Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Speed Command Chronograph: From Seaside to Trackside

    • The FF Speed Command Flyback Chronograph moves the “Fifty” from seaside to trackside.

    • This aggressively styled motorsports chronograph features carbon fiber, day glow graphics, and DLC.

    • Each element of the Fifty Fathoms exudes Swiss luxury; modern imagery and traditional craft unite.

Luxury watches are meant to be fun. If you’re not having fun while wearing your dream machine, it’s time to move on and suit-up with something that makes you smile.

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Speed Command Flyback Chronograph is that kind of luxury watch. From its contemporary 45mm case to its blazing orange accents to the silken comfort of its rubberized Barenia leather strap, the Speed Command is exuberant, upbeat, and redolent of quality. Combine these traits with a first-class high horology flyback chronograph and innovative use of premium materials, and the result is one of the most imaginative and compelling takes on the famed Blancpain Fifty Fathoms.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Chronographe Flyback 5785FO-11D03-63A

While the standard Fifty Fathoms recalls the pioneering military diver’s watch of 1953, Blancpain’s corporate icon has proved to be more versatile and adaptable to new personas than its eternal rival, the Rolex Submariner (debut:1954).

Sixty years after the fact, the Rolex adheres rigidly to its original watersport profile, but the Blancpain has succeeded in going where few dive watches have gone before: land.

Specifically, the “Flyback Chronograph” component of this Blancpain’s name refers to its motorsports orientation. As the longtime sponsor of the Super Trofeo racing series that pits Lamboghini owners against each other for championship bragging rights, Blancpain has built a name in high performance automotive circles. Given the natural pairing of luxury watches and high performance autos, the Speed Command Flyback Chronograph is a logical extension of the Fifty Fathoms line.

Still a utility watch, the target demographic shifts from divers to drivers.

The Speed Command’s limited edition’s exclusive content starts with its “dashboard”: a carbon fiber dial.

This woven composite, which is ubiquitous in modern motorsports, expresses its complex weave of carbon threads and supplants the gloss black lacquer of the standard Fifty Fathoms. Blancpain extends the automotive theme with a unique full-Arabic numeral display in place of the standard watch’s stick indexes and Arabics.

Day glow orange is the complementary color in the Speed Command’s palette, and judicious use of this standout element allows details to explode from the black base of the dial and bezel.

Blancpain’s choice of high-visibility colors (the hands mark a rare appearance of Superluminova’s red variant) endow the Speed Command with a lighthearted character and energetic image. Purists who grouse about the adaptation of a combat dive watch to recreational racing are missing the point; luxury watches are about having fun, and the Speed Command delivers.

Since 2007, when the modern 45mm Fifty Fathoms launched, the watch’s unique sapphire bezel cover has become a celebrated signature element. More durable than PVD metal bezels of yore and infinitely richer in appearance than contemporary ceramic, the convex arch of the sapphire ring endows the bezel’s calibrations with charming refractory animation as the watch rotates through ambient light.

The “Fifty’s” bezel is lustrous, virtually scratch-proof, and it exudes emotional warmth that is utterly lacking in the Cerachrom ring of the arch-rival Submariner.

Blancpain’s selection of Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) for the exterior of the stainless steel case harmonizes its aesthetic with those of the bezel and dial.

More than an attractive finish, DLC is far more rugged than older PVD finishes that tended to scratch and scuff with ease. The DLC finish of the Speed Command presents as new and stands as a vindication of Blancpain’s selection of this costly but enduring material.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Chronographe Flyback 5785FO-11D03-63A

Inside that jet-black case sits a gleaming gem: Blancpain’s F185 flyback chronograph. Designed and finished by Blancpain’s sister firm and longtime movement partner Frederic Piguet, the F185 is the latest incarnation of the 1180 series of chronographs that set the template for the modern haut-de-gamme chronographs of most major brands.

The combination of automatic winding, a column wheel for crisp function selection, and a vertical clutch for smooth chrono seconds hand operation was an epic achievement when it debuted, and it remains among the best in the business.

In its F185 iteration, the Piguet movement incorporates an on-the-fly reset and restart function known as a flyback.

Simply put, this feature allows the user to initiate another timing sequence from zero without the stop-reset-restart sequence of pushes that a conventional chronograph requires. When employed trackside, as the racing-themed Speed Command may be, a flyback allows rapid back-to-back timing of consecutive events with no downtime between them; think race laps of a track.

Because Blancpain counts itself among the apex of the haute horlogerie maisons of Swiss industry, the F185 in the Speed Command is finished to a degree of excellence that would pass muster at Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, or Jaeger-LeCoultre.

Each bridge is hand-beveled; each screw is slotted, camfered, and polished. The wheels are circular-grained and the base plate’s intricate perlage peeks through the frenetic dance of the balance wheel.

No evidence of the stamping, cutting, or milling of the original component blanks remains, and 10x loupe inspection confirms as much.

While the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Speed Command Flyback Chronograph is unabashedly targeted at more lighthearted applications than its military forebear, it also boasts refinement and value light years removed from the crude diving instruments of the 1950s.

Think of it as a Rhodes scholar in a tee-shirt and shorts. The substance is there; the pretense isn’t.

This Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Speed Command Flyback Chronograph is available from WathcBox with a full set of factory documentation, manuals, and the famous Fifty Fathoms Pelican travel case.