Conceived in 1952 for French combat divers, the original Blancpain Fifty Fathoms was designed in concert with the elite “Frogmen” under the guidance of Captain Robert “Bob” Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud. Designed with the repertoire of military missions in mind – intelligence gathering, military sabotage, usually done under cover of darkness, the team developed military specifications or MIL-SPEC and approached the various watchmakers to make a MIL-Spec diver’s watch. Only one man answered the call of duty, Blancpain’s CEO Jean-Jacques Fiechter. A diver himself, Fiechter not only took the MIL-Spec in mind but refined it by adding more design features which would enhance night visibility and durability, the resulting Blancpain Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC was truly something to behold and the first diver’s watch. In creating the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, little did Fiechter know that he was also pioneering a new genre of watchmaking – MIL-SPEC dive watches.
Though born in 1953, such was the love for the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms that additional refinements were made including a pioneering feature which alerted a diver to a moisture breach in the case potentially affecting the watch. Since there were no dive computers, the original Blancpain Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC carried a useful water alert indicator at 6 o’clock to alert the user that it was operationally compromised by water.
Baselworld 2017 Blancpain Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC
Limited to 500 Pieces, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC or “Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC” carries many of the same attributes as the original but updated to modern standards. Fitted with Blancpain’s in-house automatic winding caliber 1151, comprising 210 components including two series-coupled mainspring barrels and offering a four-day power reserve; this movement is not only protected by the moisture alert circle indicator on the dial side but also enjoys a silicon balance spring offering many material advantages. Firstly, its low density makes it lighter and thus more shock-resistant. Secondly, it is impervious to magnetic fields. Finally, the tensile strength of silicon makes it ideally suited to keep shape, poise and “springy-ness” thus ensuring improved isochronism performance of the movement, resulting in enhanced timekeeping precision. The solid gold winding rotor is kept at high efficiency with NAC coating (a platinum alloy) and visible through sapphire caseback.
The black dial of the the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC features indexes in SuperLuminNova and fore-mentioned water-tightness indicator recalling the designs of the 1950s MIL-SPEC 1. The unidirectional rotating bezel covered in scratch-resistant sapphire was an innovation which first appeared in 2003 with the 50th Anniversary Fifty Fathoms, and is among the few professional dive watches which actually provides luminescent indications, in the case of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC, the glowing markers are protected underneath the robust sapphire.
This timepiece is water resistant to 300 meters and is offered with a NATO strap, sail cloth strap, or steel bracelet with a secure buckle.