Taking apart a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms from the early 1950’s and a brand new one

Peter Speake-Marin deconstructs watches as The Naked Watchmaker.
calendar | ic_dehaze_black_24px By Frank Geelen | ic_query_builder_black_24px 4 minute read |

The other day we published a lengthy interview with Peter Speake-Marin, so you could get to know a bit more about Peter, and today we’re going to have a closer look at what exactly he’s doing these days. Besides being an easy-going, down-to-earth and always pleasant person, a happy and proud dad, and an extremely talented watchmaker, Peter deconstructs watches. And he shares this online so that everyone can see it, and enjoy the watches that are being deconstructed. 

Recently Peter deconstructed a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, or actually, two! He took apart an old Fifty Fathoms from the early 1950’s and a brand new one, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms ref.5015-1130-52. The old one is rather special as it is one of the early examples of the Fifty Fathoms, nowadays fully restored and part of the Blancpain museum collection. The Fifty Fathoms was one of the very first dive watches to come to market, back in 1953. It was developed for the French navy (military specs) to enable divers to visualise the remaining ‘oxygen time’ during their dives (by means of the rotating bezel.) An interesting fact is that Blancpain’s CEO at the time, Jean-Jacques Fiechter,  was an avid amateur diver himself and he was immediately prepared to develop the watch as requested by the French navy.

Mind you, in an era of small dress watches, a large 42mm watch with a big black rotating bezel and long, massive, lugs, was something unheard of. The Rolex Submariner ref. 6202 that was also introduced in 1953 looks small and almost elegant compared to the ‘humongous’ Fifty Fathoms. The watch was waterproof up to a depth of 50 fathoms, and while we do not use fathoms anymore, this equals 91.45 metres. At the time that was considered as the maximum depth that divers could safely reach with their oxygen mixture. If you want to read more about the history of the Fifty Fathoms than please look here, but now, let’s have a look at the old Fifty Fathoms that Peter took apart.

To get a bit of an idea of what Peter does, or how he does things over at The Naked Watchmaker, I’m showing you some screenshots of the website. Above is the movement of the vintage Fifty Fathoms and every photo shows the movement as the parts are removed. It might be more for hardcore watch enthusiasts, but also for reference when you’re looking for a specific watch it will help to see all parts of both the movement and case/bezel in such magnificent detail.

Over the years, the design of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms changed several times, so there are several case shapes and dial designs until the mid-1970s. After a pause, due to the quartz crisis, Blancpain introduced a new edition of the Fifty Fathoms in 1999 (which featured a metallic bezel with numerals in reliefs.) In 2007, Blancpain redesigned it and the result is the Fifty Fathoms that is still in the current collection (and that’s much closer to the vintage Fifty Fathoms in terms of design). The new Fifty Fathoms measures 45mm in diameter, has a depth rating of 300 meters (3 times more than the old), and comes with an additional date function. Ergo, there’s another movement and a new case construction. Peter took apart this new Fifty Fathoms as well, resulting again in a clear description (in words and pictures) of the watch, the case, bezel, dial, movement and of course its functions.

Inside ticks calibre 1315, hidden underneath a soft iron cap and a steel case back.

And after this, Peter starts taking the watch apart, again sharing individual photos of pretty much all the individual parts. It’s great to see how well finished the parts are, despite being hidden for most of the time, and usually only visible to the watchmaker who’s going to service the movement.

In the crowded world of (online) watch publications, it looks like Peter found a niche that will certainly get a steady following. Whether as a weekly read or as a reference guide for whenever you need it. I wish Peter all the best deconstructing many more watches and creating great stuff for watch enthusiasts to learn from and to admire. Click here to visit the Naked Watchmaker.

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