Sweeping the world by storm, the MoonSwatch – a collaborative effort between Omega and Swatch based on Omega’s evergreen Speedmaster model proved to be a masterstroke in branding, marketing and (some might say to its detriment), hype. Indeed, the Swatch Group managed to capture lightning in a bottle for a time in 2022, and has still managed to generate queues every time a new Moonshine Gold model is released. In early September 2023, we started to see glimpses of the next big Swatch collaboration, with the only hints being a silhouette of a watch crown, and a body of water. On the 9th, the general public got to get their hands on the next great collaboration – the Blancpain x Swatch Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms. With the world slowly getting their hands on them post-launch, there are a few questions being thrown about, namely – does this new release recreate the bang that the MoonSwatch created?
The Fifty Fathoms
Many watch enthusiasts will rejoice that the Fifty Fathoms will be getting its time in the sun, and for good reason. It is amongst one of the world’s first modern dive watches, and has a storied history being issued to numerous Navies and accompanying fearless operators on their missions. Most notably, the Fifty Fathoms would be issued to the French Combat Swimmers, who, under the guidance of Captain Robert Maloubier, would work with Blancpain to incorporate their feedback into a watch that matched their stringent requirements. It was also worn by famed director and explorer Jacques Cousteau when he was directing his underwater film, The Silent World. The combination of its technical capabilities, paired with its stories of adventure and action give the Fifty Fathoms its unimpeachable rugged appeal, and makes it a perfect watch to collaborate with Swatch on.
Blancpain x Swatch
As seen in the MoonSwatch, the Blancpain x Swatch collaboration aims to capture the essence of both brands and distill it into its own capsule collection.
All of the models measure in at a wearable 42.3mm case diameter, with a uni-directional rotating bezel – a standard feature for dive watches. Honouring the seafaring heritage of the Fifty Fathoms, there are 5 models that celebrate the 5 oceans – Antarctic, Atlantic, Arctic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, each of which features its own unique coloured Bioceramic case (which in of itself is an eco-friendly material that is two-thirds ceramic and one-third biomaterials derived from castor oil).
Each of these watches also incorporates design elements from Fifty Fathoms watches past and present. In particular, the Arctic and Antarctic models take inspiration from the famed “No-Rads” and “Mil-Spec” watches respectively.
Both of these models feature a vintage-style Blancpain logo, akin to what you would find on the vintage models, and each of these has a distinctive addition at the 6 o’clock position on the dial – the Arctic with its No Rads logo, honouring the early models that did not use Radium in the luminescent material of the hour markers, and the Antarctic model incorporating a moisture indicator like the Mil-Spec models, that tell the wearer that moisture has entered the watch.
By contrast, the Atlantic (Blue), Indian (Green) and Pacific (Yellow) Ocean models take their inspiration from the modern Fifty Fathoms watches, incorporating the modern dial 3/6/9 dial design, and the date at 4:30. Each of these watches are water resistant to 91 metres, which is around Fifty Fathoms – fitting for a watch that should live up to its namesake, and are delivered on a NATO-style strap that is woven from fishing nets that have been recovered from the ocean, and Bioceramic hardware (buckle and keepers).
To what seemed like a sigh of collective relief, the new Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms incorporates the Sistem51, ensuring that the famous tagline “Since 1735, there has never been a quartz Blancpain, and there will never be one”, lives on. On each of the movements, the region of the ocean that the watch pays tribute to is printed onto the bridges, and the rotors feature a picture of a nudibranch that can be found in that ocean. Colourful and playful, the nudibranchs are a great addition to remind owners of the adventure that can be had with these watches. Naturally, the Sistem51 movement also comes with 90 hours of power reserve, as well as a Nivachron balance spring that gives the watch its antimagnetic properties.
To be direct, I hold a sense of cognitive dissonance around this release for a few reasons. Firstly, as a number of fellow enthusiasts and media outlets have pointed out, the watch is non-repairable, somewhat an antithesis of the environmental causes that Blancpain fervently supports. Even though the case is environmentally friendly, the movement itself cannot be repaired – which, to be fair to this release, is the ultimate fate for the majority of the Swatch lineup, quartz or automatic. I am also doubtful whether Blancpain and Swatch will capture the genie again, like how Omega and Swatch did with the MoonSwatch. Undoubtedly, this will be an exercise in brand awareness for Blancpain, however, I would envisage that more time would be spent in the consideration phase of purchasing, given Blancpain’s more niche status in the watch world.
Overall, I am cautiously optimistic of the effects of this collaboration – Blancpain holds a special place in my heart, and I have no doubt that given its fun disposition, this collaboration will see great results in the short term. However, given the higher price point of the Fifty Fathoms, it might be a while yet before the long term fruits of this collaboration can be harvested. I am also sure that this brings more eyes to the watch industry as a whole, and as crazy an idea as this collaboration is, only the Swatch Group would be daring enough to try something like this – and as history can tell, the Swatch Group has been capable of radical thinking to reshape the industry before.