It’s not uncommon in these days of corporate responsibility to find watch brands trying to do their parts to give back—or at least look like it. While you can debate the motives of these efforts, money towards a good cause is always a good thing. To be sure, even the smallest, most affordable brands are giving back in one way or another. For Blancpain this has taken the form of a number of limited editions, of which a portion of the proceeds are diverted towards various causes related to conservation of Earth’s oceans. The most recent model, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Mokarran, is limited to 50 pieces and focuses on the great hammerhead (sphyrna mokarran), a critically endangered species of hammerhead shark that continues to suffer due to it’s vulnerability to overfishing.
The Fifty Fathoms line has provided a natural companion to Blancpain’s philanthropic endeavor, the Ocean Commitment. According to the brand, since the introduction of the first Fifty Fathoms in 1953, it has remained invested in and passionate about the worlds aquatic environments. In addition to other supportive activities, Blancpain has released four Ocean Commitment limited editions, the Bathyscaphe Mokarran being the most recent. For purchase, Blancpain dontes $1,000 to a specified charity, in this case, it’s the Mokarran Protection Society; the owner receives a certificate of this donation.
Blancpain is well known at this point for having introduced the first proper diver, the Fifty Fathoms. While many of the features it standardized were already in use in one form or another, it debuted the unidirectional bezel that no modern dive watch is without. While the original Fifty Fathoms was released in 1953, the current Bathyscaphe line was only introduced in 2013, borrowing its name from a 1956 release. Despite its current double branding, though, the original Bathyscaphe was not part of the Fifty Fathoms family. Instead, it was the sleeker alternative to its more famous sibling, featuring a smaller case, slimmer bezel, and applied indices. The Bathyscaphe was designed to be worn within the confines of the submersible vessel from which it took its name, while still being an adequate dive watch. Like the Fifty Fathoms, the Bathyscaphe was sold to other retailers (such as Waltham) for private label use, but for whatever reason, the model was discontinued, making vintage pieces far rarer than the Fifty Fathoms.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Mokarran presents a shift away from the brand’s normal approach to its Ocean Commitment watches. While all preceding models have featured steel cases and blue dials and/or bezels, the Bathyscaphe Mokarran has neither. Instead, the case is constructed from zirconium dioxide (as indicated on the underside of the lugs), a black ceramic that’s lightweight and offers substantial chemical and scratch resistance. The case features a fine satin-brushed finish, and the lugs bring a bit of dynamics with a bevel that expands as it extends from the bezel to the angular lug ends. The large ceramic crown at 3 o’clock aids in providing 300m of water resistance and its size allows for easy use. The branded nylon NATO features a matching ceramic tang clasp and fits into the 23mm lugs, which are a bit perplexing: this is a non-standard size that doesn’t lend itself to easily changing straps, should one want to.
The subdued finish of the black ceramic case and matching bezel give way to the brilliant green dial and the complementary bezel insert. You may accuse Blancpain of capitalizing on the green watch market trend: there’s nothing in any of the brand’s copy that explains why it chose green, and as mentioned, the prior Ocean Commitment models all feature blue elements. That said, you cannot accuse it of creating a green watch hastily or poorly. The color of the Bathyscaphe Mokarran is positively dazzling: the radiant tropical green bursts brightly from the arbor, shifting to a darker hue towards the periphery of the dial. This is surely a dial that will keep pulling you in, garnering absentminded glances with no intention of looking at the time.
Like the muted case, the text and markers are restrained, allowing the dial to shine. In fact, while the thin font at 12 o’clock is merely unobtrusive, the “Bathyscaphe” text at 6 o’clock is almost laughably small. The oblong trapezoids and small circles have white gold surrounds, echoing the original Batyschape (one of the first watches to have applied indices with metal surrounds), and feature Super-LumiNova™. The syringe handset is filled with lume as well and offers perfect legibility against the vibrant dial.
Stepping out to the bezel, the green ceramic insert has a matte finish with Liquidmetal™ markings and a lume pip embedded in the 12 o’clock diamond. The finish of the bezel insert offers a gradual transition from the flatness of the brushed case to the brilliance of the dial. It ties together a case that, despite its 46.3mm diameter and 13.8mm thickness, can well be described as at once robust and elegant.
Driving the Bathyscaphe Mokarran is the in-house Caliber 1318, a no-date version of the caliber 1315 used throughout Blancpain’s catalog. Visible through a sapphire caseback, this 204-component automatic movement features 34 jewels, a silicon balance spring, and a Glucydur balance wheel with micrometric gold regulating screws. Three series-coupled barrels provide a robust 120 hours of power on a full wind. As for finishing, the plates feature anglage plus a spiral effect that radiates from the rotor arbor, its trajectory uninterrupted by the breaks between plates. The main plate, on the other hand, features perlage on both sides.
Of particular note in this iteration of the 1318 is the rotor. Typically made from steel with a tungsten carbide rim, the Mokarran features a solid 18k gold rotor with NAC ceramic coating to match the case. In lieu of the traditional arced logo, an on-theme stencil of a great hammerhead is seen. To mitigate the additional wear a heavy rotor can cause, Blancpain uses a lubrication-free ceramic bearing, an oversized lower jewel, and a larger pivoting surface, increasing efficiency, strength, and longevity.
Versus the Competition
The obvious alternative here is the green-on-green Rolex Submariner 116610LV “Hulk,” but what fun is obvious? Let’s dig a bit deeper here and look at a limited edition watch with a cause from another seminal brand: The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Foundation Time for the Trees. Like the Mokarran, the Time for the Trees supports an environmental cause, in this case the reforestation efforts of the Audemars Piguet Foundation. With the Time for the Trees Edition, one gets a legendary watch with more overt messaging than is found on the Blancpain Mokarran, with the AP’s grande tapisserie dial featuring a massive oak tree.
Looking more at the all-black ceramic of the Mokarran, two options spring to mind. The Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Deep Black collection features the brand’s classic diver in an entirely ceramic case, plus a GMT function (Omega also offers a Zirconium Dioxide Dark Side of the Moon Speedmaster). A bit more hydrophobic, but no less modern or sporty, is the Girard Perregaux Laureato 42mm in black ceramic. Unlike the Blancpain or the Omega, the GP comes with a matching ceramic bracelet.
There’s a bit of stealth to the Mokarran and with that, this Bathyscaphe would be well suited to the wrist of a watch lover who prizes Earth’s natural environment, but does so with a sleek, sporty elegance. While the watch may be too large for some, the beauty of the dial is an undeniably winner on any wrist.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Mokarran offers the owner the opportunity to have not only a very limited timepiece in an entirely new color from the storied brand, but also to support an important, if niche, cause.