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Any category of watch has its «Grail» complication.
If the sounding complications are the Grail of the dressed-up watches, the chronograph is that of the sports watches, the diver's Grail is undoubtedly the depth gauge.
2007 was somewhat the year of the depth gauge wristwatch:

Yet, throughout this decade of horologic renewals, there have been few noticeable depth gauges.
Panerai, with its PAM193 and JlC with its Master Compressor Diving Pro Geographic, have presented two radically different Depth gauges, both of them frustrating.
Let's talk quickly about the Panerai, which, with its electronic module brings nothing more than a Diving computer.
On the other hand, the Jaeger benefits from a reliable mechanical system!
But the lack of legibility caused by excessive complications, and most of all the lack of a maximum depth indicator make this watch a «desk diver», which is unfortunate, as JlC was almost there.
2008: Favre-Leubra, a mythical brand for the dive lovers, presents a mechanical Depth gauge, a direct descendant of the Bathy from the 70's, the «Bathy V2»; Despite the interest level of the piece, the brand was shelved soon after; Hence, it will be impossible to write a relevant commentary about this stillborn watch.
2009: IWC presents its «Aquatimer Deep Two», descendant of the unreliable but beautiful «Deep One» from the 90's.
The «Deep Two» drew quite a few lessons from the recent wanderings. The watch is a success aesthetically, and the complication gets down to the point; the 2824 is not awkward, as it makes room for the depth gauge.
But its big flaw is precisely the depth gauge ; if it is technically well designed (maximum depth and current depth), it is not the case aesthetically : the two little indicators are barely legible underwater, and even less when one knows that the deeper you go, the less you can see the white of the indicators…

All these watches have something in common; they were all designed as watches with an added depth gauge.
All of them more or less took after a "Desk-diver".







2011: Blancpain chooses to do the opposite with the X-Fathoms: to put a watch into a dive instrument.
Thus, rather than presenting a luxury watch fitted with a depth gauge, Blancpain proposes a luxury depth gauge fitted with a watch. Indeed, the object somewhat reminds us of some vintage instruments, such as Panerai's.
The depth gauge is 55mm by 24mm and was designed as a stand-alone instrument, to be used with decompression tables.
For that matter, if tomorrow Navy Seals published military specifications for a depth gauge wristwatch, this X-Fathoms would be a match without shaming its ancestor.



The dial is designed for maximum legibility, which makes sense for a diver, but for horologic reasons the background is black and features three colors:

• Luminova green: This color is the one that best renders luminosity.

• Luminescent blue: blue is the last of the basic colors to disappear underwater.

• Fluorescent Orange: it is the color that best reflects UV in deep water, after all the other conventional colors have faded. That is the reason why it is used for depths superior to 15 meters.

The green is laid out akin to the basic «Fifty Fathoms», that is for the hours, minutes, seconds and on the gigantic bezel's perimeter (by the way, Blancpain reiterates the sapphire bezel feat seen on the Fifty Fathoms presented in 2007)

The outer blue scale (orange between 2 and 6 meters for the final decompression stop) indicates the depths ranging from 0 to 15 meters.
The inner orange scale indicates depths between 0 and 90 meters.

The blue « spatula-shaped » hand indicates depths ranging from 0 to 15 meters, whereas the orange « pie server shaped» one indicates the actual depth ranging from 15 to 90 meters.
The red square indicator shows the maximum reached depth.
A doubt remains regarding the legibility of this color underwater, divers will know the answer…

The retrograde hand at 10 o'clock is a 5-minute counter that times the decompression stops for base depths; it is actionable with the pusher at 11 o'clock. This function is especially useful for leisure diving, since the decompression stop's length increases with the dive's depth and duration.

The covered button at 8 o'clock resets the maximum reached depth indicator.



The watch is fitted with the 9918b caliber, which, besides its size (36mm by 13mm), uses the FF 120-hour power reserve set at the same frequency.
It is fitted into the enormous 55mm by 24mm titanium technical case.



