While the French military will never be spoken of in the best light, where World War II is concerned, post-war French military issued watches seem to be having a great moment in the sun as of late.
We got our first taste of this with the postiive reaction the collecting community showed us when we launched the UNDONE Type 20 on Shop.Revolution.Watch. Last week we saw all our Social Media feeds go blue with the launch of the Tudor Black Bay 58 Navy Blue, which was heavily inspired by the Marine Nationale issued ref. 7016 Tudor Submariner.
And now, Blancpain enters the arena with their own French military issued timepiece, the ever iconic, Fifty Fathoms. The Fifty Fathoms came into being in 1953, specially made for the elite combat divers’ unit of the French Navy, with specifications outlined by the unit’s senior commanders themselves.
In 2013, Blancpain introduced what is considered the 21st century descent of the Fifty Fathoms, the Bathyscape. The Bathyscape met with the updated ISO 6425 dive watch standard established in 1996 while listing a depth rating of 300m.
The watch has made for several variants since then in novel and traditional case materials, and an array of colorways. Revolution, too, was honored to have Blancpain grant us our own version of the watch at Baselworld 2016. The watch was a 38mm steel piece, with a unidirectional ceramic bezel with an ultra-daring camo-pattern laser etched onto the baseplates of the self-winding calibre 1150 powering it.
For Blancpain, the Bathyscape has also presented the maison with a platform with which to issue limited edition creations, tied to another universe that it holds dear: the universe of ocean conservation.
Today, in line with their recently established association with the Mokarran Protection Society, Blancpain is unveiling the Bathyscaphe Mokarran Limited Edition in a very small run of just 50-pieces. Although, from the reaction the watch seems to be receiving on Social Media, Blancpain may be promised far too few pieces.
The story goes that earlier in January of 2020 (you know, that lifetime-ago reality when we were still free to move about the world) Blancpain President & CEO Marc Hayek traveled to Rangiroa, French Polynesia, to participate as a volunteer underwater videographer in a scientific expedition focused on studying the seabed with particular attention paid to the hammerhead shark population (its formal scientific name, Sphyrna mokarran), found in the region.
The expedition was in partnership with the Mokarran Protection Society environmental association with the intention of identifying and making a count of the population of the shark species in Polynesian waters.
Blancpain has said that while the hammer head shark is protected within French Polynesia, it remains under threat once out in international waters. Better understanding the species behavior and migratory patterns can allow scientists to put in place measures to protect the hammer head shark beyond established sanctuary waters.
The watchmaker’s attachment to this latest initiative is one that follows multiple prior efforts lead by photographer, scientist and longtime friend of the brand, Laurent Ballesta since 2014, backed passionately by Blancpain and Marc Hayek, himself.
The limited edition is a 43.6mm finished black ceramic watch with a unidirectional satin-brushed black ceramic bezel, green ceramic insert bearing Liquidmetal® hour-markers. What sets the watch apart from preceding Bathyscape watches is really that emerald green used for the dial and bezel. Blancpain calls it “tropical green”. Whatever green it is, it simply works is what matters and gives the familiar Bathyscape a new lease of desirability. Too bad there are only 50 pieces — but wait, there’s more bad news.
Turning the watch over, through the sapphire caseback we see the no-date version of the automatic Calibre 1318. Equipped with a silicon balance-spring, three barrels amounting to 5-day power reserve, NAC-coating on the solid gold oscillating weight that’s engraved with the impression of the hammerhead shark.
$1,000 from the sale of each Bathyscaphe Mokarran Limited Edition will be forwarded to the Mokarran Protection Society. Each buyer will also receive a certificate of donation, a framed underwater photograph from the January 2020 expedition along with a special access code to Blancpain’s Ocean Commitment Circle (BOC). This is a private space within the BOC website that showcases sneak-preview information on the brand’s partners, opportunities to meet them, as well as invitations to previews of documentaries related to the various scientific efforts supported by Blancpain.
That all sounds great, so what’s the other bad news? The watch will be exclusively sold through Blancpain’s boutiques in New York and Las Vegas. Best give your friends in either cities a quick call if you are interested.
Self-winding Calibre 1318; hours, minutes and central running seconds; 120-hour power reserve
43.6mm satin-finished black ceramic case; unidirectional satin-brushed black ceramic bezel; green ceramic insert and Liquidmetal® hour-markers