blancpain 50 fathoms

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is a diving watch in its truest form, and arguably also the first specifically made for the task. Today we’ll go a bit deeper (pun intended) into how the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms came to be, and how it has evolved over more than half a century.

The Fifty Fathoms can now function perfectly up to 30 bar. The automatic caliber 1315, introduced in 2007, powers the watch. It’s based on the manually wound movement 13R0, in use since 2006. Similar to the 1315, the 13R0 is only found in Blancpain watches. The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is known to be the first modern diver’s watch. The vintage Fifty Fathoms dive watch was first introduced in 1953. Today, the most popular Blancpain 50 Fathoms watch is the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe, a tribute to the deep-sea submersible.

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Replica collection epitomizes Blancpain’s passion and zeal for the underwater world. History of Blancpain Fifthy Fathoms. Jehan-Jacques Blancpain perceived the potential in watchmaking, a completely new business activity. Since the foundation of Blancpain in 1735, their watches enjoyed great success from the earliest years.

Among dive watches, few are as known a quantity as the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. One of, if not the original, dive watches to hit the market back in 1953, the Fifty Fathoms’s core design has seen nearly endless iterations into a line of watches that spans a variety of sizes, colors, and complications (there are more than 80 versions in the current range).

The Blancpain was found to be the most attractive option, being praised for its strap design, cost versus the Rolex (55.50 USD versus 90 USD for the Submariner), ease with which the bezel can be rotated, and its matte case finish, due to the fact that the polished surfaces of the Enicar and Sub could attract sharks and barracuda in tropical waters.

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is a diving watch in its truest form, and arguably also the first specifically made for the task. Today we’ll go a bit deeper (pun intended) into how the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms came to be, and how it has evolved over more than half a century.

In 1952, when the French Ministry of Defence created the first unit of combat swimmers, or frogmen, Captain Robert Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud had the difficult task of finding equipment good enough to survive the harsh conditions a combat swimmer would often find themselves in. They found compasses, depth gauges and watches. But they soon realized the watches that already existed were not tough enough for the task. So they set out to find a manufacture that would produce the watch they were looking for. Maloubier had already drawn up a design. A huge (for its time) 42mm watch with big, luminous markers and a rotating outer bezel. But in a time where the watch market was largely dominated by dress watches, finding someone who was willing to produce this monster of a watch would turn out to be a difficult task.

Finally, they got in contact with Blancpain, whose CEO Jean-Jaques Fiechter was an avid diver. He agreed to produce their watch. The first model was finished in 1953 and presented to the public in Basel the following year. The watch proved to be very robust and reliable and many other special forces soon began using it, among them the Spanish, Israeli, American, German and even Norwegian special forces. But military forces were not the only ones to use this watch. The two main suppliers of the Fifty Fathoms were Spirotechnique and Aqualung. Sprirotechnique was the official supplier of equipment for the French naval forces. Aqualung however was a supplier of diving gear, for civilians. Aqualung was the name of Jaques Cousteau’s line of diving equipment, and the Blancpain watches that were sold in his shop bore the name “Aqualung” on the dial. From early 1950 to 1970, more than 20 different variations of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms were made. Among them is the “No radiation” dial, this one is rather interesting.

One of the main criteria for the Fifty Fathoms was that it had to have a luminous dial. It was very important that even when the pressure around you reached fifty fathoms, you had to be able to read the dial. To achieve this, they had to have luminous hour markers and hands. In the military version, they used radium and Promethium 147 which were highly radioactive. The military versions even had an inscription on the back that read “DANGER. IF FOUND RETURN TO NEAREST MILITARY FACILITY”. Now this was during the cold war, and people were very paranoid about nuclear isotopes, naturally, they couldn’t use them in their watches. So for the civilian version, they made a no radiation dial. These watches used tritium instead of radium, and while tritium is still radioactive, it’s not nearly as radioactive as radium. To highlight this fact, Blancpain decided to put a huge radiation symbol with a red “X” through it. This mark was placed just above 6 o´clock.

In the mid 1950’s, Lip S.A, who was huge brand for luxury watches in France decided they wanted to distribute the Fifty Fathoms, despite turning down the idea in 1952 and calling the design “a portable clock without any future”. Luckily for Lip their CEO, Fred Lip, was very close to the upper management at Blancpain, and Lip distributed the watches as “Lip Blancpain”. Even Abercrombie, who at the time was a distributor of camping and outdoor sports wear, had their own Fifty Fathoms watches that they sold. The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms was, unlike today, not a watch you’d find in a fancy jewellery store. In fact, just like the Rolex Submariner, they were not considered luxury items at all. Having an expensive tool watch at the time can be compared with having an expensive and fancy drill today. This is why the blancpain fifty fathoms bathyscaphe was only sold in diving and outdoor gear retailers.

