Blancpain Bathyscaphe (T<25 MC), Cal. R337 (FD), Case no. 206356.
Beautiful Stainless Steel Diver’s Wristwatch with Center Seconds
1 Year Rest Assured warranty offered with this watch.
Movement: Automatic movement Rayville calibre AS 1902, Cal. R337 (FD), movement numbered 621174.
Case: 37mm Stainless steel circular water-resistant-type case, with screw back and screw down crown. Case has some light scuffing consistent with age and wear.
The glass has suffered one ding, which is seen in the updated photographs.
Dial: Matte pewter grey dial, with applied silver markers and tritium dots, outer minute divisions, sweep center seconds, black bakelite bezel calibrated for 60 units. Bezel shows no sign of cracks. The bezel has some signs of aging, however I feel this balances out the fresh look of the face and reminds you that this watch was to be used as a tool.
Please note this is a genuine, aged Blancpain and all care has been taken to ensure that its natural patina has been protected. Subsequently the case remains un-polished and has some surface scratching.
The watch underwent a full service from expert UK watchmaker Peter Roberts and his son James Roberts. Their extensive experience with vintage and rare watches meant that they were the perfect men for the job. The movement was overhauled, serviced and regulated. The keyless work had a fault but a NOS replacement was found and fitted.
The only part of the watch that had to be altered from original specifications was the lume infill on the hour, minute and seconds hands. Cracked lume meant that with a heavy heart, the best decision was to have them re-lumed in a vintage tone of super-luminova C3.
In the early 1950’s, the French Combat Diving School set up a group of elite diving soldiers, known as “Les Nageurs de Combat”. They needed a wristwatch for the divers to coordinate time on missions. The two commanders, Captain Robert Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud came up with a list of features they needed in a wristwatch. Specifically, they wanted a watch with a black dial, large, bold numerals and clear markings, and an outer rotating bezel. The bezel needed to be able to align with the large minute hand to easily show remaining oxygen time. Lastly, all of the markers needed to clearly glow in the dark. These are now seen as common place, standard specifications for divers watches, oh how times have changed!
Blancpain CEO Jean-Jacques Fiechter, an enthusiastic diver, decided to create the watch.1953 saw Blancpain debut the Fifty Fathoms wristwatch, which would become known as the original modern dive watch. Measuring 41mm, the Fifty Fathoms was extremely large for the time, which obviously helped with legibility.
Three years later, in 1956, Blancpain introduced the Bathyscaphe model, measuring 34.5mm, more in line with the typical watch diameter of the time.
This was followed by a 37mm model. This very model is the one that we have on offer here. The 37mm variant were suitable for everyday wear, designed to be "As at home on deck as they are under the sea", but still reserved diving as first priority, as indicated by the Bathyscaphe name.
A bathyscaphe is a self-propelled vehicle used for deep-sea dives, capable to diving deeper than a person in gear and even able to go deeper than submarines.
The word “bathyscaphe” takes part of its name from the ancient Greek word “bathys” for deep, and a “scaphe” is a light bowl-shaped boat. The Bathyscaphe model found a following among civilian divers, oceanographers, and marine researchers.
The Blancpain Bathyscape is a historically important example of a dive watch which belongs to an lineage of iconic watches that are tied to historical events and names, that contributed to our exploration and understanding of this planet and the depths of the ocean.
This model is the much rarer 37mm variant, with perfectly aged hour markers that stand out clearly against the grey dial and black bakelite bezel. The case and lugs retain thick proportions.
Aesthetically appealing, historically important and timeless, the original Blancpain Bathyscaphe is a quintessential part of any collection of military and dive watches.
You might have been thinking of spending this kind of money on a Rolex Submariner. Why not break the mould and own an important, standout piece of diving history.