It’s not just a watch; it’s a testament to survival, innovation, and a salute to the rich history of diving. Blancpain‘s iconic Fifty Fathoms, a true pioneer in the diving watch arena, marks its 70th anniversary with the unveiling of the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3. Hailing from the hallowed halls of the world’s oldest watch brand, this model reincarnates a legendary design with modern panache.
A Brush with Destiny
The story of Fifty Fathoms began, strangely enough, with a perilous dive. Jean-Jacques Fiechter, a co-CEO at Blancpain and an avid diver, had a close shave during one of his underwater escapades in Cannes. Running out of air unexpectedly during a dive underscored the importance of a reliable time-measuring instrument specifically tailored for scuba divers. This harrowing experience catalyzed the conception of the world’s first genuine diver’s watch, the Fifty Fathoms.
Its genesis saw groundbreaking innovations. The 1953 model boasted of a self-winding mechanism ensuring less wear on its crown gaskets, resistance to magnetism inherent in the diving environment, and a watertight seal ensuring a depth resistance of up to 10 bars. These features, combined with luminous hour markers set against a dark dial for enhanced readability, set the Fifty Fathoms apart. Such were its exceptional attributes that armed forces, from countries such as France, Germany, the US, and Norway, quickly integrated this horological marvel into their naval equipment. Jean-Jacques Fiechter’s vision transformed not just Blancpain, but the very archetype of a diver’s watch.
Crafted for Excellence
Going beyond its already remarkable achievements, the 1950s saw Jean-Jacques Fiechter introducing an innovation – a moisture indicator. This genius addition allowed divers to ascertain the watch’s integrity after each mission, ensuring that it wasn’t compromised by prior users. Fast forward to today, and the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 pays homage to this iconic timepiece.
The Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3’s design bears striking resemblances to the historic MIL-SPEC. The matt black dial complements the vintage Super-LumiNova® moisture indicator and hour markers. The bezel rotates in a single direction, with its black ceramic insert sporting a vintage Super-LumiNova® diving scale. Furthermore, the two-tone NATO strap, reminiscent of the original timepiece, is crafted from upcycled fishing nets.
Yet, the difference lies in the details. Unlike the German silver casing of the MIL-SPEC, the Anniversary Act 3 model is enveloped in 9K Bronze Gold. This patented alloy comprises 37.5% gold, 50% copper, allowing it the distinction of being labeled “bronze,” and a mix of silver, palladium, and gallium. With a hue resembling pink, this unique blend not only ensures longevity by resisting oxidation but also allows for direct skin contact.
At its heart lies the 1154.P2 movement, nestled within the 9K Bronze Gold case. The watch flaunts a commendable 100-hour power reserve due to its twin barrel. Advanced watchmaking techniques have allowed Blancpain to incorporate a silicon balance-spring, ensuring resistance to magnetism. This is further accentuated with Blancpain’s maiden attempt at a 1000-gauss movement.
While earlier models had to shield the mechanism with a soft iron cage to maintain resistance to magnetic fields, modern advancements present the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 with a transparent sapphire crystal caseback. Through this, one can admire the enlarged bridges, the oscillating weight, and the beautiful decorations, all reminiscent of the bygone era.
Limited to just 555 pieces, this masterpiece is housed in a box that draws inspiration from historic camera housings, which pays tribute to Blancpain’s marine conservation endeavors. It’s a fitting nod, considering underwater photography evolved concurrently with the diver’s watch.
© Photos: Blancpain
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