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Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe
Blancpain: World-Class Watchmaking Since 1735
The Swiss brand Blancpain is among the world's oldest watch manufacturers still in operation. The company rose to prominence with the Fifty Fathoms diving watch. Top models in the Villeret collection contain carrousels and tourbillons.
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Watches That Write History
Blancpain is the world's self-proclaimed oldest watch manufacturer still in operation. Jehan-Jacques Blancpain founded his workshop in 1735. Over the centuries, Blancpain has developed numerous technical marvels, including intricate timepieces that combine a carrousel and a tourbillon. These watches are among the manufacturer's top models and cost several hundred thousand dollars each. One of the most remarkable things about Blancpain is that, throughout their long history, they have never manufactured a battery-powered watch. Moreover, Blancpain was one of the pioneers of incorporating tourbillons into wristwatches.
The Fifty Fathoms is by far Blancpain's most famous and important collection. Like the Rolex Submariner, it began life as a diving watch prototype and has been proving its reliability underwater since 1953. The modern Fifty Fathoms collection is home to a wide range of models, from simple three-hand watches in stainless steel like the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe to flyback chronographs. There's also the rose gold Fifty Fathoms Tourbillon 8 Jours, which boasts an in-house caliber with an eight-day power reserve.
For something particularly elegant and classic, you should turn to the comprehensive Villeret collection. Named after the company's original location, this collection offers everything from simple to intricately decorated timepieces, most with sophisticated complications. Blancpain produces models with minute repeaters, tourbillons, or moon phase displays. In terms of case material, you can choose from stainless steel as well as precious metals like rose gold or platinum. Ultraplate editions are especially flat at just over 10 mm thick.
As its name implies, the Ladybird collection is geared toward women. Some models feature opulent diamonds and playful designs with moon phase displays, small seconds, or off-center time displays. Unlike most women's collections, these watches exclusively use automatic movements. There are also Ultraplate editions that are less than 9 mm thick. The thinnest version is the Ladybird Ultraplate, which stands at just 8.2 mm tall. Blancpain produces Ladybird watches in stainless steel, rose gold, and white gold.
Reasons to Buy a Blancpain Watch
- Luxury timepieces from the world's oldest surviving watch manufacturer
- Fifty Fathoms: One of the most famous diving watches
- Exclusive models with carrousels and tourbillons
- Precious metals like gold and platinum
- Diamond-encrusted women's watches
Prices at a Glance: Blancpain Watches
|Model, reference number||Price (approx.)||Material, function(s)|
|Villeret Tourbillon Carrousel, 2322 3631 55B||269,000 USD||Rose gold, tourbillon, carrousel, date|
|Tourbillon Grande L-Evolution, 8822 36B30 53B||126,000 USD||Rose gold, tourbillon|
|Fifty Fathoms Tourbillon, 5025 3630 52A||114,000 USD||Rose gold, tourbillon, power reserve indicator, diving bezel|
|Villeret Tourbillon 8 Jours, 6025 1542 55B||90,000 USD||White gold, tourbillon, pointer date, power reserve indicator|
|Villeret Quantième Complet 8 Jours, 6639A 3631 55B||33,000 USD||Rose gold, moon phase, triple calendar|
|Ladybird Quantième Complet, 3663 2954 55B||23,500 USD||Rose gold, moon phase, triple calendar|
|Fifty Fathoms Barakuda, 5008B 1130 B52A||21,000 USD||Stainless steel, date, diving bezel|
|Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC, 5008 1130 B52A||20,500 USD||Stainless steel, diving bezel, moisture indicator|
|Fifty Fathoms Nageurs de combat, 5015E 1130 B52A||19,000 USD||Stainless steel, date, diving bezel|
|Fifty Fathoms, 5015 12B40 98||15,000 USD||Titanium, date, diving bezel|
|Fifty Fathoms Chronographe Flyback, 5085F 1130 52||14,000 USD||Stainless steel, flyback chronograph, date, diving bezel|
|Villeret Ultraplate, 6223 3642 55B||12,000 USD||Rose gold, date|
|Villeret Quantième Complet, 6654 1127 55B||12,000 USD||Triple calendar|
|Ladybird Quantième Complet, 2360 1191A 55A||10,000 USD||Stainless steel, moon phase, triple calendar, small seconds|
|Villeret Quantième Complet, 6263 1127 55A||9,700 USD||Stainless steel, moon phase, triple calendar, small seconds|
|Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe, 5100B 1110 NABA||7,500 USD||Stainless steel, date, diving bezel|
How much do Blancpain watches cost?
