Even as purveyors of arguably one of the world’s first truly purpose-built dive watches, there’s no denying it’s been a long time since Blancpain has even been remotely close to the tool watch realm it once pioneered. That being said, it’s still neat to see the brand revisit those days with a marked degree of panache in the recently announced Tribute to Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec – a watch that might cost $14,000, but it’s still every bit the capable tool once relied upon by combat divers in the late fifties. Small calendar Blancpain Fifty Fathoms copy watches are the most charming and elegant designation for men to wear on. Price notwithstanding, there’s a lot to love about this new limited-edition entry to the Fifty Fathoms line – which is likely why the watch is enjoying dive watch lover “sleeper hit” status post-Baselworld. Largely released without major fanfare, part of the Blancpain Tribute to Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec watch’s appeal are its conservative dimensions and faithful adherence to the design codes of the original Mil-Spec. But a key dimension of its appeal is likely Blancpain’s inclusion of a critical feature of the original: a working replica of the “watertightness” moisture indicator at 6:00.Back in the early days “when sex was safe and diving was dangerous,” dive watches weren’t the rugged, reliable tools we’re familiar with today. Though paramount to a diver’s safety, the earliest examples were still susceptible to damage by shock, plagued by poor visibility in low light, and built with cases ill-equipped to handle great ocean depths. Unsatisfied with issued watches that couldn’t (quite literally) perform under pressure, French combat swimmer corps commanders Captain Robert Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud sought out the grandfather of the Fifty Fathoms, Jean-Jacques Fiechter, who was already hard at work on a design that would address these very symptoms.But the watch that became standard-issue to the UDT teams commanded by Maloubier and Riffaud wasn’t Fiechter’s original Fifty Fathoms design, but one that contained an added safeguard: a quirky watertightness indicator that would alert the wearer if their watch was compromised. Now, it’s worth clarifying that such an indicator is a little bit like a smoke detector – it only points out the obvious, and does little to prevent the fire. But back in 1957 when the design was pioneered and soon adopted on all dive watches issued to combat swimmers, a diver only needed to know if his watch could be trusted or not.If the watch was compromised (as many watches were prone to back then), he needed to rely on alternate means for timekeeping, or abort the dive to avoid decompression sickness (or worse). It’s also probably worth pointing out that such a safeguard is admittedly somewhat silly on an ultra-modern dive watch that’s already water-resistant to a crushing 300 meters (and costs $14k), but the charm of the Blancpain Tribute to Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec isn’t its utility, but its admirable commitment to the source material.Speaking of source material, though the case size on the Blancpain Tribute to Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec has been increased from 37mm to 40mm, it’s still a merciful reduction from the last time we saw a Tribute to Fifty Fathoms, which managed to actually wear bigger than its sacrilegious 45mm case width. This 40mm case is really the sweet spot for Blancpain divers like the Mil-Spec, which finally strikes that fine balance between carrying the highly polished visual weight of being a modern “luxury diver” while still staying true to Fiechter’s original vision. If this is a harbinger of what’s to come for the next generation of Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms collection, consider us fans.But back to the moisture indicator for a moment – an indicator one would pray one never sees change color, especially on a watch at this price range. On the original, the idea was that in the event of a moisture ingress, the contrasting white region of the half-circle on the dial would change to a dark pink color. And the less contrast you see between the two, the greater your service bill is going to be. white hour markers Blancpain replica wacthes wasn’t entirely clear about what materials actually comprise the indicator, but it’s raised and subtly textured like the surrounding luminous plots. Functionality-wise, it’s not unlike a water contact indicating tape you might find from manufacturers like 3M.Since the moisture indicator has no connection with the inner workings of the watch (unlike Sinn’s Ar-capsule technology which functions as an active dehumidifier for the movement), Blancpain’s Caliber 1150 is allowed to perform as-is. Given the smaller profile of the case, Blancpain was wise to select a slimmer movement, rather than use the 1315 found on other Fifty Fathoms editions like the Bathyscaphe.Thus, the power reserve drops from 120 hours to 96 – which is still a generous number, thanks to its twin-barrel design. The watch is finished with an exhibition caseback, granting a view of the platinum alloy-coated gold rotor – an extravagant detail for a watch with such humble beginnings, but a nice one to look at, nonetheless.The Blancpain Tribute to Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec is available on one of three options: Blancpain’s now-familiar rubber-backed sailcloth, a stainless steel bracelet, or a black NATO strap – the latter of which seems to best disguise the price point and match the charming fake watches’ UDT trappings most efficiently between the three.
