Our First Reactions to the Swatch X Blancpain Scuba Fifty Fathoms

Has the new Swatch X Blancpain Scuba Fifty Fathoms completely taken over your Instagram feed? It has for us. Ever since the watch was teased via a cryptic newspaper ad a little over a week ago, speculation has run rampant about just what Swatch might be up to this time. Their follow up to the Uber-successful MoonSwatch is a bio-ceramic timepiece in much the same vein, but sub oceans for planets, and the mighty Fifty Fathoms for the Speedmaster. Here, the Worn & Wound editorial team reacts to the latest Swatch, sure to generate not just long lines this weekend, but red hot takes for months on end.

Zach Weiss

Can lightning strike twice? It can if you build a large enough lightning rod, or so the folks at Swatch believe. When the MoonSwatch launched last year, there was a lot of speculation as to whether or not they would do something similar with another brand. Another “crossover for the people,” to be kind. The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms always seemed like the most likely candidate as, well, there aren’t many other truly iconic watches under the Swatch umbrella. At least, not on the scale of the Speedmaster. A year and a half-ish later, we know the answer.


My first reaction wasn’t “wow, I can’t believe they did it again!” It was “already?”. Yeah, I’m not surprised Swatch would try to double down on their most successful launch, not just recently, but, like, ever, I was just surprised it was so soon. The Moonswatch has had an odd life cycle that I would hardly call ideal. It started with a huge bang that got the attention of media globally, reduced to a thunderous tremble once the reality of its availability and sales strategy became clear, and then fizzled to perhaps a series of loud bangs from a kid trying to get attention as they have pursued their monthly pop-up full-moon drop thing. Technically there have been new models, but they have just been uninspired changes of the central chrono seconds hand.

But, rather than revisiting the MoonSwatch, expanding availability and offerings, they veered to the next best thing. And I do mean the next best thing, as no insult to the Fifty Fathoms, but it’s hardly as culturally significant as the Speedmaster, nor nearly as collectible. Yes, early Fifty Fathoms are vintage treasures, but they’ve always been rare and costly. Modern Fifty Fathoms are more of an acquired taste.

And this makes me wonder just how successful this launch will be compared to the MoonSwatch, which took everyone by surprise, exciting collectors and the masses (and the flippers). Now, the collectors are burnt out by the MoonSwatch launch, and the masses are less familiar with the subject. While I’m sure launch day will still be a spectacle of lines, I bet they’ll be a bit shorter, as there really is no reason to get one at launch. There is also no reason to pay over MSRP.

As for the watches themselves, if I were to separate myself from the baggage, or my baggage, look pretty good. They capture the look of the Fifty Fathoms, touching on both vintage and modern design cues. Since it’s a three-hand watch, they didn’t need to mess with the layout as they did with the MoonSwatch, making them more “accurate” in a sense, and certainly less visually challenging. They appear solid, have bezels, and are actually water-resistant to a conceptually accurate fifty fathoms 91m. Not every colorway tickles my fancy, but the blue and white models are just flat-out attractive.

The use of the Sistem51 is a curious development. On one hand, I think the Sistem51 needed a kick in the butt to get back to relevance. When they were launched, they were conceptually very exciting. A 51-piece movement, entirely assembled and regulated by machine…. An impressive widget, they deserve some more attention. But the watches that followed have been less so, none of which really have had a big moment and they were also famously non-serviceable at launch. With the introduction of Sistem51 Irony models, this appears to have changed, though it’s hard to verify how. It seems more likely that they are swappable than serviceable. 

Either way, it sort of defeats the appeal of the longevity of mechanical watches. So, in the end, would quartz with an easy battery to change have been better? That said, the movements feature pretty prints on their plates, so they do have that going for them. So, I don’t think I’ll be running out to get one, but everything above aside, I don’t dislike them. They seem like fun watches and they simply look good. I’ll wait for the Swatch x Breguet BioPlastic Tradition Sistem51 with dial side escapement before I get my tent ready for a night on the sidewalk of NYC. 

Blake Buettner

In what’s looking increasingly like a trend that’s here to stay, Swatch’s take on Blancpain’s iconic dive watch, the Scuba Fifty Fathoms, is another crossover event for the ages. Or that’s the idea, at least. The Swatch-ification of other Swatch Group branded watches is the modern remix factory of the watch world, and where it worked for the Speedmaster, it feels slightly less on point with the original dive watch, if you ask me. The wild colors and playful themes somehow feel forced within the context of the far more sober frame of Blancpain. But that just allows for a deeper level of contrast between the two parties involved, right?

After the initial MoonSwatch mania, a next step felt inevitable to build on the good momentum. Some truly great ideas emerged from the community, as they often do, but somehow, the result still feels surprising. A collection of Fifty Fathoms styled Swatch watches themed around the earth’s oceans certainly makes sense, and I’ll even say that I’m fond of the Antarctic rendition. In truth, there are some redeeming qualities here that play on the same strengths we pointed out in the MoonSwatch, and I’ll admit that I’m quite fond of the Antarctic model, if I may set aside my cynicism for a moment. 

