If you’re not a passionate watch devotee then there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. To be fair though, that’s more your fault than Blancpain’s. A superbly stylish dive watch from a forgotten era, a special version of the Fifty Fathoms makes a return in 2017 to mark the 60-year anniversary of a particularly important model: the Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC.
Blancpain Tribute To Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC
Launched in 1953 – the same year as a certain Rolex Submariner I’m sure you’ve all heard of – the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms was originally developed specially for French combat divers, also known as ‘frogmen’. A robust dive watch capable of being submerged up to 50 fathoms (approximately 300 feet – I told you the watch was from a forgotten era), it has helped set the design standard for all future dive watches.
Hallmarks include a black dial to maximise the contrast of the luminous numbers, indexes and hands, as well as a notched, unidirectional rotating bezel also in black with contrasting luminous numbers and indexes. Everything about this watch screams legibility no matter what the light conditions are.
A dive watch is only useful to a diver however, if it is watertight. Otherwise, things can go pear-shaped pretty quickly. With that in mind, in 1957, Blancpain introduced the Fifty Fathoms Automatic MIL-SPEC, complete with water-tightness indicator at 6 o’clock. Essentially, this innocuous-looking little circle on the dial turns red if water enters the watch, alerting the diver to the fact that its dive timing abilities have been compromised.
Sixty years on, Blancpain has created a pretty fitting tribute to the original Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC. Presented in 40.30 mm x 13.23 mm stainless steel case, the design is almost identical to the original. The black dial features numbers and indexes covered in lume, as does the notched, uni-directional rotating bezel which is crafted from scratch-resistant sapphire. Unlike the original model however, the watch is now rated water resistant to 300m.
As all brands seem wont to do these when creating their vintage re-issue models, the dial has been treated to a faux-patina to give it that old-school feel. Although I must admit it really works well on the Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC.
Inside is the automatic, in-house caliber 1151, comprised of 210 components, including two series-coupled mainspring barrels, which provide four days (96 hours) of power reserve. The movement is fully visible through the sapphire caseback and has been nicely, if simply, finished.
Limited to just 500 pieces, the Blancpain Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC is available on a NATO or sail cloth strap for US$14,000, or on a steel bracelet for US$16,200. The watch will be available from Blancpain later this year but I would suggest putting in a pre-order now if you want one (Ref. 5008-1130-B52A).