Blancpain & Swatch Introduce the Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms “Ocean of Storms”

Now all black.

Just days a week into the new year, Blancpain and Swatch announce an all-black variation of the Scuba Fifty Fathoms, their affordable collaboration introduced last year. The Ocean of Storms retains all the distinctive features of the model, namely a 42.3 mm Bioceramic case containing the Sistem51 automatic movement fitted with a rotor bearing a nudibranch (a shell-less mollusc for those unfamiliar with esoteric marine creatures). Priced at US$400 as before, it will be available at select Swatch boutiques starting January 11, 2024.

Initial thoughts

When Swatch started teasing this new variant on social media, it seemed to be yet another one-off limited edition available for one day, like the MoonSwatch “Mission to Moonshine Gold” releases last year. However, as more details emerged, it became apparent that this was not the case as this will be part of the permanent collection, bringing the number of Scuba Fifty Fathoms models to an even six.

At first glance, the Ocean of Storms bears a striking resemblance to last year’s Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary “Act 1”, a high-end watch that is an actual Blancpain, particularly with the date window and notched bezel. Nevertheless, adjustments to the design set it apart from its pricier cousins as well as its siblings in the Scuba line. It is clearly the most monochromatic and low-key of the range.

Priced at US$400, the Ocean of Storms is priced the same as the other variants, retaining its fun and affordable appeal. However, this, like the other Scuba Fifty Fathoms, is an inexpensive watch that feels inexpensive – it’s a plastic watch with a basic, non-serviceable movement – so it isn’t actually a value proposition.

This stands in contrast to watches that are good value, which deliver features and quality that are uncommon in their respective price segments, starting with Tudor at the entry level and even Blancpain at the high end for instance.

A lunar ocean

The Ocean of Storms is the sixth addition to the cheerful collaboration between Swatch and Blancpain that was launched to mark the 70th anniversary of the Fifty Fathoms dive watch last year. Essentially a Swatch watch designed to look like a Blancpain, the Scuba Fifty Fathoms made its debut with an initial lineup comprising five models, each named after an ocean and presented in bright colours. In contrast, the Ocean of Storms has a distinctive black dial and case, with a modest dash of colour in the form of with orange highlights on the depth rating and seconds hand.

The Blancpain X Swatch Scuba Fifty Fathoms collection launched last year

However, with only five oceans on Earth, the question arises: why introduce a sixth model? According to the brand, inspiration lay in Oceanus Procellarum, a vast plain on the western edge of the near side of the Moon. Formed by ancient volcanic eruptions, this basaltic plane, known as a lunar mare, spans some 2,500 km from top to bottom. And the reason why this and others like it are known as lunar mare, or Italian for “lunar sea”, is because early astronomers thought they were bodies of water.

So like its counterparts in the collection, the Ocean of Storms is a dive watch inspired by a sea, except one with no water. It shares the same dial that bears the modern logos of both brands, triangular markers, Arabic numerals at the quarters, and a date between four and five. A notable difference between this and the rest of the variants is the radially brushed dial surface, instead of the gradient finish found on the other models.

Design alterations aside, this is identical to the other Scuba Fifty Fathoms with a case of Bioceramic, the plastic-ceramic composite also used for the MoonSwatch. The dimensions are unchanged at 42.3 mm in diameter and 14.4 mm high, as is the water resistance rating of 91 m, corresponding to 50 fathoms or 300 ft.

Likewise, the Ocean of Storms is equipped with the Swatch Sistem51, named for its 51 components. Assembled mostly by machine, the Sistem51 is a no-frills automatic movement that is part of the family of basic movements that also spawned the slightly fancier Tissot PRX Powermatic 80. Although it’s not repairable as many parts are welded or glued, the movement has useful features like a Nivachron hairspring and an impressive 90-hour power reserve.

The plastic bridges are embellished with depictions of the Moon’s surface, while the clear plastic rotor bears a digital print of a Okenia Luna, a sea slug native to the waters of Peru.

Key facts and price

Blancpain x Swatch Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms “Ocean of Storms”
Ref. SO35B400

Diameter: 42.3 mm
Height: 14.4 mm
Material: Bioceramic
Crystal: Biosourced glass with anti-scratch coating
Water resistance: 91 m

Movement: Sistem51
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds and date
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 90 hours

Strap: NATO strap

Limited edition: No, but each person is only allowed to buy one watch per day
Availability: At select Swatch boutiques starting on January 11, 2024
Price: US$400; or 570 Singapore dollars

For more information, visit


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Review: Hermès’ Super Hero “Super H” in Miniature Painting

Whimsical artisanal decoration.

