Long name, simple watch: the Day Date Seventies is the best from Blancpain this year – but it’s not without its issues
By Chris Hall
There’s a bit of a trend emerging at Blancpain whereby we get one watch released every year that cuts through the rich, luxury-with-a-capital-“L”, fois gras with truffle shavings menu of haute horlogerie and metiers d’art that makes up the bulk of Blancpain models like a glass of crisp tonic water with a dash of lime. One watch a year that reminds everyone what’s great about this brand.
Last year it was the Tribute to Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec, a 500-piece limited edition watch that stood out for its orange and white water-tightness indicator. This year it’s the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date Seventies, another heritage-inspired model that takes its design cues from an early 1970s Fifty Fathoms reference, and is again limited to 500 examples.
Whoever’s in charge of snappy names at Blancpain can be politely shown the door – I’m going to refer to it as the Day Date Seventies from now on – but when you actually get up close with the watch itself, the news is all good. Here’s a well-executed piece of retro-throwbackery, a dial design that’s taken everything cool about the original and run it through the pencil sharpener until every index, line and facet absolutely sparkles.
The colours are rich and deployed sparingly – the sunburst gradient is the at-a-glance selling point of the watch, at times grey-blue, at others firmly brown, and always establishing a pleasant contrast with the crenellated minute track in brushed rhodium. The decision to revert to the standard syringe hands of the Bathyscaphe was probably the right call, too – those red hands are cool on the 70s watch, but would have looked too much like a parody here. It’s worth noting in passing that the lume on these is super-strong – often I’d find it glowing during the day.
Crispness and clarity are the continued theme when you move outward from the dial. The ceramic bezel, which on the Bathyscaphe line is always nice and thin, is flawlessly fitted with its metal inserts. It clicks round with an almost violent ratchet sound and there’s no trace of wobble.
Same story with the case. In contrast to the standard Fifty Fathoms, which I always feel looks a bit like it has been over-polished, the Bathyscaphe lines are taut, and given a brutal, industrial emphasis by the brushed finish. Check out these lugs – so sharp you’ll cut yourself, as they say.
This is a 43mm watch, yet it wears a lot smaller, I think thanks to the proportions of the bezel and tapered lugs, and lack of crown guards or other extraneous metalwork. It’s not overly thick either, at 13mm, so it’s a genuine contender for all-round weekly wear. There’s no risk the bezel’s teeth will shred your work shirts over time, either, unlike some desk divers.
The movement inside is Blancpain’s calibre 1315, a five-day power reserve automatic beating at 4Hz with a free-sprung balance. It’s nicely finished for a tool watch movement, with some circular graining, polished countersunk screws and bevelled edges underneath a sandblasted-effect rotor. The model we had to try out was a prototype, so the caseback came devoid of markings – retail-ready watches will have “Blancpain”, “Swiss Made”, “Antimagnetic” and other writings on here. Living for a week with the proto-spec watch made me wonder if such things should be deletable options, like the badge on the back of your Porsche or Mercedes.
I said at the start that this watch wasn’t without issues. In all honesty, there aren’t many: there is of course the question of the date window – this watch makes a play of the day-date function right from the off, and it’s consistent with the model it pays homage to (for once), so while it may not please you, I think we can at least agree Blancpain is on safe ground including it.
The other potential sticking point is the price, and that depends rather on what you see as the natural competition for this watch. It retails at £9,290, which places it well above most divers or higher-end tool watches from Panerai, IWC, Rolex, or something with similar brand prestige from say, Zenith or Chopard. It’s more expensive than the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris, which arguably ticks a lot of the same boxes, and less so than the Breguet Marine 5517 (£13,900). It’s less pricy than anything from Audemars Piguet or Vacheron Constantin – although the entry-level Fifty Six is getting close.
Really though, you’re going to buy this on its own merits, and I feel that there it succeeds. It has character and warmth where the standard Bathyscaphe can feel flat and cold, executes the vintage-modern paradigm as well as anything else this year, and feels incredibly well put together on the wrist.