic = white-grey.
This is where the development team's playfulness comes into play. Each color is based on the colors of the snails that live in that particular ocean. This group is typical of the diverse shapes and colors that inspired the SwatchPain Scuba Fifty. Their silhouette can be found hidden in one more place on the watch...
While the five are very similar in design, you shouldn't miss some interesting differences. For example, the green, blue and yellow-orange-black ones have a date window, triangular indices, four main Arabic numerals and the modern Blancpain logo at the top, along with the name Scuba Fifty Fathoms 91 m/300 ft at the bottom of the dial. These three models refer to more recent versions of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms model.
In contrast, the orange one has the old-school elements of round indices and logos and a "No Radiation" cutout at the bottom of the dial. This harks back to the historic Blancpain model from the 1960s. Similarly, the grey variant features a humidity indicator for a change, harking back to the Fifty Fathoms model from the 1950s. And an interesting note at the end - on the new Scuba Fifty, the indicator is also functional, so that if water gets into them, the semicircle turns red.
The dials themselves are then very detailed, with a gradual smoky transition.
The lunette has a rounded insert with a minute scale and overall the watch looks a little fancier than the original MoonSwatch. It is the curvature of the lunette, which is rotatable in 120 steps, that makes us think more and more of the original model. The case has the Swatch name burned into the side, and the joint Blancpain and Swatch logo on the crown.
The dial is transparent and reveals another surprise: the automatic movement. Less surprisingly, it is the Sistem51, a movement developed by Eta specifically for Swatches. It was a revolutionary automatic movement that was manufactured and constructed on a fully automated line and is famous for its number of just 51 components and a single screw. And a 90-hour power reserve.
In doing so, Blancpain kept its commitment that its watches were not and never would be quartz. Then on the rotor you can still see the laser-burned sea creature moving in the ocean in question. These are the aforementioned snails and a different one was chosen for each variant.
Dendronotus Frondosus for the Arctic, the bright yellow Chromodoris Kuiteri for the Pacific, the blue dragon Glaucus Atlanticus for the Atlantic, the green Nembrotha Kubaryana for the Indian and the translucent Tritoniella Belli for the Antarctic.
Chromodoris Kuiteri as inspiration for the Pacific model (above). Source: www.nudibranchdomain.org
Throw these names, which like me you may have never heard of, into a search engine and it will be immediately clear where the colours of the new SwatchPain came from. Then there's a series of messages on the die. Or rather, messages about Blancpain's connection to ocean conservation and diving passion.
They've certainly played with it nicely, you have to admit. And I think that should be the main goal of this watch - to bring a little more playfulness and pure joy. Still, many will probably once again disagree and as with the Omega, declare this collaboration to be a dehumanization of a watchmaking icon...
However, this popularization of luxury models raises more than these two averted views. But there's no denying that Swatch Group's move is well thought out. Not only has the crowd frenzy around MoonSwatch shown that people want these affordable alternatives (and want them badly indeed), but it's also perfect marketing.
I'll bet you a new SwatchPain that Omega has seen a rapid increase in interest in the Moonwatch. And it's going to be similar for the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. Of course, it'll be the Swatch versions that will be bought by the box, but it's also great advertising for their prequel, which will get a lot more exposure to the wider public.
You may already be looking for SwatchPain details and in doing so you'll inadvertently learn so much new about the original Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. For example, that fathom is the historical length measurement corresponding to the outstretched arms of an adult human. It's exactly 1.8288 metres (ours is a hair less). But importantly, 50 (fifty) fathoms is 91 meters, or 300 feet, because 1 fathom is 6 feet.
And finally - how much they will cost and where they can be bought. Because of the automatic movement used and, let's face it, the detailing, the price will be a bit higher than MoonSwatches. It's set at $400 and will only be available in Swatch boutiques starting Saturday, September 9, 2023.
Again, a little nudge is in order here for those who would go on a weekend trip without a sure win - the Scuba Fifty is not a limited edition and will be free. No need to go to the bottom for them. Not even 50 fathoms. Just... wait.