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Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is arguably the ultimate dive and military watch, with a rich history as a true tool watch and a cult following that remains dedicated today. Taking the essence of the classic Fifty Fathoms, this is an updated, modern version complete with some of the best of modern haute horlogerie in the form of Blancpain’s caliber 1153, manufactured entirely in-house.
The first Blancpain Fifty Fathoms was born out of a partnership between Blancpain CEO Jean-Jacques Fiechter, Captain Robert Maloubier, and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud of the Nageurs de combat to develop a dive watch robust enough to serve as tools for combat swimmers and civilians alike. Fiechter, who was a passionate diver and already working on the concept of a dive watch, was approached by Maloubier and Riffaud in 1952 and launched the Fifty Fathoms in 1953.
The basic prompt was to create a legible and accurate watch that would keep divers safe while giving them an edge to perform their underwater missions, and Fiechter was the man with the plan. The Nageurs de combat, France’s premier maritime special operations unit, conducted a variety of missions from underwater infiltrations to mine recovery to underwater intelligence. These took place in a wide range of conditions, but often with low visibility and other extreme conditions, making legibility a vital feature of the Fifty Fathoms. Other key features included a compass and depth gauge, allowing divers to accurately time dives and their missions.
Blancpain went on to create dozens of iterations of the Fifty Fathoms, and later the Bathyscaphe in 1956, striving to refine the design and make the watches even more functional for militaries and civilians alike. Jacques Cousteau, a former French naval officer, and his team famously wore a Fifty Fathoms in his film The Silent World, which later won a Palme d'Or in 1956.
For the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe for fashiontourbillon.com, we took the core DNA of the classic design – the clean, legible markers and 12-3-6-9 Arabic numerals – and added a smaller 38mm satin-brushed steel case. Beating inside is the Blancpain caliber 1153, a completely in-house movement boasting 100 hours of power reserve and a level of finishing not generally seen on a watch at this price point. You can view the impressive level of detail and finishing, as well as the fashiontourbillon.com-engraved rotor, through the sapphire display back. In addition, the caliber 1153 boasts a silicon hairspring (like all Blancpain calibers) which eliminates the need for a soft iron case to protect the movement from magnetism. The well-sized 38mm steel case is accented by a ceramic bezel insert with Liquidmetal hour markers that nicely complements the no-date black dial and painted hour markers.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Limited Edition for fashiontourbillon.com is a limited edition of just 100 individually numbered pieces. Each watch is accompanied by three straps – a sail-canvas strap and two nylon NATO straps – and comes in an airtight hard shell carrying case with a removable leather travel case.
Blancpain traces its origins to Jehan-Jacques Blancpain, who registered as a watchmaker in Villeret, Switzerland, in 1735. A pioneer in introducing modern industrial methods to the region in the 19th century, Blancpain produced pioneering timepieces in the 20th as well, including some of the first self-winding wristwatches ever made, and the Fifty Fathoms watch for combat divers, which was made in collaboration with the French Navy, and introduced in 1953. Blancpain became part of SIHH (later, Swatch Group) in 1992. The company today maintains its two manufactures in Le Brassus and Le Sentier, in the Vallée de Joux, where it creates watches ranging from tough, technically sophisticated instrument watches such as the various Fifty Fathoms models, to some of the most beautifully crafted high complications made anywhere in the world.
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