Saturday, April 11, 2009

Search for the perfect diver's watch continued - Blancpain Aqualung

OK - here's a watch that's a little less standard than the ones I highlighted so far, in my search for the ultimate diver's watch.  The Blancpain Aqualung.  

Now, Blancpain isn't really known for their diver's watches.  They're more of a high-end fancy dress watch company.  They're another one of these names that has been "revitalized" - the "modern" Blancpain was started in 1983; the name had been out of use for decades.  One of the oldest watch names in the world, Mr. Blancpain was making watches back in 1735.  Of course, like many other watch brands, the Japanese quartz industry killed the brand at some point...  Some enterprising person recreated the brand in 1983.  The modern company held a lot of world records, including the thinnest automatic chronograph, the smallest minute repeater, and the most complicated watch on the planet.  Think intricate; think lots of precious metals; think delicate and refined.  At least that's what I think of when I see "blancpain" on the dial.

Which is why this watch, sold at Antiquorum last month, threw me for a bit of a loop.  Yes, it's a Blancpain.  But it looks HUGE.  And RUGGED.  And it's water resistant to 1000 feet (333 metres).   I don't know much about the history of this watch (when it was made, etc.), but judging from the wear on the luminous markers, I would have to guess they were radium, which puts the watch somewhere between the 40's and the 60's.  But that's just a guess.

There's no denying this is a serious diver's watch.  1000 foot water resistance is nothing to sneer at.  The hands are extremely luminous and easy to read; the hour markers (in orange!) are also very easy to read and stand out almost as much as the bright white luminous hands.  But what really sets this watch apart is the rotating bezel.  Just look at the size of that thing!  HUGE.  If you have trouble reading elapsed time on this watch, you probably shouldn't be diving.  

If I had to guess based on the picture, I would say this is a stainless steel watch, with a bidirectional rotating bezel (don't ask me why I'd guess this, I just would) and an acrylic crystal.  Looks like an aftermarket, much more modern, kevlar band.  

Gorgeous watch, but I don't think it's going to be my "ultimate" dive watch.  Why?  Well, it's a Blancpain.  If I bought a Blancpain, it would be hugely, horribly complicated, possibly rose gold, with a leather band.  I just can't take the Blancpain name seriously on a dive watch.  I'm not sure why that is - I'm sure they made a fantastic dive watch.  If I had a collection of dive watches, this would definitely be on the short list - it's probably very rare, and watch collectors and divers alike would say "wow".  But if I was looking for the one dive watch to rule them all, this probably isn't "the one".  At least not for me.


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