Swatch has just marketed a collection of Bioceramic Scuba watches from September 9, resulting from a collaboration with Blancpain, thus paying homage to the Fifty Fathoms. And unsurprisingly, I had the impression of reliving the same sequence as with the release of the Moonswatch: fiery speeches on social networks and watch forums, endless queues in front of the Swatch Stores involved, the “investors” in the world of Sneakers release, the constitution of the anti and pro camps, in short, Swatch put 20 cents back in the jukebox.
However, it seems to me that we are not quite in a similar context. First of all, the surprise effect is not the same since we have become accustomed since the release of the Moonswatch to the fact that a watchmaking icon can be the subject of a “plastic” homage sold to a price 30 times lower. Many people (including me) feared an image problem with the Speedmaster but Omega subsequently communicated that the release of the Moonswatch had had a positive impact on its sales. Let’s admit and consider that the perception of image risk is no longer the same when the Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms was released as with that of the Moonswatch.
Then, the brand involved in the collaboration is not at all the same scale. Omega is a visible, extremely well-known and dynamic brand, the Speedmaster is clearly one of the watches with notoriety among the general public. Blancpain is not at all in this configuration. The brand is much more confidential and the Fifty Fathoms, whatever people say, despite its history, is only known to watch enthusiasts. So here I touch on one of the advantages of this latest collaboration: it gives visibility to Blancpain, which is not a negligible consequence. I stopped by the Blancpain boutique last weekend and in less than ten minutes, several people came in to discover the “real” Fifty Fathoms, people who would never have visited a Blancpain boutique otherwise.
Now, is Blancpain able to profit commercially from this craze? I honestly think not. For two main reasons. First of all, the entry ticket to acquire a Fifty Fathoms Automatic is over 15,000 euros. So certainly, the Bathyscaphe is more affordable but its price is not cheap either. And then I really have a hard time considering the Bathyscaphe as a Fitfty Fathoms but that’s another subject. The other reason is that the brand, unlike Omega, is not really organized to support this renewed notoriety. In an ideal world, we would have already had to work upstream on the visibility of the brand in a more marked and proactive manner. We must not rely solely on others and it is above all up to the Blancpain brand itself to act on this aspect. And then, let’s be clear: the Fifty Fathoms in the collection don’t really correspond to what customers are looking for today. The diameter of the Fifty Fathoms is 45mm! But who these days will buy, apart from those who have an imposing wrist, a watch of such a diameter?
Blancpain has imposed a strategy on us for several years which is not completely in line with our expectations. The attractive versions, with smaller diameters, with really nice dials are all sold in very limited series with few models available in France. The worst was the partnership with Hodinkee as if Blancpain needed Hodinkee to make a desirable watch. The observation is there: as long as the only simple Fifty Fathoms model available in the permanent collection remains this large 45mm watch (which also shines because of its sapphire bezel), well, Blancpain will not benefit from the renewed notoriety. . So I hope that they have anticipated and that things will evolve. I really like Blancpain and that’s why this situation disappoints me.
Finally, the big difference between the two collaborations remains the product itself. And on this point, I must admit that the Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms marks a very nice step forward compared to the Moonswatch. I had the opportunity to handle it thanks to Mathieu Celi from Watch Interest who is the happy owner of an Artic Ocean version. Because, you see, it’s impossible to see one if you don’t meet an owner of said watch. Nothing is done to shoot them, no press kit, nothing. That is to say that within the Swatch Group, everything is simple, fluid, pleasant with Breguet, Blancpain, Glashütte Original, Omega etc… and everything is complicated with Swatch to see a “plastic” watch. As Beaumarchais says: “I hurry to laugh at everything, for fear of being forced to cry about it.” I’m not going to complain, I am after all more interested in the “Premium” brands but I don’t think it’s a good thing to prevent the flow of information. Especially in this specific case, I have a rather favorable opinion of this Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms.
In fact, I have a feeling this watch will have more impact for Swatch. First of all, it is aesthetically quite successful and I consider it to be one of the most attractive Sistem51 watches. The design features of the Fifty Fathoms are well integrated and the work on the case and dial is well done. Certainly, Bioceramic, due to the tactile sensation it causes and its lightness, does not necessarily have an obvious perceived quality. But the design of the case is pleasant with curved horns, the resumption of the discreet crown protector is well executed, the characteristic bezel is accurately interpreted. The main aesthetic asset, in my opinion, beyond the fidelity to the spirit of the original model is the finish of the dial which has pretty gradient effects and relief effects thanks to the applied indexes. There is even an element that I find ironic: the diameter of 42.3mm… that is to say a more reasonable size than that of the model from Blancpain’s permanent collection… In other words, the Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms better meets my expectations on this point, which is a shame.
The fact remains that the case is thick (14.4mm) mainly due to the passage of two layers of bracelet on the back. The bracelet hides the view of the movement which is a shame. This NATO strap made from recycled fishing nets is more qualitative than that of the Moonswatch but its vertical stripes are not the most beautiful effect and make the watch ugly. By replacing this strap with a plain NATO for example, the watch gains purity and is better highlighted.
You must remove the bracelet to appreciate the view of the SISTEM51 movement:
But the great qualitative advance is at the level of movement. Faithful to Blancpain’s principles, the Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms is powered by a Sistem51 automatic movement which has a generous power reserve of 90 hours. Thanks to its simple and innovative architecture, it is reliable and has native non-magnetic characteristics. Having a watch powered by the same movement, I found it interesting in its winding efficiency and the stability of its behavior. The oscillating weight is strongly felt having a strong propensity to rotate quickly. The point that bothers me, however, is the erratic behavior of the second hand when the crown is pulled out.
Last major characteristic of the Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms and crucial in the context of a homage to a diving watch: the water resistance announced is 91 meters to correspond to the famous 50 fathoms (fathoms). It is therefore better suited to multi-purpose use than the Moonswatch.
I therefore have a favorable opinion on the watches resulting from the collaboration. Provided you replace the bracelet, they are quite attractive, well made and the fact of being powered by an automatic movement gives them a minimum of watchmaking interest. The price is 390 euros which is much higher than another Swatch Sistem51. The context of the collaboration and the fact that demand will remain strong explain this price level. Certainly, watches sold for around 400 euros surely offer superior content as well as better durability by being more easily repairable. The Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms, on the other hand, has a sort of aura due to the legitimacy of the Blancpain context that others will not have. Customers will therefore make a choice between these different parameters.
Concerning the collaboration itself, I think it is especially profitable for Swatch because the Sistem51 movement has never been found in such an accomplished aesthetic framework. For Blancpain, it will then be necessary to capitalize on the peak of notoriety but for this, the brand will only be able to count on itself. It will have to be active in particular by reviewing certain aspects of the offer and working on its own visibility. All these elements make me say that if in terms of product the Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms is a nice improvement compared to the Moonswatch, I think that its impact for the Swatch Group will be less than that of the watch resulting from the collaboration with Omega.