Pre-owned watches serve as the entry point into the Blancpain catalog. For example, you can purchase a three-hand stainless steel Villeret with the automatic caliber 951 from the 1990s for less than 2,300 USD. Prices for used Léman pilot's flyback chronographs begin around 5,100 USD. Those looking for a watch to join them on their dives should check out the Fifty Fathoms collection. Here, the Bathyscaphe models are currently the most affordable option, demanding as little as 7,500 USD. If you'd like an elegant timepiece with a tourbillon, the Villeret collection is your best bet. Depending on the exact model, you can expect to pay about 91,000 USD. For even more exclusivity, the collection's top watch, the rose gold Villeret Tourbillon Carrousel, demands roughly 269,000 USD.
Fifty Fathoms: Blancpain's Legendary Diving Watch
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms was one of the early pioneers of diving watches. The French navy had commissioned the manufacturer to design a modern, functional watch for use during underwater exploration. In 1953, the resulting timepiece, the Fifty Fathoms, made its debut – several months before the now vastly more popular Rolex Submariner first saw the light of day in 1954. The name Fifty Fathoms refers to the watch's water resistance to a depth of 50 fathoms. One fathom equals 6 ft (or 1.8288 m), meaning the Fifty Fathoms is water-resistant to 300 ft (91.44 m). At the time, this was an astonishing feat.
Of course, the Fifty Fathoms has evolved with the times, and current models boast water resistance to 300 m (30 bar, 984 ft). For those doing the math, that's 164 fathoms.
Fifty Fathoms Barakuda: Back to the 1960s
In 2019, Blancpain presented a new stainless steel version of the Fifty Fathoms that resembles a classic model from the late 1960s. The Fifty Fathoms Barakuda (ref. 5008B 1130 B52A) features a matte black dial with two-tone rectangular indices. The outer tip of each index is red, while the rest of the index is SuperLuminova in a shade of beige known as "old radium." The same luminous material fills the watch's white hands. The unidirectional bezel is also worth noting since it is made of scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.
Inside the 40.3-mm case, you'll find the automatic Blancpain caliber 1151. This in-house movement provides the watch with its central set of three hands and a date display at 3 o'clock. Its double barrels also mean the final timepiece has a 100-hour power reserve. A sapphire crystal case back provides a view of the movement at work. Blancpain completes the look with a tropical-style rubber strap like the ones that were popular in the 1960s.
The Fifty Fathoms Barakuda is limited to a run of 500 pieces and sells for around 21,000 USD on Chrono24. That's roughly 7,000 USD more than its official list price of 14,100 USD.
Fifty Fathoms Automatique
The watches in the Fifty Fathoms Automatique series also take their designs from earlier models. Blancpain offers versions in stainless steel, rose gold, or titanium. There's also a solid black steel edition for those wanting the perfect "stealth" watch. At 45 mm in diameter, these timepieces are best suited for larger wrists. Beyond the case's imposing size, the unidirectional bezel's diving scale also catches the eye. Blancpain outfits the Fifty Fathoms Automatique with the in-house caliber 1315. This movement has a 120-hour power reserve and a date display at 4:30.
With its black dial, black bezel, and white hands and indices, the stainless steel ref. 5015 1130 52A is the collection's most classic model and comes on a matching black canvas strap. You can purchase a mint-condition version for about 12,000 USD on Chrono24. The same timepiece on a stainless steel bracelet costs roughly 14,500 USD.
The ref. 5015 12B40 98 is a titanium model with a blue dial and bezel. Titanium has the advantage of being lighter than stainless steel. Prices for this edition sit around 15,000 USD. If you're looking for the Fifty Fathoms in rose gold, you should be on the lookout for the ref. 5015 3630 52A. Just be sure to have about 25,000 USD on hand once you find it.
The Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe: A Classic Reimagined
Blancpain celebrated the Fifty Fathoms' 60th anniversary in 2013 by releasing the Bathyscaphe series. Its name comes from the deep-sea submersible first developed by Swiss explorer Auguste Piccard in the 1940s. The original Bathyscaphe models were all 43 mm in diameter and had three hands. In 2017, smaller, 38-mm editions made their debut, opening up the collection to women and those with narrower wrists. No matter which version you choose, it will have a much more restrained and modern design compared to the nearly baroque models of yesteryear.
In addition to stainless steel, rose gold, and titanium models, the Bathyscaphe series also contains Blancpain's first ceramic timepiece. The 43-mm edition is available in stainless steel with a green dial, and you can also find 38-mm watches with white dials. The caliber 1315 ticks away inside the case of the larger models, while the caliber 1150 powers the series' smaller timepieces. These movements come with 120 and 100-hour power reserves, respectively.
