Unless you’ve been living under a horological rock for the past year and a half, you’ve no doubt heard about the MoonSwatch hype.
If not, let us explain: In March of 2022, Swatch teamed up with sister Swatch Group brand Omega on a bioceramic version of the Speedmaster. Powered by a quartz movement and initially available in 11 colorful iterations named after the heavenly bodies, the MoonSwatch blew up the internet: Lines wrapped around city blocks the world over as people clammered to “collect ‘em all” in a (frightening or wonderful, depending upon whom you ask) reimagining of the Beanie Babies or Pokémon hysteria of the 1990s.
Retailing for $260, the watches were a mega-hit, and the brand(s) regularly released more and more versions with each successive quarter. Swatch and Omega sold over a million of them in 2022 alone. As of September 2023, they’re still ludicrously difficult to find — despite being regular production models, they’re only sold in Swatch stores, and stores tend to be perpetually sold out.
Last week, Swatch began teasing a new set of watches in American newspapers — this time, however, they would be teaming up with a different Swatch Group brand: Blancpain. The high-end manufacture behind the Fifty Fathoms dive watch, Blancpain is little known outside of horological circles. It doesn’t figure much into rapper’s hit songs or punctuate the zeitgeist bubble quite like models from Rolex or Patek. But the Fifty Fathoms is notable for being one of the first serially produced, purpose-built dive watches ever made, and, alongside the Rolex Submariner and Zodiac Sea Wolf, it’s still being made today, exactly 70 years after it was introduced.
The new watch — which Swatch has dubbed “Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms” but will inevitably be nicknamed something like the “Sistem51 Fathoms,” or the “SWifty Fathoms,” or some such — dropped this evening, September 6th, a few days ahead of its purported sale date of Saturday, September 9th. And we have to say: it’s pretty cool.
There were lots of folks in the watch world who hated on the MoonSwatch: “Why would they devalue the Speedmaster,” or “I would never buy a quartz Speedie,” or simply “It’s stupid” all abounded. But much like in popular music, it’s tough to argue with millions of people madly in love with a singer just because a vocal minority find him or her asinine; pop music is popular for a reason. (Also: grow up, people. They’re watches — they’re supposed to be fun.)
To that end, the “Scuba Fifty” is fun as hell: Housed in a colored bioceramic housing, each of five initial launch models measures 42.3mm wide, 48mm lug-to-lug, and 14.4mm tall. Make no mistake, this is a big watch — but the bioceramic housing made from castor plant oil and ceramic keeps it super light. Each is powered by Swatch’s Sistem 51 automatic movement, comes paired to a NATO-style nylon strap made from recycled fishing nets, and features a functional, unidirectional, 120-click bezel, and — duh — 50 fathoms (91m) of water resistance.
The 12 Best Dive Watches Under $1,000, From Seiko to UnimaticThese high-performance timepieces look great and won’t break the bank
Beyond this, each is slightly different: Named after five bodies of water (the Atlantic; the Pacific; the Indian; the Arctic; ad the Antarctic), they sport different color schemes and dial layouts: Three (the Atlantic; Pacific; and Indian) feature modern Blancpain logos; a mix of Arabic and dart indices; and date windows at 4:30. The Arctic, meanwhile, features the “No Rads” indicator found on certain vintage Fifty Fathoms models, while the Antarctic has the moisture indicator found on certain mil-spec models from the brand’s back catalog. (These two also feature applied dot and triangle indices and vintage Blancpain logos.)
Outfitted with an anti-magnetic Nivachron hairspring, the Sistem 51 (which features just 51 parts) is built completely via automation and features a 90-hour power reserve. It was used to maintain Jean-Claude Biver’s famous promise that “There has never been a quartz Blancpain, and there never will be.” (A pretty cool and affordable work-around, we must say!) Furthermore, each features an illustration of a nudibranch — a type of colorful sea slug — found in the watch’s respective ocean. (Strange but somehow charming?) The case backs also feature inspirational words à la the new Rolex “Emoji” Day-Date, albeit sea-inspired: “LICENSE TO EXPLORE,” “PROTECT WHAT YOU LOVE,” etc. (Quite the maximalist affair, these case backs.)
The big question on everyone’s mind is whether or not this watch — priced at $400, which is quite a bit more than the $260 MoonSwatch — will fly off the shelves in quite the same way as its predecessor. Given significantly less brand recognition for Blancpain vs. Omega, we have to imagine correspondingly less fervor. But then again, the cat is out of the bag, and the MoonSwatch has done its job: More people than ever are learning about (and obsessing over) watches — all types of watches. The news that they can nab a functional dive watch for under $500, made by two of the most respectable companies in the world? That it has great looks and a cool engine under the hood? That they’re colorful and cool?
Maybe it’s time to unpack the ole’ beach chair and get back in line at the Swatch store.
- Diameter: 42.3mm
- Movement: Swatch Sistem 51
- Water Resistance: 91m (50 fathoms)
- Price: $400
Participating Swatch Stores (limited to one per customer beginning 9/9/23:
- Ala Moana – Hawaii
- NY NY – Las Vegas
- TSQ – New York
- 5th Ave – New York
- Powell – SFO
- Houston Galleria
- Lincoln Road – Miami
- Millenia – Orlando
- NorthPark – Dallas
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