< Blancpain >
As Fifty Fathoms—the first moder n diver’s watch—completes 30 years, Blancpain intr oduces two new models to join the fabulous lineage and commemorate the event
When Jean-Jacques Fiechter,himself a diving fan, took the helm of Blancpain in 1950, he began working on a reliable and robust instrument capable of accompanying him in his leisure sports activities. Diver’s watches, still inexistent at the time, were to prove crucial in that measuring dive times and the ability to time various operations are of paramount importance.
In 1953, the first modern diver’s watch was introduced and christened Fifty Fathoms after the British measurement corresponding to around 91m, and then considered to be the maximum depth divers could reach given the compressed air technology used at the time.
Fiechter tested his new model when diving in the south of France, and also submitted various watches to the scrutiny of instructors in the diving clubs of which he was a member. That same year, after several unsuccessful attempts to address national suppliers, Bob Maloubier— co-founder of the French elite combat diver unit—turned to Blancpain. In equipping itself with the only existing reliable and robust diver’s watch of the time, the French military made an exception to their rule by accepting the Swiss provenance of this vital working instrument.
It is truly amazing to note that the entire set of characteristics established by Blancpain in 1953 is virtually identical to the NIHS 92-11 (ISO 6425) norm introduced for diver’s watches in 1996, almost 40 years later, namely safety, reliability, sturdiness, readability and anti-magnetism.
While the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms rapidly asserted itself as the international benchmark for military diver’s watches, it was also soon adopted by civilian divers. It was used for the diving immortalised by Jacques-Yves Cousteau in the Oscar-winning film The Silent World, which also won a Palme d’Or at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.
An authentic professional instrument, the Fifty Fathoms also took part in other endeavours, such as the 1964 speleological expedition to the Gouffre Berger cave system in France, which saw it descend to a record depth of 1,122m below earth’s surface. Water resistance, luminosity, sturdiness, a rotating bezel: such were the other specific features indispensable in accompanying these sporting adventurers.
Since its creation, this fascinating diver’s model has been interpreted in countless different ways: with or without a date, featuring variously shaped hands, different bezels and dials, as well as in a range of case surface treatments.
Like all the greatest success stories, the Fifty Fathoms by Blancpain stems from a passion—a passion shared by two Blancpain CEOs: that of Jean-Jacques Fiechter who inspired its birth; and that of the current president and CEO Marc A. Hayek, who was the driving force behind its contemporary version, in keeping with the tradition of innovation that is Blancpain’s key strength.
Today, the 2013 Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe model appears in the wake of a fabulous lineage, extending over more than half a century and still meeting the requirements of modern divers.
Since its creation in 1953, the Fifty Fathoms by Blancpain has been the archetypal modern diver’s watch. 60 years on, two new models join a fabulous lineage that has earned iconic status. The vintage-inspired Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe presented in a 2013 men’s and women’s version incorporates the latest watch industry developments with the silicon balance-spring.
Inspired by the abyssal underwater exploration of Swiss adventurer Jacques Piccard, Blancpain’s Bathyscaphe diver’s watches were introduced in the late 1950s as models for both men and women. Imbued with the spirit of these historical models, the new Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe offers a reinterpretation of these two models featuring the integration of the latest technical innovations.
Various elements of the 2013 version hark back to the first editions. The contours are as sharply defined as those of their predecessors. The hands feature the traditional look of the vintage watches and the date appears through a dedicated aperture. Loyal to the original Bathyscaphe version, the luminescent dot on the bezel serves to ensure the permanent readability of diving times.
Testifying to the past while looking firmly to the future, the new model incorporate modern Blancpain calibres renowned for their robustness and reliability. The heart of each of the mechanical self-winding movements beats at 28,800 vibrations per hour. Driven by a constant concern to improve these calibres, a nonmagnetic silicon balancespring may be admired through a sapphire crystal case-back. In addition to its corrosion- resistant properties, silicon is also extremely resistant to wear and natural ageing. This technical breakthrough marks a decisive step in the longstanding pursuit of optimal isochronism for its timepieces. Another novel feature for Blancpain is the graduated scale in Liquidmetal. This amorphous metal alloy avoids any deformation and ensures perfect bonding with the ceramic bezel insert. The hardness of these two materials serves to enhance the bezel’s scratch resistance.
Like all divers’ watches worth their salt, each model is equipped with a unidirectional bezel activated by turning it counter-clockwise in one-minute increments. During dives, the seconds serves as an operating indicator, while a contrasting dial and luminescent gold hour-markers ensure optimal readability. The new Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe is naturally water-resistant to 30 bar, equivalent to around 300m.
Each model is fitted with a triple-loop NATO strap. This broad and extremely practical wristband is as reliable and robust as the watch itself. Introduced in the 1960s when the British Ministry of Defence was looking for a sturdy strap to equip its military watches, its origins are echoed in its name that is a nod to its reference code: NATO G10.