By Jovan Krstevski
Blancpain has something to show for the Baselworld 2017 and it’s something tributary, more like the reimagined Fifty Fathoms from the 1950s era. If there’s something Blancpain are famous for, it’ll be their unbeatable water-tightness indicator, something that we don’t see very often. The watch packs enough patent for all its glory.
A grain of history, the Fifty Fathoms is connected to Blancpain’s CEO of three decades (1950–1980) Jean-Jacques Fiechter who happened to be a diver too and of course Captain Robert “Bob” Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud who were also the founders of the French Navy’s combat swimmers corps who found the Fifty Fathoms as the reliable watch for their underwater missions. These are nice beginnings indeed.
Every timepiece is assembled completely by hand in producer’s workshops by one watchmaker. Blancpain is among those rare watch manufacturers where the watchmakers still assemble each movement by hand from beginning to end.From 2002, Marc Alexander Hayek is the Chairman and the CEO of both Blancpain and he’s given a new stimulus to the Manufacture. For the previous decade, the number of world premieres and patents grew with an impressive display of fresh movements.Significant investments were allocated as well as the Research and Development division was strengthened to proceed forward. Among the Most Recent accomplishments happened in 2008 when Blancpain revived the Karrusel, a complication forgotten for over a century.Blancpain is well known for Villeret, Le Brassus, Leman, Specialities and Sport, in Addition to Women collections together with Novelties and Fifty Fathoms. The company’s headquarter is in Biel, Switzerland and the manufacturer is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Swatch Group.Introduced in 2014 (hands-on with this Bathyscaph Flyback Chronograph here), the automated grade F385 runs at 5Hz (that is a “hi-beat” 36,000bph) with a 50-hour power book, and comes with a 12-hour flyback chronograph, small seconds, and also the date. The sapphire crystal case-back offers a dang lovely view of this motion and the 18k gold rotor with the Ocean Commitment logo.Price for all those 250-piece limited-edition Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph Ocean beaded watches will probably be ￡14,000 (that is currently around US$17,000). For every piece offered, $1,000 (totaling $250,000 to the full run) will go to encouraging scientific expeditions as part of Blancpain’s Ocean Commitment undertaking.
As Jean-Jacques Fiechter got fond of measuring time in the underwater environment in the 1950s, he challenged his watchmaking team to provide solutions. This led to the development of the Fifty Fathoms. The watch sports a patented double sealed crown system that prevented water penetration when one of the crown is accidentally pulled during the dive. As for me, I think divers know that they cannot alter time underwater especially if they’ve already timed their compression process, but of course there it is when you need it.
Then a second design for the caseback was conceived which was also patented, it involved a sealing system for the caseback that solved the recurring problem with other pre-existing systems when the “O” ring used to seal the caseback becomes twisted when the caseback is screwed back into the case. The Fifty Fathoms simply eliminated this risk by adding a metallic disk where the “O” ring is inserted and held in position.
Jean-Jacques Fiechter also received another patent for his ingenious secured rotating bezel design by using a blocking mechanism that prevented accidental rotation of the bezel. These are original solutions that made the Fifty Fathoms unbeatable when it comes to a diver’s watch tool. Later on a uni-directional rotating bezel was introduced which was a pioneering design that ensured diving safety.
Finally in 1953, Blancpain man watch Replica Orologidelivered his “solution” to the French team (Bob Maloubier and Claude Riffaud) who demanded a watch that met their strict requirements. The solution is of course the Fifty Fathoms which became the essential equipment for the French combat swimmers corps. The naval forces also demanded the Fifty Fathoms later on until the rest of the world followed.
As Fifty Fathoms came into production, Jean-Jacques Fiechter never stopped innovating. He soon added another feature called a circular water-tightness indicator in the form of a unique disk at the 6 o’clock that changes its color from white to red when there’s a problem. Originally this tech was present at the Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC 1 released in 1957–58.
In addition, the 913 has a glucydur equilibrium wheel with golden micrometric regulating screws, which makes it adjustable and also more shock-resistant compared to its predecessor. There’s also a better winding system that employs a ball-bearing mounted rotor. The sapphire case back reveals the rotor, which can be reddish gold with a snailed bevel, polished chamfers and directly and circular C?tes de Genève patterns. It’s a 40-hour power reserve.At 29.2mm, the Blancpain Villeret Date Moonphase is a very small watch considering there is a moon period plus a date and a seconds hand, a rare edge in a little ladies’ automatic. It’s evidence of Blancpain’s commitment to producing size-appropriate high-grade calibers devoted to ladies’ watches at its elite collections. The date is elegantly spaced out just in the hour track, indicated by a red-tipped pointer. The bezel is set with 48 diamonds and you will find eight diamond indexes as well as four applied Roman numerals from the touch Villeret font. Even as purveyors of possibly one of the world’s first truly purpose-built dive watches, there is no denying it has been a long time because Blancpain has even been remotely near the tool watch kingdom it once initiated. That being said, it’s still neat to find the newest revisit those days with a marked degree of panache from the newly announced Tribute to Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec — a watch which may cost $14,000, but it is still every bit the capable tool once relied upon by combat divers in the late fifties.
Ok so much for history, let’s go to the revisited Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC. Of course the new watch includes the same entire set of technical characteristics that the original Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC innovated.
The watch sports a 40 mm stainless steel case all the way to the exhibition sapphire case back. The smooth edges are lovely from the lugs to the unidirectional bezel and of course the nice crown. The watch is a work of art, what can I say. We can only think of nicer upgrades to an already impressive design.
The black dial has indexes coated in Super-LuminNova. The unidirectional rotating bezel is also protected by a scratch-resistant sapphire which was inspired by the 50th Anniversary Fifty Fathoms, this protects the luminescent indications underneath.
Powering the new Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC is an in-house automatic winding caliber 1151. It sports an impressive four-day power reserve. Its tech includes a balance-spring in silicon which makes it lighter and more shock-resistant. Being resistant to magnetic fields, the watch is also incredibly accurate.
The new Blancpain Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC has a 300 meters water resistance and is limited to 500 pieces. It comes in a NATO strap, sail cloth strap, or steel bracelet featuring a secure buckle. The price point as of this writing is Euro 13,400 with strap or Euro 14,400 with steel bracelet. For more info, please visit blancpain.com