The 43-mm Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe
The ref. 5000 0240 NAOA pairs a black ceramic case with a dark blue sunburst dial, ceramic bezel, and NATO strap. A mint-condition model will set you back about 10,500 USD. The titanium ref. 5000 1230 K52A features a black dial and bezel. Its olive green canvas strap contrasts nicely with the titanium case. Prices for this version sit around 9,500 USD.
The ref. 5000 36S30 B52A has a rose gold case, hands, and indices. Blancpain crafts the rose gold markers on the black ceramic bezel out of Liquidmetal™. The combination of a rose gold case and a black dial on a black canvas strap is particularly elegant. A mint-condition timepiece changes hands for roughly 19,000 USD. The rose gold edition with a blue dial and bezel costs a few hundred dollars less.
The 38-mm Unisex Bathyscaphe
You can choose from a blue, black, or white dial and bezel for the 38-mm version of the Bathyscaphe. While Blancpain only produces one model each with a black or blue dial and bezel, there are six different stainless steel models with a white dial and bezel. These watches are targeted toward a more feminine audience. The main difference between these timepieces and the rest of the collection is their straps, which are available in textile and leather. Each watch gets its power from an extra-flat automatic in-house caliber – namely the 1150 and the 1153. Both are only 3.25 thick and have impressive power reserves of 100 and 95 hours, respectively.
The timepieces in the 5100-1127 series make fantastic women's watches. Each has a white dial and comes on your choice of a white, blue, bordeaux, green, or turquoise NATO strap. The ref. 5100 1127 NAWA is mounted on a white strap and sells for approximately 7,700 USD. If you'd prefer the version with a blue strap (with its reference number ending in NAJA), be prepared to spend about 7,600 USD.
The black edition (ref. 5100 1130) is limited to a production run of 100 pieces. Beyond its black dial, bezel, and leather strap, this watch stands out with its stamped line indices and Arabic numerals at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o'clock. Blancpain further enhances the timepiece's retro feel by filling the hands, numerals, and indices with "old radium" SuperLuminova. At the time of writing, there were no listings for this model available on Chrono24. However, it has an official list price of 11,900 USD.
Villeret: Blancpain's Classic Collection
The Villeret collection gets its name from the small Swiss town where Blancpain was founded. The current collection contains a wide range of timelessly elegant timepieces, from simple three-hand watches and chronographs with moon phase displays to highly complicated masterpieces with carrousels and tourbillons.
Ultraplate models are incredibly flat: For example, the white gold case of the three-hand ref. 6223C 1529 55A is only 9 mm thick. This is possible thanks to the automatic in-house caliber 1150, which measures 3.25 mm in height and comes with a 100-hour power reserve. However, perhaps this watch's most notable feature is its blue lacquer dial with unique engraving, resulting in different shades of blue depending on how the light hits the dial. Blancpain crafts the timepiece's hands and twelve applied Roman numerals out of white gold. The final watch is 37.6 mm in diameter, making it a fantastic option for smaller wrists. A black alligator leather strap completes the look. You can purchase a never-worn model for around 13,500 USD.
The Quantième Complet 8 Jours: A Moon Phase and 8-Day Power Reserve
The Quantième Complet 8 Jours (ref. 6639A 3631 55A) is a 42-mm rose gold timepiece. This model has a white dial with stamped black Arabic numerals. A central tempered blue hand indicates the current date by pointing to the scale around the dial's edge. The hands for the hours and minutes are rose gold. In addition to the time and date, the automatic caliber 6639 also provides this watch with a dual small seconds and moon phase display at 6, and week and month displays below 12 o'clock. Fully wound, this movement boasts an impressive 192-hour (or eight-day) power reserve. Blancpain pairs the watch with a brown alligator leather strap. In mint condition, this timepiece costs about 31,500 USD on Chrono24.
About the Villeret Quantième Complet
The white gold Villeret Quantième Complet ref. 6654 1529 55B is 40 mm in diameter and features a dark blue dial with sunburst-pattern engraving that provides a beautiful sense of depth. Depending on how the light hits it, the shade of blue can appear lighter or darker. The Roman numeral hour markers and Arabic numerals of the pointer date shine in white gold. You can find the day and month in windows just above the Blancpain logo. Finally, the moon phase display sits near the center of the dial just above 6 o'clock.
All this functionality comes from the in-house caliber 6654 with a 72-hour power reserve. Thanks to a sapphire crystal case back, you can view the movement at work. A black alligator leather strap completes the timepiece. If you would like to call this model your own, be prepared to invest roughly 20,000 USD.