On the wrist: it is surprisingly wearable! And comfortable! But keep in mind that its look and its dimensions put it out of the Desk-Divers category, which makes it especially interesting…
The surprising thing comes from its size, because with its slightly curved 55mm case, it looks a little less bulky that the square 46mm watches.
The piece is strikingly thick, 24mm, but fortunately the wristband is almost one centimeter thick, which somewhat diminishes the overall bulky effect; In short, the design is not as "on steroids" as one could assume after reading the technical chart.
The comfort, far superior to many other « normally sized » divers, is due to the extensive use of light metals, especially the titanium case, and the rubber wristband.
The strap is absolutely radical in terms of concept, with multiple adjustment points; and it is made of extendable rubber that fits perfectly…
Two criticisms however: one sweats very quickly with this material (more than with stiffer qualities of « genuine » rubber);
As for the clasp, (whose sharp design does not necessarily match that of the watch), it is fitted with a double « spike» so thin that it tends to hurt the fingers when opening/closing.
One could hope for a commercial version (let's not forget this is a prototype) fitted with a wristband made of titanium to emphasize the « technical » look, or one made of fine calf leather to reinforce the «tribute» to the FF.
Among the details of finishing not visible on the press photos, we should mention: the slightly domed crystal, the digits on the dial, especially the orange ones, which are embossed;
And the magnificent finishes of the grill that covers the water inlets.
Obviously, the radioactive symbol on the case back is a reference to the Fifty Fathoms « No Rad » with tritium.







Before writing this article, I read many reviews, criticisms, often funny, sometimes totally warranted, sometimes pointless.
The most futile talked about « the uselessness of an enormous mechanical depth gauge when dive computers exist»
That brings us back to the non-competitiveness between mechanical technology and electronics.
However, it does not prevent us from buying obsolete mechanical watches (one could even apply the same rationale to sports cars as compared to hybrid vehicles).
As for all the UHO (Unidentified Horologic Objects), making an anachronistic object that ignores the evolutions of electronics is worthwhile, it works.







With this watch, Blancpain signs a « Concept watch », as the piece is definitely not intended for James Bond loving « Desk divers »; but rather for Navy Seal loving «Root divers».
If you spend 6 months a year on the seaside and you love fishing for mermaids in the depths of the sea rather than lying on the beach, this watch enables you to put the dive computer aside, provided you use decompression tables.
Overall, it is a "back to basics".On the top of that, it tells time!!

 

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Now that is a very nice watch! I particularly love the caseback, it's a nice touch!
Also, very good write up. Thanks for sharing!

cheers,
Jake.
 

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Thanks for the write up. It is an amazing piece of engineering.
 

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Nice report on a very interesting concept watch.

However, the fact that it's more of a dive instrument fitted with a watch than the opposite makes it difficult to wear... And that dive instrument is far more difficult to use and practical than modern days dive computers... Mmmmm
 

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I am not sure where you are coming from with your opinion on this being a practical diving instrument but I can not agree. I think it is very illegible, exceptionally overpriced and there is not a chance in the world of it ever being selected by the Navy Seals as an issued piece of gear. If you like it have at it but IMO it is the epitome of a desk diving commando watch. It makes absolutely no sense in any way especially at it's cost of about $40,000.
 

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I wore this watch in November and it's actually quite legible. I'm confident that with a bit of time spent 'training' (as one would do with any dive computer), that reading the time and current depth wouldn't be a problem. IMO, the color coding does help with legibility but at any significant depths the actual colors chosen are not relevant. I'm sorry I haven't posted any photos, but my macro lens was broken in an accident shortly before we made the trip to Dubai and they didn't really come out very well. I could just as well have used my phone :roll:
I have to say the watch is very attractive in the metal. I don't see it as a 'practical' piece in any way, but it certainly is a technological tour-de-force and I welcome Blancpain's work in developing both a new in-house caliber and an amazing bit of mechanical wizardry :-!
 

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Thank you for the write up...Great article. I am personally not a fan of the watch but kudos to Blancpain for something radical. I can't imagine the crazy engineering that went into this watch and design etc. Good for them for doing it and I hope they sells well.
 

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I kind of think this watch is a modern reinterpretation of the original, it´s the watch they wished they had the tecnology to create in 1953. Sort of like this...
Land vehicle Vehicle Car Model car Sports car

Not a retro, but an improved classic, not usable everyday, not the quickest and ultra expensive. Still.... I want one.
 

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I kind of think this watch is a modern reinterpretation of the original, it´s the watch they wished they had the tecnology to create in 1953. Sort of like this...
View attachment 577623
Not a retro, but an improved classic, not usable everyday, not the quickest and ultra expensive. Still.... I want one.
Eagle? Beauty!! But almost half a million pounds worth!
 
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