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Introducing The Blancpain Bathyscaphe Chronograph Flyback AND The New High-Beat Caliber F385 (Which Might Actually Be The Real Story Here)

This year at BaselWorld, Blancpain followed up last year's Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe (HODINKEE "A Week On The Wrist" review here) with a chronograph in a similar form. That's cool and all, but to me the most interesting aspect of this fake watch is not the available fully ceramic case, or the NATO with ridiculously hardcore hardware, or the general sleekness of the end product. Nay ?the most interesting part of this new Bathyscaphe is actually what's inside. This is the first Blancpain to feature the brand new caliber F385, which is a ground-up new concept for them and a fairly impressive new development that doesn't seem to have gotten a lot of attention. That's about to change.

First, the details of the watch. Sized at 43mm and available in either full ceramic or satin-brushed stainless steel, the chronograph is 300m water resistant and holds on to many of the design traits seen in last year's time-only Bathyscaphe. The dial of this new chrono is domed for a vintage look, and void of any numerals. All dots and lines are luminous, while the dial has a nice sunburst look. The bezel is LiquidMetal filled in ceramic, making it completely scratch-resistant.

Both variations of the chrono come with a nylon NATO or "sail" canvas strap and deliveries should begin this fall. Pricing of the ceramic chrono is 16,000 CHF while it's 13,800 in steel. But, let's get to the real story here.

Blancpain Caliber F385

When I saw this fake watch at Basel and was told it housed a new movement, I immediately asked "So you just mean you've changed a few things on the 1185?" I was given a resolute "No." The 1185 is, of course, the old F. Piguet movement (now Blancpain) that has been around for what feels like forever. It's one of the few off-the-shelf, high-grade, self-winding movements used by top-tier manufactures like Vacheron, and as explained in this Week on the Wrist with the Royal Oak Chronograph, Audemars Piguet. Blancpain has long been making tweaks to it to give it different functionality, and often under difference caliber numbers, like for example this split-seconds big date guy. This Caliber F385 is NOT derived from the 1185 so expressly. In fact, Blancpain says it only shares very, very basic architecture with this landmark movement, no more than it would with any other self-winding chronograph.

Let's talk a little about what this new movement offers. First, it's a 13 ligne movement, meaning it's larger than the 1185, which is an 11.5 ligne movement. Additionally, the 385 beats at 36,000 vibrations/hour (5 hertz) while the 1185 beats at 21,600 vibrations per hour. Blancpain has included a free sprung balance with silicon spring to remove any need for an anti-magnetic Faraday cage. The F385 also features a vertical clutch a la the Replica Rolex caliber 4130 found in the Daytona and most high-end self-winding chronographs to come out since, in addition to a column-wheel.

The F385 is a fly-back chronograph, meaning the user does not have to stop it from running before resetting. The power reserve of this new movement is 50 hours, and you can see it through the sapphire caseback of the Bathyscaphe chronograph. The oscillating weight is made of 18k gold but coated in a platinum alloy to give it a more muted look. All this adds up to a really substantial new movement from Blancpain.

The quality of this new movement is easy to write about but hard to explain until you feel the actuation of it, which I was lucky to experience at Basel this year. The F385 is unexpected and almost unnecessary with the seemingly content nature of not only Blancpain but others with even pricier stickers. I give Blancpain a lot of credit for going to the lengths of developing ANOTHER in-house, self-winding chronograph when so many of its contemporaries haven't shown a single one. So again, this new Blancpain Bathyscaphe Chronograph Flyback is cool if you're into it, but to me, the Caliber F385 is far more interesting and impressive.

You can read more about it here.

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