Some things just don’t get old. At least that’s what Swatch thinks of the well-respected Blancpain Fifty Fathoms — and if this slick, perhaps surprising partnership is anything to go by, the future of horology is in for a puzzling yet playful reality check
The MoonSwatch—an eleven-watch cornucopia of Swatch x Omega goodness—sold over a million units as of last November. The aftermath was clear enough; while the sales figures said plenty, the joint exercise in downscaling the coveted Omega Moonwatch resulted in fiery debates between watch lovers across the globe. Was a watch worth just under 20 grand (INR) worthy of bearing the name and design cues of something with forty times the stage presence and retail price?
Swatch, it seems, has decided to answer by taking a somewhat unexpected route. Instead of working with Omega once again, the accessible watch supergiant has decided to let go of fan expectations — revealing the all-new Swatch X Blancpain Scuba Fifty Fathoms. Behold.
After reinterpreting a fundamentally ‘futuristic’ watch, Swatch has essentially picked up one of the earliest and most-emulated divers’ watches of all time, and given it an accessible, dare-I-say fun spin. Released a whopping 70 years ago, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms celebrated its platinum jubilee this year with a range of commemorative models well into the 20L+ range—the last of which is the Scuba Fifty, which sits at a tantalising 33k INR. As the rather striking promotional video shows, the new watch takes plenty of inspiration from its Blancpain heritage. The design is flat-out Fifty Fathoms—the identical shape, bezels, crown guards, case sides and lugs—even the proportions are by the Blancpain book, with a 42.3mm diameter, a 14.4mm thickness and a 48mm lug-to-lug measurement.
Where Blancpain outclasses Omega’s collab is in cleverly upgrading form and function and in ways that will delight enthusiasts (as well as their wallets). Take the functional unidirectional bezel, enveloped in a glass cover that mimics the classic FF’s sapphire insert. Water resistance is rated at 91 metres or fifty fathoms — a satisfying callback to the 1953 original, and aptly functional within the watch’s Scuba diving operational parameters. There are generous applications of lume on the dial and bezel for easy underwater viewability. The fumé-style dial itself comes in three layout variations; while the standard offers date windows between 4 and 5 ‘o clock, the Arctic and Antarctic models go no-date in favour of highlighting vintage throwback elements. Apart from using old-school Blancpain lettering on both variants, the Arctic references the famous No Radiation (No Rad) Fifty Fathoms, while the Antarctic acquaints us with the Mil-Spec edition, which features a moisture indicator.
What I’d argue is the most striking feature of the watch remains largely hidden behind its NATO-style straps, fashioned from recycled fishing nets. Peeking from beneath is Swatch’s one-screw, 90-hour reserve Sistem51 movement under an exhibition caseback; and boy, is the view something special. Apart from laser printing of each model’s ocean across the movement’s surface, you’ll find a beautifully illustrated nudibranch — a particularly colourful species of mollusc found in various forms across the world’s depths — slinking its way across the rotor.
The complete effect is rather breathtaking, especially compared to the rather sober dial work, and if nothing else, Swatch x Blancpain has imprinted certain joie de vivre that’s been a bit absent in the watch world for a while — a sentiment that they’re clearly keen to share with a much larger audience. While glowing reviews and genuine love for the concept have flared up across the launch weekend, not everything about this watch makes sense.
For starters, there’s the paradoxical availability crunch — despite being marketed as a refined yet accessible reimagining of the FF formula, some buyers have expressed complaints about the boutique experience—a decidedly Swatch problem, not a Blancpain one. The US launch, for instance, has only 9 out of 54 locations reportedly selling the watch. Serviceability is also a major buying factor here; the Sistem51, for all its advantages, is a notoriously difficult movement to repair (at least in previous iterations), is not particularly accurate, and brings up the question of whether Swatch’s use-and-dispose approach towards watches works when tied to the Fifty Fathoms’ legacy.
Perhaps the answer lies in between the lines — the what-ifs of the Scuba Fifty. What if, instead of a Sistem51, Swatch Group decided to use a movement from ETA SA Manufacture Horlogère Suisse? What if we received a more mature, original-inspired colour theme à la the ‘Mission To The Moon’ MoonSwatch? What if they sold the watches online?
The questions will continue as the Scuba Fifty draws eyeballs to both brands, but there’s one that both fans and haters alike are asking — what will Swatch pull off next? We’re not sure, but while this watch is a fun little BlancSwatch for some and a SwatchPain in the arse for others — excuse the humour—the collab comes with plenty of novelty and fun and is perhaps a sign of things to come as mechanical watches creep ever-closer to the masses.
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