Quite possibly the rarest of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is the Fifty Fathoms that does not even carry the name Blancpain on the dial. In the 1960’s, when the American naval forces wanted to get a diving watch, they were under a very strict “Buy American” policy, so they couldn’t just import a watch from Switzerland. But one man was pushing hard to get the Fifty Fathoms to America. Allen Tornek, who had met Jean-Jacques Fiechter through their mutual passion for diving, rebranded the watches “Blancpain-Tornek” and “Tornek-Rayville” and became the official supplier for watches to the American navy. Only around 1000 watches branded “Rayville Tornek” were made, and most of them were destroyed by the Navy at the end of their service, so these are very rare today.

audemars piguet royal oak offshore diver

Please enjoy the original article below by Meehna Goldsmith – a watch matchmaker. She calls Los Angeles home but travels the world spreading the horologic gospel and finding people their perfect watch match. She contributes to publications such as the Financial Times, American Express Magazines, Robb Report Watch Collector, International Watch, and as the U.S. correspondent for HH Magazine, the publication of the Fondation De La Haute Horlogerie.You can visit her on her website
audemars piguet royal oak offshore diver expands their Royal Oak Offshore line with the introduction of the Diver. While other Royal Oak Offshore models were built to endure your sporty adventures, there hadn’t been one that could accompany you underneath the sea. With the Diver, AP’s remedies that situation.
AP takes a cool, minimalist approach to its diver with just the essentials of time, date and a bezel to keep track of your dive time. They are quite capable of wowing us with complications but while you’re fish gazing and marveling at the wild plant forms swaying below, you don’t have a lot of need for those fancy extras. AP made the right choice in keeping this dive watch simple and functional.

The baton hands are thick and prominent against the black “Méga Tapisserie” pattern that has become AP’s signature in the ROO collection. Ensuring visibility in the inky depths, the hands as well as the hour markers have a generous coating of lume on them. It’s worth noting that the hour and minute hands are made out of white gold, which is a sumptuous detail typical of the brand.
The majority of dive watches choose an outer unidirectional bezel to mark dive periods. AP went with an inner rotating bezel, which not only keeps the shapely octagonal case intact but also provides a more secure solution. You don’t want an accident or miscalculation when you’re a long way from a breath of fresh air. Unscrewing the crown at 10 o’clock operates the inner rotating dial ring with increments demarcated at five-minute intervals.
Characteristic of the Offshore collection, metal – in this case, stainless steel – intermingles with rubber in the molded crowns and strap. The overall look is athletic and sleek with a profile of only 13.75mm. The black-and-gray color combination also gives it a versatility that can wear from completely casual to looking right at home in a more serious setting.
Though this watch is built to take the punishment of sea and salt, Audemars Piguet put their premier in-house calibre 3120 inside, making this a very luxurious piece of diving equipment. It’s really a pity that you don’t get to see the beautiful swoops, curves and hand finishing that went into this automatic movement. In order to maintain water resistance, dive watches of necessity need a solid case back. Still, it’s not surprising that a classy operation like Audemars Piguet didn’t budge on their standards because they know what ticks inside–and so will you.

But then again, AP is known for making waves, if you’ll forgive the unintentional pun. Back in 1972, they introduced the Royal Oak, which is the Offshore’s progenitor. The Royal Oak established the category of high-end sports watch and brought a new sheen and panache to the formerly frowned upon stainless steel.
The Diver meets all Swiss watch industry norms as well as international requirements for diving with a depth rating to 300 meters. Most people wear a dive watch for the sporty looks and because they have an appreciation of the technical achievement. They don’t often plunge to the depths of the ocean to check out the accuracy of the specs. However, if you want to test the Diver’s mettle, AP invites you to do so. On their website they show a world map of urban diving spots, helping you to plan your next underwater excursion.

Priced at $15,200, the Diver is by no means an inexpensive purchase. But AP delivers the goods with applicable function and style. Moreover, it’s powered by what’s considered one of the best automatic movements on the market, making their first entry into this category a real winner.

[Ed. note – I loved wearing and photographing this piece. A great dive watch. Simple good looks with AP quality. Like Meehna said, not cheap, but not still lower on the AP range of prices. Great daily wear.]