Unfortunately, the Fifty Fathoms isn’t quite the household name that the Speedmaster is, and the type of people that understand and appreciate the Fifty Fathoms feel a bit less susceptible to such a stunt. My hope is that by putting this kind of a spotlight on the name, it will foster a broader discovery of the watch and its rich history by the masses prone to consuming such collaborations. Where the MoonSwatch felt like a boon to Swatch, this conversely feels like it could be a boon to Blancpain and its eponymous diver. And I truly hope that it is. 

There are a lot of great watches in the catalogs of historic brands that now find themselves under the Swatch Group umbrella, and using Swatch as a means to getting them in front of more people is on one hand admirable. It’s a flash of exposure and excitement around a watch that is typically reserved and content. On the other hand, it risks alienating a portion of their long time clientele with something unappealing at best, and off-putting to the brand at worst. Potentially risking generations worth of equity in the process. 


That said, I’m okay with brand’s taking more risk, so my hat is off to Blancpain for doing something unexpected, and hopefully netting a few new Fifty Fathoms fans in the process. 

Zach Kazan

Did Radiohead predict the Scuba Fifty Fathoms? Hear me out: their 1995 album The Bends, whose title track riffs on the idea of decompression sickness sometimes experienced by divers as a metaphor for a codependent romantic entanglement (not that the Swatch Group brands would know anything about that…), also contains the absolutely gorgeous, all time classic Radiohead track “Fake Plastic Trees.” Over churning guitars, Thom Yorke sings about being surrounded by imitations of real things: 

A green plastic watering can
For a fake Chinese rubber plant
In a fake plastic earth.

Later, he likens himself to a “cracked polystyrene man” who “just crumbles and burns.” This is a man who is broken down by a lack of authenticity, searching for the real thing but only finding vague facsimiles. This might as well be the soundtrack for the disaffected watch collector, always hunting, never satisfied, and confronted regularly by sparkling newness that, at the end of the day, only looks like the original he craves. 

Forgive me if I’m in a somewhat bleak state of mind, it’s only partly from listening to Radiohead consistently for over 20 years. I have what’s known as MoonSwatch Fatigue, and it’s spilled right over into the release of the newest bioceramic mashup, the aforementioned Scuba Fifty Fathoms (which some are calling the Scuba Fifty – it’s a little confusing), the latest collaboration between Swatch and an unlikely corporate sibling. 

I’ll say right up front: I have not handled this watch. Maybe in hand and on the wrist it’s absolutely magnificent. I have to leave that door open. But as an idea, frankly, I don’t like it. The MoonSwatch was fun for a minute, and as a kind of tough to get (but not really) souvenir, it had some charm, at least at the start. But spending some time with one reveals that at the end of the day, it’s an inexpensive profit machine for the Swatch Group. Something that can be made on the (relative) cheap by one of the biggest watchmaking firms in the world, and sold at exactly the right price in exactly the right quantities so as to extract maximum cash from those long lines at Swatch boutiques. Why wouldn’t Swatch try to repeat the formula as often as possible? There have been jokes about Swatch x Breguet possibilities, but I think it’s only a matter of time until we actually see it. 

So, yes, this strikes me as a somewhat cynical cash grab play by Swatch. But, I mean, that’s honestly not so bad, right? We’re certainly used to it. All watch brands exist to make money. What I find completely absurd about the Scuba Fifty Fathoms is the head spinning, crazy-making logic behind use of the Sistem51 movement. We know that marketing materials from Jean-Claude Biver’s days at the helm of Blancpain proudly claimed that no Blancpain watch would ever use a quartz movement. All well and good, it’s fine to take a stand, and this was in the aftermath of the Quartz Crisis, and a smart marketing play to underscore the luxury and exclusivity of mechanical movements. But it’s 2023, and the thinking on quartz vs. mechanical has evolved somewhat.

The thing about the Sistem51 is that this movement was designed to be disposable. They are not serviceable, and if you wear the watch with any frequency, it is almost certain to need a service before too long, speaking from personal experience with my own Sistem51 watches, which I’ve happened to enjoy. The fact of the matter though is that this is mechanical caliber made in a largely automated process, held together with a single screw. They’re just not very robust, and it blows my mind that anyone at Blancpain would think this movement was more in line with their values than a modern quartz caliber, the likes of which run in an incomprehensible number of Swatches without incident every single day. 

The complete disposability of this watch, combined with what is sure to be a MoonSwatch-like hysteria for it at launch, makes me a little queasy. The argument I’ve heard in the last few days that this kind of thing brings more people into the hobby is undermined in my view by the hype and flipping factor (will anyone who is first in line not have an eBay listing ready before the doors open at the boutique?) and the simple fact that a Sistem51 powered watch might not be the best choice to bring new blood into our world. It’s like the old saying: you never really own a Sistem51, you just look after it, until it winds up in a landfill, with all the green plastic watering cans, and fake rubber plants. Swatch

Related Posts
This is the house account for Worn & Wound. We use it on general articles about us, the site and our products.