Creating a perfect diver’s watch is quite a challenge and very few timepiece makers, such as Blancpain, have aced the game. Fifty Fathoms is not only Blancpain’s most popular timepiece, but it is also the world’s first diver’s watch with a unidirectional bezel, unveiled in 1953. In other words, the watchmaker had developed a bezel that could be turned only by pressing it down. This year, a new chapter begins for the collection as Blancpain has just launched Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 (Ref. 5901-5630-NANA), an attractive bronze-gold watch, modelled on vintage MIL-SPEC timepieces.
Post World War II, Fifty Fathoms was created by the then CEO of Blancpain, Jean-Jacques Fiechter, for French military divers, who needed sturdy watches that would also function under water. The original 1953 model showed typical Blancpain features: a black dial with luminous numerals and markers, and a black bezel, grooved for better grip, also with luminous numerals and markers.
Limited to only 555 pieces, the latest Act 3 model comes in a 41.3 mm, satin-brushed, 9 ct, bronze-gold case, which captures the spirit of the 1950s with its straight lugs and flanks. As expected, it has a large, lockable, unidirectional, black, 60-minute, bronze-gold bezel with a black ceramic insert, treated with Super-LumiNova ®. Compared with traditional bronze, bronze-gold has a longer lifespan since oxidation to a verdigris colour is prevented by the addition of gold.
Drawing inspiration from its non-magnetic US Navy variant, the new model gets a matte black dial with vintage Super-LumiNova® and a moisture indicator at 6 o’clock. Gold can also be found on the eight dotted, one triangular, three bar-shaped hour markers and the arrow-shaped hour, minute hands with a central second hand.
Powering the watch is the self-winding Calibre 1154.P2 movement, which is housed in a 9 ct bronze-gold case that is water-resistant for up to 300 metres. The twin barrels endow the timepiece with a substantial 100-hour power reserve while a silicon balance spring ensures the movement's resistance to magnetism. For the first time, Blancpain is offering a 1000-gauss version of its movement, thanks to the use of bronze-gold, coupled with exclusive alloys, for the escapement.
Turning the watch over showcases the heart of the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 watch that can be admired through a sapphire crystal caseback; the use of a non-magnetic spiral enables the timepiece to feature such transparency without compromising on its resistance to magnetism. The open caseback reveals the bridges, enlarged up to the diameter of the mainplate and enhanced by the decoration style of the 1950s.
For its part, the oscillating weight boasts a geometry that is inspired by the historical rotor — with an opening designed to make it more supple and therefore more resistant to shocks — as well as a snail-shaped finish, reminiscent of its rotating motion. The engraved logotype, that spotlights 18 ct gold, completes the watch's vintage look. The caseback also features the engraving of the individual watch number out of 555. Finishing the watch is a two-tone NATO strap, featuring the colour code of the original timepiece. It is crafted from fishing nets, recovered from oceans.