Capturing the spirit of Hermès well with its whimsical yet artisanal dial, the Slim d’Hermès Minuit au Faubourg features a miniature painting depicting “Super H”, a caped superhero over the streets of Paris with the Eiffel Tower visible in the background. Because it is Hermès, the superhero is a horse and the location is 24 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, the brand’s original store.

Like many of Hermès métiers d’art creations, the dial is inspired by a scarf. Here the motif is replicated in “micro-painting”, sometimes known as “cold enamel”, a technique that employs acrylic paint, much like larger-scale artwork.

Initial thoughts

Despite being one of the most desirable luxury brands – its shares trade at a higher valuation than any of peers – Hermès maintains a whimsical streak that is evident in many of its creations, including last year’s Space Derby depicting jockeys racing robot horses across the stars. The prices are serious and quality, high, but some products possess a subtle humour. The Minuit au Faubourg, which translates as “midnight at Faubourg”, is exactly that.

A superhero horse with a luminous “H” signal in the night sky – there are few other brands that can credibly pull off something similar. This is a testament to the careful curation of the Hermès brand.

But despite the comic book theme, the dial is executed entirely by hand. Although miniature painting in acrylic doesn’t have the cachet of enamel, indeed it is typically slightly more affordable, it is equally an artisanal craft that few really master. In fact, the best miniature painting is arguably superior to a middling miniature enamel.

This costs CHF62,000, or about 30% less than a similar watch with a fired enamel dial. But it is about one-third the price of a similar model with a miniature enamel dial. From that perspective, this watch and others like it with miniature paintings are comparatively well priced.

The model is available in blue or red (as pictured here), each limited to 24. Image – Hermes

Super H to the rescue

The dial is modelled on a 2014 scarf created by Dimitri Rybaltchenko, a longtime designer for Hermes. The scene depicts Super H on the roof of the Hermes store with Paris landmarks in the background,  including the Invalides on the left, and beside it the obelisk on Place de la Concorde. On the right of the dial is the windmill of the Moulin Rouge cabaret, and above it the Eiffel Tower.

Here the Eiffel Tower projects the equivalent of the Bat-Signal, a giant, illuminated “H” into the Paris sky. And it is literally illuminated, as the searchlight beam is painted in Super-Luminova that glows in the dark.

The dial base is a disc of aventurine glass, with the characteristic metallic inclusions meant to evoke the night sky. This serves as the canvas for the miniature painting that is painted by an artisan in the traditional way, namely with paint, a brush, and a microscope. The paint is applied several layers high in some sections in order to create a gentle relief and create a canvas-like texture, an effect that is particularly noticeable on the beam of light and the superhero figure.

Hermes, to its credit, ready reveals the names of the artists who create its dials, which in this case is Line Descombes, a painter located near Besançon, once the heart of French watchmaking. Ms Descombes was also responsible for the painting in Le Guépard, the automaton-sonnerie clock made by John-Mikaël Flaux.

According to Hermes, each dial takes Ms Descombes 50 hours to complete. This is swifter process than a comparable painting in miniature enamel, primarily because acrylic miniature painting calls for fewer firings in an oven to set, while vitreous enamel requires one firing for each colour.

The rest of the watch is stock Slim d’Hermes. The 39 mm case is white gold and sports the signature wire-style lugs of the design. Like many Hermes case designs, the Slim looks and feels elegant, with proportions that are just right.

Inside is the H1950, the standard movement for this case size of the model. It’s a slim, large movement that fits well in the case. The decoration is a monochromatic rhodium-plating while the bridges are large, so many of the details don’t stand out. The micro-rotor, for instance, blends in.

However, the aesthetic suits the overall style of the watch. Even though the repeating monogram decoration on the bridges feels a bit retro, few brands employ this approach today, it works well here.

And finally, because the calibre is made by Vaucher, the movement supplier that’s a company of Parmigiani, the decoration and execution is high quality. It’s a high-end industrial calibre comparable to what you might find in a Jaeger-LeCoultre.

Key facts and price

Hermes Slim d’Hermès Minuit au Faubourg 

Diameter: 39.5 mm
Height: Unavailable
Material: 18k white gold
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: H1950
Functions: Hours, minutes
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 42 hours

Strap: Alligator with pin buckle

Limited edition: 24 each in red and blue
At Hermes boutiques
CHF62,000; or 92,000 Singapore dollars

For more, visit


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