Blancpain’s Tech Gombessa Thrills As The World’s First 3-Hour Diver Timer

Blancpain upstages the first act of its 70th Anniversary Fifty Fathoms edition with a second act that raises the curtain on a world-first in watchmaking. The Fifty Fathoms Act 2 Tech Gombessa can time dives of up to three hours compared to the usual 60 minutes. Both Fifty Fathoms Act 1 and 2 kick off what is promised to be a year of memorable performances to celebrate seven decades of the diver. The Tech Gombessa is a game-changer for the brand and heralds a new line called Fifty Fathoms Tech, which will encompass all Blancpain watches dedicated to technical scuba diving.

Act 1, a limited edition of 210 pieces—three sets of 70—was not much of a departure from recent designs (date window at 4 o’clock, 300-metre water resistance, domed sapphire bezel insert), with the exception of a special caseback engraving and a slightly scaled-down 42 mm size (the Fifty Fathoms maxes out at 45). Act 2, the Fifty Fathoms Tech Gombessa measures 47 mm—the largest in the collection so far. Gone is the 4 o’clock date window, and the sapphire bezel has been replaced with a ceramic ring that is curved inward towards the dial.

In the interest of greater legibility, Blancpain also added a spherical crystal over the bezel, all the better to see the star of the show: the bezel is marked for three-hour dives rather than the standard one-hour track. Instead of the 15, 30 and 45 cardinal markers, it charts 30 for the first half hour of the dive, then reverts to hour indicators, going from 1 to 1:30, 2 and 2:30 before reaching the diamond marker that represents the three-hour limit. A fourth hand on the centre dial tracks the diver’s progress. It makes a full turn every three hours and is covered with a white luminescent coating with green emission, matching the bezel markers. The movement that drives the new three-hour scale is the automatic calibre 13P8, a world first that was five years in development. It has the same five-day power reserve as the calibre 1315, used in the line since 2007.

Blancpain CEO Marc Hayek, an avid scuba diver, personally tested the watch, along with Laurent Bellesta, founder of the Gombessa project, which is dedicated to the study of hammerhead sharks. Blancpain began the development of the Tech Gombessa in 2019, with the goal of timing longer dives, starting with members of the Gombessa expedition. Four prototypes were worn by divers for a 50-day trial period at depths of 120 metres as part of the Gombessa V and Gombessa VI missions conducted in the Mediterranean in 2019 and 2021. The divers lived for an entire month on both occasions in a five-square-meter hyperbaric chamber, from which they emerged daily to explore the depths. They tested several versions of the helium valve, and the watch underwent numerous adjustments resulting from a multitude of tests in real-life conditions.

The dial has a new finish, called absolute black, which has a structure that captures almost 97 percent of the light, ensuring the best possible readability in the dark against the contrast of luminated, block-shaped hour markers. The markers are orange with blue emission, colours that are picked up on the hours and minute hands to differentiate between time-related information and diving times. Hour and minute hands are coloured to match. The case of the Tech Gombessa is grade 23 titanium, the purest alloy of the metal. The lugs are also new: They are positioned at the centre of the case, a first for Blancpain, and attached to the strap from the inside of the case middle. The black rubber strap is screwed to the back of the lugs and has an internal titanium reinforcement. The rotor is stamped with the Gombessa Expeditions logo.

At US$28,000 (just over RM124,000), all of the bells and whistles of the Fifty Fathoms Tech Gombessa will set you back a little more than the Act 1 Fifty Fathoms (US$17,400)—the price difference between the preamble and the real action. Stay tuned for the next act.


Previously published on Robb Report.

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