This year, Blancpain has already unveiled several new versions of its emblematic dive watch, the Fifty Fathoms. We first saw a limited-edition 42mm Fifty Fathoms (Act 1), followed by the impressive Fifty Fathoms Tech Gombessa developed for closed-circuit rebreather diving (Act 2)… Not to mention the much-discussed Blancpain x Swatch collaboration. It is now time to unveil the third act of this anniversary collection with an attractive bronze-gold watch directly modelled after vintage MIL-SPEC models in German silver, bringing the much-appreciated look of these military-issued versions.
The Fifty Fathoms is undoubtedly one of the most iconic dive watches. According to the brand, it was created in 1953 by Jacques Fiechter, CEO of Blancpain at the time and a scuba diving fan. Born as a purpose-built piece of equipment, its story is also related to French military divers Bob Maloubier and Claude Riffaud, who tested this rugged, functional watch on their underwater missions in early 1954.
The Fifty Fathoms incorporated the archetypal features of the modern dive watch genre as a robust, highly legible watch that was water-resistant to great depths (91 metres) and equipped with a unidirectional rotating bezel to time dives. Compared to manually wound watches, which were still sort of the benchmark in those days, its automatic movement involved less handling and wear on the crown and gaskets. With the development of military, professional and recreative diving, the Fifty Fathoms encountered great success, and countless versions of the watch were released over the years. It was chosen by diving pioneers and the elite Marine Corps as a professional timekeeping instrument. In the late 1950s, with the need to increase safety for divers, an additional feature was incorporated: a circular water-tightness indicator consisting of a coloured disc. Retaining its original colour allowed divers to check that the water resistance of their watch had not been compromised. It was present on the dial of the Fifty Fathoms model known as the “MIL-SPEC” (for Military Specification), which was used by American combat swimmers.
While it isn’t the first time that Blancpain has brought back this cool military-inspired look and moisture indicator (this was done in 2017 in a highly modernised version), the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 immediately grabs your attention with its two-tone black-bronze colour scheme and a case design that is all faithful to early editions of the FF watch.
Blancpain reports that the historical models were made in steel and then in German silver to reduce the magnetic signature – and with a brushed finish to reduce reflections. Recalling the colour of German silver, the Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec Act 3 is fashioned out of bronze-gold. This patented modern alloy has been previously seen at Omega, Blancpain’s sister company. It incorporates 37.5% gold (hallmarked 9K), 50% copper – allowing it to be called “bronze” – plus silver, palladium and gallium. Among other interesting properties, it can be worn in direct contact with the skin and is more corrosion-resistant than standard bronze alloys (with a controlled patination).
Besides the distinctive moisture indicator, the matte black dial and the rotating bezel with a black ceramic insert both feature vintage Super-LumiNova matching the colour of the case while providing great contrast and legibility. The Blancpain logo uses the vintage font and, unlike original MIL-SPECs, it is paired with the words Fifty Fathoms. Made of recycled fishing nets, the two-tone NATO strap sets the finishing touch.
The 41.30mm case captures the feeling of the original models of the 1950s, with its straight lugs and flanks, its large, flat bezel framing a raised crystal and fine notches on the periphery and an unprotected crown. In this respect, it feels highly different from the classic case we’ve been used to seeing in most of the modern Fifty Fathoms watches.
However, as you would expect, it is a modern construction. The unidirectional rotating bezel features a ceramic insert, and the box-shaped glass is in scratch-proof sapphire crystal. The crown screws down, and the water resistance is now rated at 300m. Last but not least, unlike the original model, the screw-down caseback is now fitted with a sapphire crystal with a view of calibre 1154 P2.
Derived from the classic Blancpain 1150, this thin automatic calibre runs at a 3Hz frequency and boasts a substantial 100-hour power reserve on two barrels. For the first time, the resistance to magnetic fields of this movement has been pushed to 1,000 Gauss with a silicon balance spring and exclusive alloys for the escapement. The balance is a free-sprung architecture with gold adjustment screws. The 1154 P2 also features bridges enlarged to the diameter of the movement. The decoration is sober but nicely executed. The oscillating weight’s shape is inspired by the historical rotor and it is decorated with a vintage logotype.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 is released in a 555-piece limited edition. The price is set at CHF 30,000. For more information, please visit www.blancpain.com.