Price notwithstanding, there is a lot to appreciate about this brand new limited-edition entrance into the Fifty Fathoms lineup — which is probably why the watch is enjoying dip watch buff “sleeper hit” status post-Baselworld. Largely released without significant fanfare, part of the Blancpain Tribute to Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec watch’s appeal are its conservative dimensions and loyal adherence to the layout codes of the original Mil-Spec. However, a key dimension of its appeal is likely Blancpain’s inclusion of a critical feature of the first: a working replica of the “watertightness” moisture index at 6:00. Back in the early days “when sex was safe and diving was dangerous,” dip watches were not the rugged, dependable tools we’re knowledgeable about today. Though paramount into a diver’s security, the earliest examples were still prone to damage by shock, plagued by poor visibility in low light, and built with cases ill-equipped to take care of great sea depths. Unsatisfied with issued watches which could not (quite literally) perform under pressure, French combat swimmer corps commanders Captain Robert Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud sought out the grandfather of the Fifty Fathoms, Jean-Jacques Fiechter, who was already hard at work on a layout that could address these very symptoms.But the opinion that became standard-issue to the UDT teams controlled by Maloubier and Riffaud wasn’t Fiechter’s first provincial Fathoms layout, but one that contained an additional safeguard: a quirky watertightness index that would alarm the wearer when their view was compromised. Now, it is worth clarifying that this indicator is a little bit like a smoke detector — it merely points out the clear, and does little to protect against the fire.
We continue to believe that with enough attention, Blancpain will truly make something out of the L-Evolution timepiece collection. Intended to connect to the world of high-end auto racing, the L-Evolution family of watches continues to receive refinement, and the Blancpain L-Evolution R Chronographe Flyback Grande Date might just be the most suitable of the entire lot so far.
The last time we looked at a Blancplain L-Evolution watch, it was with the L-Evolution Split Second Flyback Chronograph (hands-on here). It was released in 2012, and in 2013, Blancpain followed-up with this more simple Blancpain L-Evolution R Chronographe Flyback Grande Date. Aside from the visual cues, they each have very different movements. The main difference of course being that the former model has a split-second chronograph and this one does not.
So the Split Second model has the Blancpain Calibre 69F9 automatic, and the model we are talking about today as the Caliber 68F5. Would you believe that the 69F9 has about 90 additional parts and is 6mm wider? Yeah, all that for a split second mechanism and four more hours of power reserve. The 68F5 is also built well and a bit more simple. In addition to being an automatic, it has a 12-hour chronograph and big date complication. There is no running seconds hand, which means you can use the chronograph seconds hands for that purpose, if you wish.
I’ve always gotten a kick out of the “digital” style font of the date. In the past, I commented that it was a nice little connection between old and new technology. I still think it works here. I don’t, however, think the hands require any skeletonization. While the dial is pretty easy to read, there is only lume on the tips of the hands, and I think bolder hands would help improve the dial. See, for example, the hands on the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms (which would be ideal here, given their similarity).