For most watch collectors whether veteran or starter, the Rolex Submariner always seems to be the most preferred watch, especially when it comes to the diver category. The truth is, there are still many that believe Rolex had created the very first “divers” watch and were also the very brand that started this category. Without being the bearer of too much bad news, that is sadly not the case even though it is only a difference of a year.
In fact, it was Blancpain under the direction of Robert Maloubier that created the very first “divers” wrist watch in 1953 which we know today as the Fifty Fathoms. Where facts might have been confused or even convoluted is Rolex’s place in history creating the first water resistant watch. In the 1920’s Hans Wildorf (also the founder of Rolex) collaborated with then known watch makers Paul Perregaux and Georges Peret to create the first shock resistant mechanism that would also be air sealed inside a case to create resistance against water.
Although Rolex can stake claim to creating the first waterproof wrist watch, they were also met with many challenges when it came to withstanding depth. Up until the 1950’s an attempt was made my Panerai who then only exclusively made watches for military use, more specifically the Italian military. There were indeed many improvements to be had when it came to withstanding high depths, but when it came to the heavy abuse from military applications, those watches would meet their end sooner rather than later.
With dive missions getting ever so complicated with advancing capability, the requirement for a wrist watch that can not only withstand the depth of deeper water, but can also still be fully used as a tool under water gets exponentially tougher. But in 1953, it was Blancpain that was awarded with the coveted French Military contract, and won the bid to build them the best divers watch possible.
Through many trials and tribulations in all aspects of design ranging from the larger rotating bezel with big bold hands on the dial to match, where all placed with the diver completely in mind. The result, a fine divers watch that can withstand hundreds of meters underwater, and still be fully functional while being taken underwater. With major improvements to legibility and use underwater, it’s safe to say that Blancpain may have nailed it.
Even with its history however, the Blancpain 50 Fathoms collection which is still largely based off the original dwarfs in comparison to the Submariner today when it comes to numbers of owners. Of course there is the matter of the average price difference which in some cases can be significantly higher than a standard submariner. But if we only focus on the current bathyscaphe collection, the three handed version in stainless steel is not that much more expensive than a no-date or dated submariner.
In all fairness, both watches are incredible and each of them deserve a great level of credit. However, my preference would probably be leaned toward a Bathyscaphe over a current sub any day. Primarily due to my being able to see the movement in a transparent case back whereas the submariner will always stick with the solid screw down no matter what.
Pound for Pound both watches are incredible and in the end it will always be a matter preference, but for those considering a sub, why not consider a Blancpain too?