The Advanced Research Travel Time is an obvious departure from previous Advanced Research watches. It is, first of all, the first Advanced Research watch to not be an annual or perpetual calendar; it is the first not in a round case; and moreover it’s pretty resolutely non-traditional in styling. In addition, it’s the first Advanced Research watch to present an innovation in a material other than silicon. the Arabic numerals Patek Philippe Advanced Research Limited Edition replica watches are the best watches for men to wear.
The Crab (if I may coin a nickname) has a lot of advantages over the usual GMT switching mechanism used by Patek – lower parts count (12 parts for the whole assembly, as opposed to 37 in the standard mechanism) and, just as significantly, no gears or pivots. That means no need for conventional lubricants, no friction anywhere in the mechanism, and very probably, much better durability and general functionality. The only downside I can see to it, is that it doesn’t seem repairable; if there’s damage or wear, you’d have to swap out the entire mechanism for a new one – the shell would molt the Crab, instead of the other way ’round. It’s damned clever, anyway.
The other innovation is the addition of a new inner terminal curve, on the Spiromax balance spring. Let’s look at the old and new versions, side by side.
By the way, there is an analogous technique with traditional balance springs. Just as the outermost coil geometry of the Spiromax duplicates the effect of a Breguet/Phillips overcoil, so the inner geometry of the 2017 Spiromax duplicates the effect of a mathematically correct inner terminal curve in a steel or alloy balance spring. One such curve is known as a Lossier curve and it was widely used by the American watch company, Waltham, in its high grade railroad watches.
It’s also a watch that raises the question of how Patek Philippe sees itself evolving in the next decade. Style-wise, this is a polarizing watch; it doesn’t have the easy to like classic configurations of the earlier Advanced Research watches, which are a sort of Trojan horse for silicon. The open dial and the fact that it’s an Aquanaut have raised some hackles amongst the Patek faithful, which I understand (in general, I can’t stand open dials either). With the 5650G, though, I get the logic – this is something of a demonstration model, and it makes sense to make the mechanism visible.
Certainly, there’s quite a lot more fun in seeing it in action, than there would be in watching a silicon escapement do its thing. It’s worth bearing in mind as well that this is a limited edition specifically designed to showcase new tech, and as a limited run concept piece with that tech, the design makes sense even if it’s not to everyone’s taste.
It has to be said as well that these are both extremely interesting innovations and if nothing else, I think that in addition to being pretty cool on their own, they both offer real technical advantages (albeit there are tradeoffs in any engineering solution). Maybe most importantly, though, both add tremendously to the general conversation on modern mechanical horology, and where it’s going to go in years to come.
The Aquanaut Travel Time Ref. 5650G “Patek Philippe Advanced Research” is a limited edition of 500 cheap copy watches. Price, $58,970. Movement, caliber 324 S C FUS, 31mm, self-winding, with 45 hour maximum power reserve, running at 28,800 vph in 29 jewels; Patek Philippe Seal, rated to -1/+2 seconds maximum daily rate deviation. Dual time zone, with compliant steel flexible mechanism for time zone setting. Case, 18k white gold; overall length lug to lug, 47.6mm; diameter from 9 to 3 o’clock including crown, 45.24mm; thickness, 11mm. Inter-lug distance, 21mm. Water resistance 12 bar/120 meters. Strap, water resistant composite with 18k gold foldover clasp