Make a splash
text size

Make a splash

The Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 is big, bold and beautiful

Make a splash
The launch took place at the historic Fort Royal on Sainte-Marguerite Island. (Photos: Blancpain)

Because of the rich heritage, seven decades of the Fifty Fathoms could not be celebrated in only one go.

So throughout 2023, Blancpain marked the milestone with a trilogy of commemorative timepieces.

In late September, its president and CEO Marc A. Hayek unveiled the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 at the historic Fort Royal on Sainte-Marguerite Island, off the coast of Cannes.

Blancpain is undeniably an authority in diving watches because Hayek is an avid diver, who revived the Fifty Fathoms in 2003.

An exhibition traces the origin of the Fifty Fathoms and diving in the 1950s.

The original was actually designed by Jean-Jacques Fiechter -- the former CEO who headed the Swiss company from 1950 to 1980.

Fiechter was an amateur diver, whose pivotal experience in the Mediterranean led to the development of the Fifty Fathoms in the early 1950s, when scuba diving was in its infancy.

A member of the Club Alpin Sous-Marin in Cannes, he lost track of time during a dive and ran out of air.

He survived the incident with an aspiration to design a reliable timing instrument that later defined the characteristics of the diving watch genre.

Fiechter's other passion was literature and the name Fifty Fathoms was inspired by Ariel's Song from Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Launched in 1953, the Fifty Fathoms became an indispensable instrument for the newly-formed French combat diving corps. Later, US Navy Seals as well as German, Israeli and other navies equipped their military divers with Blancpain's modern diving watch.

The moisture indicator at 6 o’clock.

Fiechter designed the Fifty Fathoms with a lockable rotating bezel. By placing the index opposite the minute hand at the start of a dive, the elapsed time could be read with the minute hand against the bezel markings. Moreover, luminescent indications against a dark dial ensured legibility.

Two other innovations, the patented double caseback and double O-ring crown system were also incorporated into the water-resistant watch driven by a self-winding movement.

The early models were constructed with a soft iron inner cage as a shield to protect the movement from magnetism present in the diving environment.

The Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 revisits the second half of the 1950s, when the US Navy's multi-year testing programme led to adopting the MIL-SPEC models.

Apart from a moisture indicator, the Fifty Fathoms met military specifications drafted by the US Navy.

In 1957, the dial was revised with a moisture indicator, which was an additional safety feature to confirm that the timing instrument had not been damaged on a previous underwater mission.

The box of the commemorative timepiece recalls historic camera housing.

Along with other diving equipment, the Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC timepieces were provided to military personnel at the beginning of a mission and returned after its conclusion.

Accepted by the US and other navies, the historic military model has been interpreted for the final part of the trilogy.

It was originally housed in a 41.3mm case made from German silver while the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 shines in a satin-brushed 9K bronze gold case with a water resistance of 30 bar.

Combining gold, copper, silver, palladium and gallium results in the patented alloy, which unlike traditional bronze, can be worn in direct contact with the skin. The gold element further prevents oxidation to a verdigris colour, giving the alloy a longer lifespan.

The unidirectional rotating bezel has a black ceramic insert featuring a vintage diving scale illuminated by Super-LumiNova.

Likewise, against a matte black dial, the moisture indicator at 6 o'clock and hour-markers glow in the dark, thanks to the luminous pigments.

The oscillating weight with an opening designed to make it more supple.

The sapphire crystal caseback reveals the self-winding calibre 1154.P2, whose twin barrel endows the timepiece with a substantial 100-hour power reserve.

A silicon balance-spring ensures the movement's resistance to magnetism. For the first time, Blancpain is offering a 1,000-gauss version of its movement, thanks to the use of this material coupled with exclusive alloys for the escapement.

With a snail-shaped finish reminiscent of its rotating motion, the oscillating weight boasts a geometry inspired by the historical rotor with an opening designed to make it more supple and therefore more resistant to shocks.

The original Fifty Fathoms played an essential role in the development of scuba diving and ocean exploration.

Over 70 years, Blancpain has woven close ties with explorers, photographers, scientists and environmentalists. Partnerships for marine exploration and conservation now come under the Blancpain Ocean Commitment programme.

This commitment is expressed on the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3, whose two-tone Nato strap is made from fishing nets recovered from the oceans.

The limited edition of 555 pieces is presented in a box inspired by the housing of a historic camera, which captured the discoveries of underwater exploration while symbolising how photography is instrumental in gathering scientific data and raising awareness of marine environmental issues.

Bronze gold Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3.

Do you like the content of this article?