Properly rare and unusual tool watches are, well, rare, but the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe makes the grade. The key point about this dive watch is that it is offered in full grade 23 titanium for the first time, with a matching titanium bracelet. Yes, grade 23, which made us do a double-take because that is a truly unusual material in watchmaking. Material properties aside, being that the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe is a dive watch, what you will want to concern yourself with is availability.
As far as we can tell, this model is running under the radar but that will surely change. Before that though, there are some important points to note about the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe, and how it differs from the standard Fifty Fathoms. Astute collectors will of course know that the Fifty Fathoms Automatique and Grande Date are both offered in titanium, after all. The most salient point is the size of the look and feel of the Bathyscaphe models, which differ strongly from the standard Fifty Fathoms.
While the Fifty Fathoms retains a strong link to the original 1953 dive watch — some say the first of its kind, and certainly the first with the unidirectional bezel that defines such watches — the Bathyscaphe was introduced in 2013. Interestingly, this version of the Fifty Fathoms watch remains water-resistant to 300 metres despite being more modestly proportioned at 43mm and 13.45mm thick.
This is where that elegance comes in, with the standard Fifty Fathoms remaining pretty large at 45mm and more than 16mm thick. Because this is a Blancpain, the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe does not sacrifice its exhibition caseback in favour of rigour and toughness; as noted, the water-resistance of the watch is not compromised. The calibre taking centre stage here is the automatic in-house movement 1315, as usual. The power reserve remains an impressive five days, from three barrels while the balance spring is in silicon, rendering it impervious to magnetic interference. The finishing is utilitarian, but a step up from what you will typically find in a true dive watch.
This brings us neatly back to the case of the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe and the bracelet. Everything is satin-finished, from the case to the bezel and the bracelet links. While this Bathyscaphe is available with Nato or anthracite sailcloth straps, the bracelet version is what you want. This bracelet is of the same sort that graces the regular Fifty Fathoms; Bathyscaphe models use spring bars not the screw system. Grade 23 titanium is an alloy that includes aluminium and vanadium, and it has all the advantages of other titanium grades, while also being able to take a variety of finishings. This tells us that there will likely be more evolution here; we are genuinely excited at the possibilities.
To close, there are of course the usual elements you only expect from contemporary Blancpain sports models, including the use of a ceramic bezel insert (also satin-finished) and Liquid Metal on the same. The effect should be quite pleasant in person, and forms a contrast with the high polish of the standard Fifty Fathoms models. The baton hands and geometric (as described by Blancpain) hour markers are loaded with luminescent material for good legibility in low-light settings.