Blancpain graced the world with the first modern diver’s watch back in 1953. While Rolex paved the way with the first water-resistant Oyster Perpetual watch as far back as 1926, the Fifty Fathoms used the wisdom of amateur diver and Blancpain CEO Jean-Jacques Fiechter to define the essential features of diving watches. This includes characteristics such as tracking elapsed time underwater, water-resistance, legibility and anti-magnetic movements – to name but a few.
Blancpain CEO Jean-Jacques Fiechter during a dive in the South of France, 1953
As we enter 2023, Blancpain is celebrating its most famous watch model’s 70th anniversary. The brand is commencing the year by launching a limited edition of only 70 pieces: the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1. This is only the start: two more 70-piece series, comprising Act 2 and Act 3, will follow later this year. But what is the story behind the first of the three new timepieces?
Inspiration from the 50th anniversary
The first new timepiece picks up on design codes not only from the original model from 1953, but rather from the 50th anniversary watches launched in 2003. This is because the 2003 watch was pivotal in the development of the Fifty Fathoms collection. After all, it was in 2003 that then-newly appointed CEO Marc Hayek resurrected the Fifty Fathoms, after discovering the model in the company’s archives. Hayek promptly released a limited edition, comprising three series of 50 watches – and it is these special timepieces that so inspire the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1 model today. The 2003 Fifty Fathoms marked the first time that Blancpain definitively made a move away from classic timepieces in favour of offering its clients a contemporary sports watch.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms: Original model from 1953
Naturally, the 2003 limited edition did stay faithful to the 1953 model in many ways, from the black dial to the extra-large numerals that make this timepiece so legible. On the other hand, there were some important updates. This included an increase of water-resistance from 91 m (50 fathoms) to 300 m, as well as a new self-winding movement with a twin barrel, offering a four-day power reserve. Furthermore, the epoxy bezel inlay of the 1950s was replaced by a domed, scratch-resistant sapphire insert.
A new three-part series for 2023
In many ways, the first new limited edition pays homage to the important renaissance Fifty Fathoms model from 2003. As mentioned, Blancpain are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Fifty Fathoms by introducing three series, with each comprising 70 watches. Each series dedicates itself to a certain part of the world: EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa), Asia-Pacific, or the Americas. The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act I is the first release marking this milestone year.
Aesthetics of the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1
The aesthetics of the limited edition are loaded with nods to former important models – not least in size, with the 70th Anniversary Act 1 coming in a new 42 mm steel case matching to the size of the original 1953 Fifty Fathoms. This is an exclusive diameter; the modern-day Fifty Fathoms models have 45 mm cases, while limited edition models measure 40 mm.
Meanwhile, the hallmark black dial has a sunburst motif, vintage-looking luminescent hands and block-type hour markers. Surrounded by the typical Fifty Fathoms bezel with a domed sapphire crystal inlay, the dial also bears the words ‘Series 1’ on the lower half of the dial.
Let’s talk mechanics: Calibre 1315
The calibre 1315 is a staple movement of Blancpain, enjoying a reputation for its three-barrel architecture, which in turn provides a five-day power reserve. Meanwhile, its silicon balance spring makes this self-winding movement resistance to magnetic forces, thus ensuring the precision of the watch – a matter of vital importance in the field of diving. Even back in 1953, Blancpain prioritised anti-magnetism by installing a soft iron cage in the original watch.
Fortunately for fans of the Fifty Fathoms, wearers can admire the movement through the sapphire crystal caseback – not least the platinum oscillating weight bearing the ‘Fifty Fathoms 70th’ logo. Platinum was chosen as the material for this because in Switzerland, it is the traditional precious metal for celebrating 70th wedding anniversaries. The weight also features an unusual opening also present in the 1953 model, previously employed to increase the suppleness of the rotor and thus shock-resistance.
Last but not least, the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1 comes on a black NATO YTT+ strap. This type of NATO strap consists of 100% recycled and entirely recyclable thread from fishing nets recovered from the sea or oceans – a sustainable initiative that will be extended to all Blancpain NATO straps. Finally, all three series of anniversary watches will be exclusively available for pre-order on the Blancpain website as of January 2023. Price: 18,500 euros.
|MODEL||Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1
|CASE MATERIAL||Stainless steel
|DIMENSIONS||Diameter: 42 mm
Height: 14.30 mm
|WATER RESISTANCE||300 m (~30 bar)
|STRAP/BRACELET||Black NATO YTT+
|POWER RESERVE||Five days
|FREQUENCY||4 Hz (28,800 vph)
|FUNCTIONS||Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Limited edition of 70 pieces.