wenty years ago, Blancpain’s newly appointed CEO Marc A. Hayek discovered the Fifty Fathoms lying dormant in the Brand’s archives.
An avid scuba diver himself since his youth, he immediately fell under the spell of this exceptional watch and decided to give it a new lease on life. The rebirth of the Fifty Fathoms was one of the first projects he undertook upon his arrival at Blancpain.
- The Fifty Fathoms in the pages of Europa Star in the 1970s
With the Manufacture focusing almost exclusively on classic watches, it was imperative to first “test the waters” to see how Blancpain’s clientele would respond to this sports model. In 2003, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Fifty Fathoms, Blancpain launched the first contemporary version, a limited edition comprising three series of 50 watches.
- The original 1953 Fifty Fathoms
This anniversary model picked up the aesthetic codes of the 1953 timepiece while ushering it into the 21st century. The black dial, bearing extra-large numerals and markings affirmed the character of the original watch that was recognisable at first glance, as too were its attributes as a timekeeping instrument designed for diving.
- The 50th anniversary model presented in Europa Star
This anniversary model was nonetheless resolutely anchored in the 2000s: its case was no longer water- resistant to 50 fathoms, or nearly 91 metres, but instead to around 300 metres. Its self-winding movement was equipped with a twin barrel endowing it with a four-day power reserve. Another significant feature was that the epoxy bezel inlay of the 1950s was replaced by a domed, scratchproof sapphire insert.
- Jean-Jacques Fiechter diving in the South of France
The overwhelming success of this anniversary edition convinced Blancpain that the Fifty Fathoms should be included in its timepiece collections. Nonetheless, Marc A. Hayek wished to go even further. For him, this new era should be accompanied by a deeper tribute to Jean-Jacques Fiechter, recognising the contribution he made to the oceans by opening them up to exploration thanks to the Fifty Fathoms.
Blancpain’s first ocean preservation initiative was thus created in collaboration with PADI, the world’s largest scuba diving training organisation.
To kick off year-long celebrations highlighting the 70th anniversary of the Fifty Fathoms – whose arrival set the benchmark for diving watches – the Manufacture is unveiling a brand-new timepiece that is also a nod to the 2003 “renaissance” model. Three series are once again being produced, this time each comprising 70 watches. Each series is dedicated to a region of the world – EMEA, Asia-Pacific, the Americas – and bears a number from I to III on the dial.
- The first 70-year anniversary timepiece unveiled in 2023
The dial is black with a sunburst motif and features vintage-look luminescent hands and block-type hour-markers. The watch case, topped by the famous unidirectional bezel with a domed sapphire inlay, is made of polished steel and measures 42 mm. This is an exclusive diameter, as no contemporary Fifty Fathoms has ever yet been offered in this size. Regular models measure 45 mm, while the usual limited-edition Fifty Fathoms has a 40 mm case.
By opting for a new 42 mm diameter, Blancpain is paying tribute to the 1953 model while at the same time responding to the demands of Fifty Fathoms enthusiasts keen to enjoy all the advantages of the peerless Calibre 1315 in a concentrated format. Renowned for its extreme robustness, this self-winding movement has been a staple at Manufacture Blancpain since its launch in 2007. Based on a three-barrel architecture, it provides a five-day power reserve ensuring optimal convenience of the wearer.
Its silicon balance spring guarantees resistance to magnetism, an essential criterion in the world of diving. When the first Fifty Fathoms was born, anti-magnetism was ensured by a soft iron cage housing the movement. By eliminating this constraint through the introduction of the use of silicon some 15 years ago, Blancpain enables owners of its diver’s watches to admire the intricate workings of the movement, whose finishing testifies to the prestige of the Manufacture’s timepieces.
This anniversary edition’s oscillating weight bearing the “Fifty Fathoms 70th” logo is made of platinum, chosen for its symbolism. Synonymous with eternity, this material is associated with 70th wedding anniversaries in Switzerland. As a further tribute to the first Fifty Fathoms, the oscillating weight features an opening, a technical trick used in the 1950s to increase the suppleness of the rotor and thus improve its shock resistance.
The first anniversary timepiece in 2023, this 42 mm Fifty Fathoms is fitted with a black NATO YTT+ strap. The particularity of this type of NATO strap lies in its being made from 100% recycled and entirely recyclable thread from fishing nets recovered from the sea or oceans – a sustainable initiative that will eventually be extended to all Blancpain NATO straps.