Watch of the Week: Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1

We dive into the relaunch of a deep-water icon…

In the storied industry that is the world of horology, celebratory anniversaries seemingly tick by at a rapid pace, so much so that it feels like every couple of months a noted watch house releases a well-crafted limited-edition timepiece as an homage to a trailblazing model from a time gone by. With 2023’s cogs now fully turning, the first relaunch of a past icon has arrived with Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1, a paean to the first modern diver’s watch.

First revealed to the public in 1953, the original Fifty Fathoms was crafted to be used by the ocean-exploring community, and was noted by pioneering divers and marine corps for its water resistance, doubled-sealed crown, rugged yet straightforward look, and contrasting dark dial with luminescent indications, with such features confirming the creation as the platonic ideal of the diver’s watch – one which would go on to become the benchmark for many timepieces of its ilk.

Indeed, such was the reverence it demanded that in 2003, 50 years following its release, Blancpain revived the then dormant model by launching a contemporary “renaissance” version which took its aesthetic cues from the original – including oversized numerals and a black dial – but brought it into the new millennium with a bevy of newly introduced features, such as a scratchproof sapphire insert, and a water-resistance of approximately 300 metres.

Now, in the 70th-anniversary year of the Fifty Fathoms, the Swiss manufacturer has recently announced its most up-to-date homage: three series (each dedicated to a specific corner of the world: the Americas; Asia-Pacific; and Europe, the Middle East and Africa) of 70 limited-edition watches, with each bearing its series number (I, II or III) on the dial.

Highlights of the new product include the classic black dial with sunburst motif, on which appears a set of thick pared-back hour-markers and the throwback-style lumen hands. The polished-steel case, topped by the famed unidirectional bezel, is made with a 42mm diameter, a unique dimension as other variants measure at either 45mm or 40mm. And a five-day power reserve comes courtesy of a trio of barrels.

Additionally, powering the watch is the in-house Calibre 1315, an innovation from 2007; a silicon balance spring guarantees any resistance to magnetism, a must for underwater adventurers; and, in a clear tribute to the original, the new edition’s oscillating weight that features the “Fifty Fathoms 70th” logo is made of platinum, a metal that is commonly associated with the notion of eternity, as well as 70th wedding anniversaries in Switzerland.

However, even though the new Fifty Fathoms is an ode to a hero of the past, it still has an ethos that looks to the decades ahead, with its black NATO-style strap being produced “from 100% recycled and entirely recyclable thread from fishing nets recovered from the sea or oceans”.

By modernising a classic from the previous century, Blancpain has seemingly managed to tie together the essence of tradition with the needs of today, and the overall result is an original, world-beating diver’s timepiece for those who want to break away from the usual big-hit lineup (Rolex, et al.). Better still, as the name implies, there are further acts to follow this year – in the meantime, the new three series will be exclusively available for pre-order on the Blancpain website this month.

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