Villeret Chronograph With a Flyback Function and Pulsometer
Those looking for an elegant Villeret Chronograph should consider the ref. 6680F 3631 55B. The manufacturer crafts its 43.6-mm case out of rose gold. Twelve black stamped Roman numerals adorn the white dial. A pulsometer scale runs around the dial's outer edge – something rarely found on modern chronographs. Using this scale, you can measure somebody's pulse. As for the subdials, there's a 30-minute counter at 3 and a 12-hour counter at 9 o'clock. A date display at 6 completes the dial.
Inside the case, you'll find the in-house caliber F385 with a 50-hour power reserve. You can view the finely decorated movement through the sapphire crystal case back. Blancpain mounts the watch on a brown alligator leather strap with a rose gold folding clasp. A never-worn timepiece will set you back roughly 21,000 USD.
Villeret Tourbillon Carrousel: Prices & Information
With a budget of 267,000 USD, you can purchase the aptly named Villeret Tourbillon Carrousel ref. 2322 3631 55B. As you have likely guessed, this timepiece boasts both a carrousel and a tourbillon. Its rose gold case is 44.6 mm in diameter. The dial features a white outer ring with applied rose gold Roman numerals, while the center is silver and partially skeletonized. The tourbillon sits at 12 o'clock, directly opposite the carrousel at 6. Other notable details include the date display at 3 and the position of the crown at 4 o'clock.
The manual Blancpain caliber 2322 powers the Tourbillon Carrousel and has an impressive 192-hour (or 8-day) power reserve. Of course, this masterpiece also comes with a sapphire crystal case back for admiring the intricate caliber.
Ladybird: Blancpain's Women's Collection
The Blancpain Ladybird collection contains elegant mechanical timepieces designed with women in mind. While there are plenty of classic and timeless options, the collection is also home to numerous colorful, sporty watches like the extra-flat Ladybird Ultraplate ref. 0062 1954F 52A. This particular model comes in white gold and has a dial that features a diamond-studded scene with green grass, a white mother-of-pearl sky, and a blue butterfly. Diamonds also decorate the bezel.
The remarkably thin caliber 615 provides this watch with minute and hour hands. At only 21.5 mm in diameter, this timepiece is the perfect choice for daintier wrists. A textile strap in the same shade of green as the grass completes the look. In terms of price, be prepared to spend around 17,000 USD.
If you'd like something with a more classic design, you may prefer the Ladybird Quantième Complet (ref. 3663 2954 55B). This 35-mm rose gold timepiece has matching rose gold Roman numerals at 3, 6, and 12. Diamonds in rose gold settings mark the other hours on the rose gold-colored dial. In addition to the hours and minutes, the watch's automatic caliber 6763 lends this timepiece a triple calendar complete with day, month, date, and moon phase displays. The price for this model comes in at around 23,500 USD.
The History of Blancpain
Jehan-Jacques Blancpain founded his eponymous watch company in the Swiss village of Villeret in 1735. In 1815, Jehan-Jacques' grandson, Frédéric-Louis Blancpain, modernized the business, introducing series production, updating the design of the escapement component, and developing the first ultra-flat movements. Starting around 1830, the company went by the name "Fabrique d‘horlorgerie Emile Blancpain" and grew into one of the largest watch manufacturers in Villeret.
In 1926, the business teamed up with watchmaker John Harwood (†1964) to create the first automatic wristwatch. Frédéric-Emile Blancpain passed away in 1932, at which point the company was sold to two employees: Betty Fiechter (Frédéric-Emile's long-time assistant) and André Léal. It was also at this time that the company's name switched to "Rayville SA."
With the introduction of battery-powered timepieces, Blancpain was quick to advertise that they had and would never produce a quartz watch. The manufacturer stuck to their guns, even during the height of the quartz crisis that wiped out numerous Swiss watch companies in the 1970s and 80s.
In 1953, Blancpain introduced the Fifty Fathoms diving watch. Initially commissioned by the French navy, it is among the world's most famous watch models today. In the early 1960s, Blancpain joined the Société Suisse pour l’Industrie Horlogère SA (SSIH), which included other major brands like Omega, Tissot, and Hamilton. In 1983, the rights to the Blancpain name were acquired by two industry titans – Jean-Claude Biver and Jacques Piguet, then director of the watch company Frédéric Piguet SA – for the low sum of 22,000 CHF. The duo then relocated the business to Le Brassus.
Only ten years later, Biver and Piguet sold Blancpain to the modern Swatch Group for 60 million CHF, with Biver remaining the company's CEO until 2002. Since then, Marc A. Hayek has been at Blancpain's helm. Recent horological highlights include the "Blancpain 1735," which boasts a tourbillon, minute repeater, perpetual calendar, and split-seconds chronograph. The manufacturer raised the bar again in 2008 with the release of a wristwatch featuring both a tourbillon and a carrousel.