It’s easy to think that the likes of Rolex and Omega released the world’s first dive watch. But, history tells that Blancpain actually holds that title with the launch of its iconic Fifty Fathoms.
It was released in 1953, the same year as the Rolex Submariner. But, only the Fifty Fathoms sported a unidirectional bezel and could safely be used by scuba divers. This watch served as a template for many dive watches that followed, at least in terms of functionality and aesthetics.
A Brief History of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms
History shows that Blancpain holds the title of being the oldest registered watchmaking brand. It was started by Jehan-Jacques Blancpain who officially registered his watchmaking business in 1735, in the municipality of Villeret in Switzerland.
By 1815, the founder’s grandson was industrializing the watchmaking process of the business, and later that century continued investments in infrastructure to survive. From the offset, Blancpain has become well known for a specific facet of its business: dive watches. These days, when you think of its name, you’d almost immediately think of the iconic Fifty Fathoms. While it’s the case, it pays to mention that Blancpain is also significantly involved in motorsport.
Besides being the first modern diver’s watch, there’s another reason that makes Fifty Fathoms a revolutionary Blancpain watch: it is equipped with many of the features specified by the Nageur de Combat—the French Navy’s elite scuba squad. These included a locking timing bezel, an auto-winding movement, and a leak warning system.
Fifty Fathoms Through The Years
While already striking with its dark colorways, Blancpain had revised the aesthetics of the Fifty Fathoms in favor of a disco vibe. It was also a move that helped the brand keep pace with a new breed of luxury sports watches.
Fast forward to the present, the Fifty Fathoms maintains its legendary status despite receiving several iterations to keep it up to date. It has grown to include over 70 watches, featuring different styles, sizes, and mechanical complications. While it’s the case, they still share many distinctive features including in-house mechanical movements, silicone balance springs, unidirectional sapphire or ceramic timing bezels, a minimum of 300m water resistance, and relatively thin cases.
3 Best Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Models
The latest Fifty Fathoms take inspiration from the 1950s Fifty Fathom models, only they are equipped with more innovative materials and advanced technical solutions to satisfy today’s most demanding requirements. Here, we take a look at some of the most popular models from the line.
Blancpain has a history of releasing an array of re-editions of the Fifty Fathoms. These included a tribute model, the Barakuda, which pays homage to one of the most coveted models from the line.
The latest Barakuda was released mid-2019 and it carries the distinctive features of the model: two-tone markers and a pop of red at the base of the hour markers. It adds a touch of color to an otherwise monochromatic watch. The watch is powered by the in-house manufactured Caliber 1151 movement that boasts an impressive 100-hour power reserve.
The Bathyscaphe is a no-frills version of the Fifty Fathoms. It is characterized by a clean, minimalist appearance—a combination of index and round hour markers and a ceramic bezel insert that looks great at every angle.
In 2013, Blancpain celebrated the collection’s 60th anniversary with a new Bathyscaphe. Like most of today’s Fifty Fathoms, it brings some new features to the family without completely giving up the hallmarks of the original 1950s models. At 43mm, it’s 2mm smaller than the previous Fifty Fathoms. It’s also powered by the in-house automatic Calibre 1315 that offers a generous power reserve of 120 hours.
500 Fathoms & 500 Fathoms GMT
The 500 Fathoms may have the looks of a vintage watch. But, everything else about this model leans toward the future. With a 48mm titanium case, this enormous watch is equipped with a helium escape valve, a winding rotor, and 100 meters of water resistance—qualities that make this watch a true must-have for divers.
The standard 500 Fathoms runs on the in-house Caliber 1315 movement. It also has a GMT version which is powered by the Caliber 5215 movement.
A Blancpain Watch Just For You
Aside from these, some other Fifty Fathoms models that should be on your radar include the Grand Date, Chronographe Flyback, Tourbillon 8 Jours, and the X Fathoms. These versions are appealing just the same with their vintage looks and modern mechanical components.
Over the last few years, we have seen several brands produce modern versions of their most iconic pieces from the past. But, only a few of them can be considered as successful as Blancpain in terms of tastefully outfitting these models with modern specifications while retaining their vintage appeal.
What do you think of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms models? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
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