Blancpain will be releasing a three-part series of special-edition timepieces in celebration of the Fifty Fathoms dive watch’s 70th anniversary. Kicking off with the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1, the watch carries most of the 1953 model’s quintessential characteristics — notably the extra large numeral, black dial design, iconic 4 to 5 o’clock date window, and vintage-looking luminescent hands for underwater readability.
As other modern-day Fifty Fathoms models usually come in a 45mm size, the special-edition piece sets itself apart from most of Blancpain’s collections with an exclusive 42mm steel case. Aligning with the times, the original epoxy bezel inlay has also been updated to a scratch-resistant, dome-shaped sapphire crystal. On the technical side, the piece receives an upgraded water resistance of up to 300 meters, while its movement is powered by Blancpain’s staple Calibre 1315, which offers an impressive five-day power reserve. The watch is also fitted with a black NATO YTT+ strap, composed of recycled and recyclable thread deriving from fishing nets recovered from the oceans.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1 timepiece will be a super limited release, as only 70 units will be available for select regions. The watch is due to launch later this month, and its retail pricing is yet to be revealed. For more information, head to Blancpain’s official website.
Two dive watches have long battled for the title of the original diver’s watch: the Rolex Submariner and the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. Technicalities can drag this debate into murky deep waters, but irrefutably the pair are the founding blueprints of what we all expect from a dive watch. Born in 1953, the Fifty Fathoms has a long history in professional and military usage, which you can read more about here, and would be later resurrected in 2003 by Marc A. Hayek. Therefore 2023 marks not only the 70th anniversary of the Fifty Fathoms, but also the 20th anniversary of its modern production. In homage to both anniversaries, Blancpain has just unveiled the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1. This three-series limited edition kicks off the 70th anniversary celebrations with a limited edition that debuts a 42mm case that’s new to the contemporary catalogue – although it’s actually the very case diameter of the original Fifty Fathoms diver from 1953.
Blancpain explains: “To kick off year-long celebrations highlighting the 70th anniversary of the Fifty Fathoms – whose arrival set the benchmark for diving watches – the Manufacture is unveiling a brand-new timepiece that is also a nod to the 2003 “renaissance” model. Three series are once again being produced, this time each comprising 70 watches. Each series is dedicated to a region of the world – EMEA, Asia-Pacific, the Americas – and bears a number from I to III on the dial.”
To be perfectly clear, this means 210 pieces will be made but only 70 will be allocated to each region. So, what makes the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1 so special? Let’s dive in.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1 is the first contemporary model – from 2003 and onwards – to utilise a new middle-ground 42.3mm diameter. Typically Fifty Fathoms of standard production come in a 45mm case, with 40mm cases many of us wish were standard production reserved for special limited editions. To appeal to both those who prefer the larger 45mm size, and others who crave a more compact 40mm version, Blancpain has opted for compromise – effectively splitting the difference at 42.3mm. The remainder of the watch externally is every bit what you already know and love: a polished stainless-steel case, domed sapphire insert bezel with a luminous timing scale, and a screw-down crown secured 300m depth rating.
When you look at the seemingly familiar black sunburst dial, with their commonly used handset and 4:30 positioned date window, you will notice something a tad different aside from the 70th anniversary text at 6 o’clock. Upon closer inspection of the hour numerals and indices, you will see that they are not metallically framed as we have seen in the past. The applied batons and quarter numerals appear to be solid block of luminous material. This results in not only a more interesting aesthetic in the dark, but actually heightens the legibility of the dial – an advantage well-received within the scope of a legendary dive watch.
While not by any means game-changing, if there is any moment to upgrade a winding rotor from solid gold to platinum it would be a 70th anniversary celebration. The advantage of platinum as a winding rotor is its greater mass than gold, which, theoretically, should increase the efficiency or efficacy of the automatic winding system. The rotor’s design is a nod to the architecture of the winding rotors found in the original Fifty Fathoms watch, the rounded rectangular cut-out designed to increase the suppleness and shock-resistance of the winding mass. Beneath this commemorative rotor you will find the Blancpain manufacture calibre 1315, which offers five full days of power reserve and a silicon balance spring that affords greater resistance against magnetism and is strikingly decorated with frosting, chamfering and radial graining.
Aside from the resulting scarcity due to its limited-edition status, ultimately I believe the return to a 42mm diameter, in line with the original Fifty Fathoms, is what makes this series so special and potentially attractive for buyers. In a world where there are people simultaneously advocating for more compact cases and gravitating to larger modern diameters, the 42.3mm size is a welcome goldilocks proposition sandwiched between the more common 45mm and 40mm within the catalogue.