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The Millennium Watch Book
Blancpain - X Fathoms : The Hyper-Functional, Hyper Dive Watch

Blancpain X Fathoms : The Hyper-Functional, Hyper Dive Watch

Découvrez cet extrait exclusif du Millenium Watch Book.The aim for the extensively-equipped and highly exceptional X Fathoms limited edition was to create the most full-orbed, sophisticated mechanical dive watch in existence — a mission that was more than accomplished

With its dimensions, features and sheer ambition, the X Fathoms created quite a stir when it was first presented amid great fanfare in 2011. Brand CEO and diving fanatic Mark Hayek positioned the model at something of a strategic crossroads — not least by embodying its ethos himself, demonstrating the prototype in person in the Dubai Mall’s shark-infested aquarium; at that time, extreme diving was a new frontier in watchmaking developments, while the trend for outsize watches was also at its height. With its five-day power reserve, a silicon hairspring and an especially robust construction, the 1315 caibre was an ideal basis on which to build the X Fathoms. The date was removed and replaced by dive-related functions for the new model, adding an extra three millimetres to the thickness of the 9918B calibre; it would have been hard to squeeze all Blancpain’s little extras into anything slimmer

Real-world use

Incidentally, these additions give the X Fathoms more central hands than perhaps any other watch: six in all, a total that goes some way to explaining its overall thickness of 24 millimetres and a diameter of no less than 55.6 millimetres. On its release, it was the largest, thickest, biggest watch ever to grace a wrist and has remained among the front-runners in this respect ever since, although there’s a bit of a category error here: in actual fact, the X Fathoms isn’t really a wristwatch so much as a wetsuit watch, designed for the sole purpose of being worn when diving, over a neoprene scuba suit sleeve, where considerations of style and size come decidedly second to situational ergonomics and functionality — and in that respect, there isn’t much this model doesn’t have. Despite appearances, it has lugs concealed beneath its shaped rubber strap, secured to anchor points on the caseback.

X Fathoms : The Hyper-Functional, Hyper Dive Watch

Fifty Fathoms X Fathoms © Blancpain

Rare functions

First of all, in terms of functions, the X Fathoms is one of the very select circle of watches, even today, to boast a mechanical depth gauge. This delicate exercise involves allowing water to enter an outer case with a membrane fixed to the back in order to measure effective pressure. This value is passed to the movement via a highly complex — and inevitably highly protected — series of seals and levers so that an indication of depth at any given time can be read off. The system is the reason why, despite its huge size, the watch was guaranteed water resistant to ‘only’ 300 metres. Any deeper, and the membrane’s thickness/strength ratio would have been unmanageable. As things were, it called for a special triple caseback, recognisable by its three mesh openings (oddly enough, these resemble the symbol for radioactivity) through which the water exits. 

A wealth of details

The depth gauge has two scales. The first, in turquoise, runs from 0-15 metres, making it suitable for the vast majority of dives. The second, longer scale nearer the centre of the watch is orange and covers depths to 90 metres. The only people needing anything that goes deeper are professional divers, and their pay is such that they aren’t likely to be able to afford a Blancpain with an original retail price of CHF 40,000. The depth gauge sports a memory function recording the greatest depth reached, indicated by a needle topped with a red square. 

Work or leisure

he sixth hand, located at 10 o’clock and covering a scale of 0-5, is a rarity: a 5-minute retrograde counter that allows successive periods underwater to be timed, triggered by a watertight pusher at 10 o’clock. The pusher at 8 o’clock, protected by a large external bridge, resets the maximum depth indicator to zero. Perhaps the strangest aspect of all is Blancpain’s insistence on incorporating aspects of its standard leisure line, notably the bezel, in this outsize extension of its Fifty Fathoms collection. The convex sapphire bezel is undoubtedly a thing of beauty, especially in extra-extra large format, but it’s also notoriously fragile and extremely expensive to change. The cost of replacing one over 50 millimetres in diameter is perhaps best left to the imagination.

This year GMT Magazine and WorldTempus have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the divers watch since 2000 in The Millennium Watch Book - Divers watch, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book - Divers watch is available in both French and English here:

 

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