With the new Blancpain X Swatch Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms collection, Swatch doubles down and expands upon the ideas that brought us the MoonSwatch. This time, the value discrepancy between the real and the homage isn't as large, and the entry point of $400 gets it into another class entirely, compared to the $250 MoonSwatch.
Like the previous Omega collab, none of these will be a limited edition. However, despite some uncertainty at the time of the MoonSwatch's release, Swatch has clearly shown that they value the hype and want to keep the rush and desire at an all-time high. How will they do that? The same way they did with the previous release: a minimal number of watches will be shipped to each store periodically, making the customers hunt and visit the boutiques as often as they can until they find the one they like. Despite initially announcing that the MoonSwatch would be available online, they quickly retracted that statement to keep the hype going. Moreover, despite saying that the Blancpain Swatch will be released globally on 09/09/23, they also went back on that statement, saying that on the ninth, only a couple of boutiques will have it, all located in the U.S. (two of them in New York) and sometime later they will also release it globally in some other stores.
So then why is it almost double the price of the MoonSwatch? Blancpain prides itself in never making quartz watches. Therefore, understandably, this collab had to use a mechanical movement. The movement of choice is the Swatch System 51. The Swatch 51 is the brand's attempt at standardizing and lowering the cost of the mechanical movement, the same way they did with the quartz 30 years ago, to which they lowered the number of components from 91 to 51. They did the same thing here, creating an automatic movement with only 51 parts. Therefore, this mechanical movement is innovative in its cost-cutting measures yet unimpressive in its performance or quality.
The movement is made from a material called ARCAP, which is a copper, nickel and zinc alloy and it is as simple as possible. It is automatic and has a very impressive 90-hour power reserve. There is a problem, though. Despite what 51 parts might sound to the person inclined towards ease of service and reliability, in order to achieve this number, components like the regulator are absent. One would be surprised to hear that the whole movement is completely sealed and cannot be opened, serviced or adjusted. If it goes bad, that's it. You get a new one. If it starts to lose time, you just deal with it. Swatch presents it as if it's all great: "It's perfectly adjusted from the factory and will never have to be opened ever again" yet we all know that's not going to be true. Components wear down, especially when you can't change the oil in the movement, and even more so when the movement in question isn't high quality. It is a scary thought knowing that your 400-dollar watch is disposable. Will you be able to get another 51 in your Blancpain Swatch when the initial one will inevitably fail? Probably, but as we'll see very soon, the original movement is very nicely decorated and it constitutes a very big part of the appeal of the watch.
Coming over to the outside of it, the watch is unfortunately still made from Swatch's proprietary Bioceramic material which is technically two parts ceramic and mainly made from castor oil but in reality, it is pretty much plastic. It looks and feels the part. Same thing with the nato strap they come with.
Coming over to the two crystals and bezel, they are unfortunately also made from a “bio-sourced material treated with an anti-scratch coating" which also means plastic. We have seen how many MoonSwatches came scratched from the box already. These will probably follow suit.
The watch is full of branding, leaving almost no surface without either trademark, but it is to be expected, as the price point is pretty much reliant on the name, not on the materials or build quality. The proportions are all pretty much 1:1 with a modern Fifty Fathoms in terms of the case and the water resistance is, you guessed it, fifty fathoms, which means 91 meters or 300 feet. This is a nice touch and brings us to the good parts of this collab: it's really fun.
First of all, they're colorful Fifty Fathoms. This in and of itself is great! The watch world, especially the community which has the means to focus on 10k+ watches, has been getting more drab and investment-oriented. Watches are supposed to be fun. We all have phones to tell the time and divers have electronic dive computers instead of Submariners. But secondly, they actually made an effort to be fun, and there are many fun details scattered around. The dials for example:
Pictured above is the Arctic Ocean one, and it features a nice detail at 6 o'clock: The famous No Rad stamping found on older Blancpains when having no radium on the dial was a big thing after its harmful side effects have been discovered.
Another fun one is the Antarctic model, which features a moisture indicator as another throwback to classic Fifty Fathoms models:
This little thing would change colour and show the diver that water has infiltrated into the watch, compromising it. Without it, a failure would not be noticed at a glance, divers usually only checking the distance between the minute hand and the bezel indices.
1957’s Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC 1 featured a moisture indicator / Image: Blancpain
Also worthy of note is that these two models which have the fun markers also feature one of the old logos, as seen on these two vintage models. The other Swatches use the more well-known stylized logo of Blancpain:
Continuing the fun of the watches, the back is absolutely gorgeous. Every 51 has been decorated with the appropriate ocean graphics and each watch features a different nudibranch on the clear automatic rotor. If you were confused about the colours chosen, each watch has been coloured after its own nudibranch found in each ocean. The Arctic one is the peachy Dendronotus Frondosus, the Antarctic is white Tritoniella Belli, the Atlantic has the internet-famous, Pokemon-looking blue Glaucus Atlanticus, the Indian version features the green Nembrotha Kubaryana and finally the Pacific version features the black and yellow Chromadoris Kuiteri.
The fact that they are printed on the rotor is an added level of fun, knowing you will see them moving around when looking at the back of the watch.
So where does that leave us? It is a very fun, very fresh rendition of the first dive watch of this shape (though Perezcope might be coming out soon with some spicy info about the beef between the FF and the Submariner). Is it good value? Hell no.
Steeldive Fifty Fathoms Homage / Image: Aliexpress.com (also available with a no-logo dial)
For less than half the price of one of these, you can easily get a Fifty Fathoms homage which has 300 meters of water resistance, a reliable workhorse Seiko NH35, stainless steel case, sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, ceramic bezel, C3 Super Luminova and more. And this would be for under $200. If you go to homages at the same price point as the swatch then you're already going into ETA 2824 territory.
But these ones are just homages and they don't say Blancpain on the dial. Of course they don't. They're not a real Blancpain... but is the Swatch? The trademark is there, but that's all there is. Everything else besides the name and the shape is a Swatch. A cool, fun, $400 Swatch.
We at Orologeria.online have been on board with the Omega MoonSwatch. Although not ideal, many of its shortcomings (like the cheap materials) could be justified at $250... but at $400? Because of a mechanical movement that's made to be consumable and non-serviceable? No.
The idea of these watches is great. They are fun, well-thought-out and serve the needs of the brand as well as the desires of watch enthusiasts, but they're just too expensive for what they offer. They'll be a fun novelty that only the well-endowed will experience, unlike the MoonSwatch. $400 is only justifiable for normal people when they're getting a serious piece they can rely on and maybe even pass down. For the throwaway hyped plastic Swatch, we just cannot recommend it. We still hope that people who do end up getting one will have a lot of fun and cherish them, and we can only hope that Swatch will facilitate some sort of future-proof service whenever the 51 fails, as they do with the battery changes on their quartz watches.
Visually they are stunning and I personally cannot wait to go to my local Swatch boutique to at least see them in person and try them on. Fun things are coming to the watch world and we're here for it!