Swiss luxury watchmaker Blancpain has been in the game since your grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather was in diapers, and that’s assuming all your grandfathers lived long, healthy lives. More specifically, Jehan-Jacques Blancpain founded the company in the year of 1735 so yeah it’s been around for a while. Some say the brand is in fact the oldest watchmaker still in operation and we’ll let the experts hash that one out because we’re not freakin’ historians.
In the time since its inception, Blancpain has staked a claim on a slew of innovations and tons of loyal followers, but their biggest impression to date has come courtesy of their commitment to deep diver’s watches and ocean preservation. As such, each Blancpain timepiece is a mechanical symphony of form and function, built to withstand the most hostile of conditions but never looking anything less than spectacular.
In honour of their continuing legacy, Blancpain unveiled a stunning limited edition Ocean Commitment Bathyscaphe Chronograph Flyback in 2014, and this October saw the release of a follow up. Naturally, we were all over it. Read on for a brief overview of the brand as well as more details on the new remarkable limited edition timepiece from Blancpain.
Blancpain was successful right out the gates but really took off in the early to mid 1800s. That’s when the founder’s great grandson Frederic-Louis Blancpain revolutionised the average workshop by transforming it into an industrial powerhouse that could handle an increase in production. Frederic’s next move was to replace the crown-wheel mechanism with cylinder escapement, which at the time was a pioneering innovation. Thanks to his brilliance, the House of Blancpain enjoyed even greater success and became the most iconic and popular watch company to hail from the Swiss municipality of Villeret.
Jump ahead to 1953. Blancpain was still around and still killing it while legions of competitors had come and gone. The industry in general was running high on innovation and Blancpain remained no stranger to thinking outside the box and delivering an exceptional product. It was therefore no surprise that the brand was commission by the newly created French Navy’s combat diver team to build a watch that could endure their deep underwater dives. To deliver the goods, Blancpain partnered with French watch company LIP and the result was the Lip-Blancpain Fifty Fathoms waterproof watch, a product that’s still hailed as a masterpiece to this day among collectors.
While initial production was limited and the earliest Fifty Fathoms were used almost exclusively by the military, starting in 1956 the timepiece got some serious publicity. The first wave (no pun intended) came when famous diver Jacques Cousteau wore one in the 1956 award-winning underwater film Le monde du silence, and then in 1962 came a second wave when TV and film star Lloyd Bridges wore one on the cover of Skin Diver Magazine. Between the great publicity and the exceptional craftsmanship of the watch itself, it didn’t take much for the Fifty Fathoms and Blancpain to become the true stuff of legend.
The “GOMBESSA” Expeditions
Given the storied relationship between Blancpain and underwater dives, the brand has developed a devout passion for ocean preservation and exploration. In 2013, Blancpain truly put their money where they mouth was by supporting the “GOMBESSA” Expedition, an extraordinary ocean dive in South Africa that brought renowned diver Laurent Ballesta face to face with a near mythological deep sea creature called the Cœlacanth, known among the locals as “Gombessa”.
Equipped with a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms (and presumably some diving gear) and joined by a small team of expert divers and researchers, Ballesta plunged 120 metres below the ocean’s surface day after day in search of Gombessa. At long last the creature was discovered and photos of the expedition were captured in stunning detail.
Thanks to its lobe fins and ‘primitive lung’, the Gombessa is not only a true sight to behold, but supposedly an evolutionary link between backboned fish and four-legged vertebrate land animals. In other words, history was duly made the day Ballesta and Gombessa first met!
But the fun didn’t stop there. Inspired by their remarkable discoveries, Blancpain and Ballesta have teamed up for at least two more GOMBESSA Expeditions aimed at unlocking the unfathomably awesome mysteries lurking deep within oceans across the world. There for every step of the adventure is the stellar, signature Blancpain Fifty Fathoms.
Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph Blancpain Ocean Commitment
In case it’s not incredibly obvious by now, Blancpain has as deep a respect for the ocean as it does for the best in gear. In the 60 years since the debut of the Fifty Fathoms the brand has been completely dedicated to ocean preservation, protection and research. Evidence of their commitment is seen time and again through sponsored expeditions, one-of-a-kind photography, public awareness initiatives and, of course, state of the art watch collections.
In 2014 Blancpain launched the limited edition Ocean Commitment Bathyscaphe Chronograph Flyback. The piece was a celebration of watch history and moreover of the brand’s unwavering loyalty to deep-sea exploration and ocean preservation. Now Blancpain has returned with the Ocean Commitment Bathyscaphe Chronograph Flyback II. Limited to a mere 250 units and flaunting an all-blue ceramic case, this is truly a piece of gear like no other.
Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph Blancpain Ocean Commitment II
Blancpain’s latest retains plenty of features from the 2014 Bathyscaph Flyback Chronograph and that’s a good thing. Sporting a case that’s 15.25mm thick with a sapphire crystal back and able to endure dives of up to 300 metres, this beautiful watch truly offers the best of sport and style. The timepiece runs on an automatic F385 calibre that was developed in-house and delivers a rapid balance frequency of 5Hz, which allows the chronograph to divide times into 1/10 of a second. Pair that with variable-inertia balance, a silicon balance spring and vertical clutch aids which enable the stopwatch to run without disrupting the rate accuracy and you’re looking at the tippy top shelf of precision and performance. Of course let’s not forget that premium ceramic and a blue pigment that arrived only after years of research and hard science.
As lovers of brands that offer both great stories and great products, it doesn’t get much better than Blancpain. And due to their ongoing commitment to innovation and adventure, we expect those great stories and great products to keep getting greater. Thank you, Blancpain. Seriously. Don’t ever change.