The Topper Blog consists mainly of original writing by Rob & Russ Caplan with occasional special contributions and interviews. All photography in the blog is taken at Topper Fine Jewelers , or on location unless otherwise indicated in the photo captions.

Blue or Black? Two Options for the Blancpain 5015 Fifty Fathom Automatique



In 1953, a year before the Rolex Submariner debuted and several before the Omega 300, Blancpain came out with "Fifty Fathoms", the first commercial dive watch. The first generation timepiece was named for its then significant water resistance of 300 feet (or fifty fathoms), considered the maximum attainable diving depth at the time given the state of breathing gas technology. Since its introduction, the Fifty Fathoms has been the inspiration of all modern dive watches

The original watch was the result of a fateful collaboration between the commanders of the French Combat Diving School and Blancpain's CEO at the time, Jean-Jacques Fiechter. Hodinkee provides a great description here about the how Fiechter's personal passion for underwater diving was key to the partnership, development, and even some of the signature features of the famed watch.

While the initial Fifty Fathoms was a cutting edge tool watch, the current (5015) generation introduced in 2007, though even more technically capable than the original, is now by any measure a refined luxury timepiece. At the time of its introduction, the 41mm Fifty Fathoms was massive in comparison to contemporary watches, then sized between 32mm and 34mm. By today's standards 41mm is similar to the size of best selling "smaller" dive watches such as the Omega 300m Seamaster and Rolex Submariner. The modern Fifty Fathoms sports a case measuring 45mm, again making it much larger than the current industry standard.

The original Fifty Fathoms dive watch at 41mm was considered massive in 1953. (Image courtesy of Blancpain)

The Fifty Fathoms has many attractive features, though widely considered one of the most beautiful and recognizable features is the signature curved and protruding sapphire crystal bezel. Turning the bezel is also a different experience than with a typical luxury dive watch. While pieces like the Grand Seiko diver (SBGA029) have bezel actions approximating a smooth safe combination dial, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms gives a decidedly more positive indication on each click.

The 5015 dial is reminiscent of the first watch from 1953 with four arabic numbers at 12, 9, 6, and 3. However, the font of the numerals at the quarter hours and use of triangular indices are more reminiscent of dial treatments on subsequent Fifty Fathoms models from 1953-55 and again on civilian models in 1960. The date complication first made an appearance on the Fifty Fathom in 1965 at the 3 o'clock position. It moved to the 4:30 position in 1999 and remains there in the modern 5015 watch. In fact, with the exception of the applied triangular hour indices, the dial of 5015 is largely unchanged from when the Fifty Fathoms was reintroduced in 1997 after a twenty year absence, and has been in the current configuration since its update in 2007 when it also gained the aforementioned sapphire bezel and new sword hands.

Aside from its distinctive looks, the watch is also unique in how it wears. Contrary to what one would expect from a 45mm steel watch with a 15.4mm height, this watch is unique in how it conforms to wrists of all sizes. It's rounded case and caseback combined with its short and curved lugs make for a confoundingly comfortable feel on the wrist. The feel of this watch on wrists defies its relatively large size and heft. This 45mm timepiece feels as comfortable and conforming as watches much smaller and made of much more exotic lightweight materials.

Mechanically, the watch features the 35-jeweled 1315 calibre which provides a 120-hour (5 day) power reserve. Unlike it's sister Bathyscaphe models that feature a display back, the Fifty Fathoms movements are concealed by a full stainless steel caseback, under which lies an anti magnetic soft iron Faraday cage. The modern 5015 Fifty Fathoms has a water resistance of 300 meters or approximately 1000 feet. That means it now features a water resistance of 166 fathoms, though it's doubtful to result in a name change.

This brings us to the subject of the post, Black or Blue? The black model is closer to the heritage look of the Fifty Fathoms lineage, while the blue features an attractive option with unique features.

The black model has a high polished finish which is contrary to most tool watch sensitivities, though when combined with the curvaceous steel case and ornate Blancpain logo and script, this watch looks both beautiful and purposeful. In contrast, the blue model features the satin-brushed steel case expected of a tool watch and pairs it with a spectacular blue flinqué dial (and blue sapphire bezel) that would be home on any high end dress watch. Both watches feature contradictory aesthetics, yet they both work.

The black model is more true to the origins and tool watch aesthetic of the Fifty Fathoms line, while the blue model features a visually unique option not found in other high end dive watches. Both black and blue models retail for $14,500 on a tang buckle or $15,100 on deployant clasp.

Please enjoy photos of both models below. Which do you prefer?

The radiant blue model of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatique 5015.

The flinqué dial, applied indices, and sword hands of the blue Fifty Fathoms Automatique.

The (now) contradictory name and water resistance rating of the black Fifty Fathoms Automatique.

The date aperture between the applied triangular hour indices at four and five o'clock.

The signed and protected brushed steel crown of the blue Fifty Fathoms.

The satin brushed and curvaceous steel case of the black model Fifty Fathoms. Note the short and curved lugs which make for a comfortable wear on any wrist size.

The satin steel caseback of the black Fifty Fathoms Automatique.

The iconic black model of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatique 5015.

The stepped dial, applied indices, and sword hands of the black Fifty Fathoms Automatique.

The (now) contradictory name and water resistance rating of the black Fifty Fathoms Automatique.

The date aperture between the applied triangular hour indices at four and five o'clock.

The signed and protected polished steel crown of the black Fifty Fathoms.

The polished and curvaceous case of the black model Fifty Fathoms.

The polished steel caseback of the black Fifty Fathoms Automatique.

The two strap options for the Fifty Fathoms. On the left is the sailcloth with tang buckle, and on the right is the sailcloth with deployant buckle. Both pieces are exceptional in quality, comfort, and looks.

The lume on the Fifty Fathoms is second to none. Both bezel and dial treatments of C3 Superluminova present spectacularly. Chronograph Flyback (to be reviewed soon) on left, Fifty Fathoms Automatique on the right.

A Burlingame Avenue view of the Fifty Fathoms on a sub seven inch wrist. As described above, this watch feels at home on wrist sizes much smaller than you might expect.

The sun on Burlingame Avenue really accentuates the effect of the blue flinqué dial.

The Topper Blog consists mainly of original writing by Rob & Russ Caplan with occasional special contributions and interviews. All photography in the blog is taken at Topper Fine Jewelers , or on location unless otherwise indicated in the photo captions.