Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Celebrates 60 years with the Bathyscaphe Men’s & Women’s

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Celebrates 60 years with the Bathyscaphe Men’s & Women’s

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Celebrates 60 years with the Bathyscaphe Men's & Women's Watch Releases

There is something to be said for being the first to start it all.

When you think of luxury diving watches, other brands might compete for attention, but the mere mention of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is enough to end all discussion on which is the most important diving watch in history. Which other watch can claim to have laid down the blueprint of what we know as the essential aspects of a diving watch? From the depth requirements, the unidirectional bezel marking dive time, to the must-have indication of the watch's functioning, these and other criteria that have come to define a dive watch would not have come together had two French navy divers been satisfied with the dive watches of their day

In fact, the Fifty Fathoms from Blancpain has such a long and storied history that if you're a diving watch enthusiast, the basic facts should be familiar to you. In 1953, French naval diving officers Captain Robert Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud were charged with creating a new group of elite combat divers and needed a suitable watch that was up to the task. None of the diving watches of the time were suitable, and both went around to many different companies to find one that would develop a watch which would possess unheard of technical characteristics, suitable for the demanding use of the divers. Rejected by many watch companies, it wasn't until they met Jean-Jacques Fiechter, CEO of Blancpain and a passionate diver, that the watch was given the go-ahead to be developed.

Under Fiechter's direction, the watch was developed much in the way that Maloubier and Riffaud had envisioned. Fiechter, being a diver himself, added that most famous aspect to the bezel, its unidirectional nature to decrease the marked dive time in the event the watch was bumped underwater. The resulting watch was so successful that it went on to be adopted not just by military personnel the world over but early explorers of the ocean. Jean-Jacques Cousteau for example was one such early adopter who wore it in the famous film "The Silent World".

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Celebrates 60 years with the Bathyscaphe Men's & Women's Watch Releases
D. Bennett, J.-J Fiechter, E. Sala, K. Menuhin, G. Genoni, M.A. Hayek, A. Delamuraz (L to R)

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Celebrates 60 years with the Bathyscaphe Men's & Women's Watch Releases

Thus with 2013 marking the 60th year of the Fifty Fathoms, Blancpain thought it appropriate to remind the world once again of how the company has been intimately associated with the diving world through the provision of the Fifty Fathoms watch in the service of ocean exploration and discovery.

For the event held at Baselworld 2013, emblematic figures whose careers have been connected to the sea gathered to pay tribute to the release of the Fifty Fathoms 60 years ago. The father of the Fifty Fathoms, Jean-Jacques Fiechter, Blancpain President from 1950-1980 was in attendance, as was David Bennett (National Geographic Vice President), Enric Sala (National Geographic Explorer in Residence), Krov Menuhin (Hans Hass Award Committee President), and also the free-diver Gianluca Genoni.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Celebrates 60 years with the Bathyscaphe Men's & Women's Watch Releases
Jean-Jacques Fiechter & Marc A. Hayek

Additionally, a highlight of the event several months ago was the live transmission with Laurent Ballesta, currently in expedition with Blancpain in South Africa to encounter the famous living fossil, the coelacanth.

With such luminaries in attendance at this event, it does go to show that the diving pedigree of the Fifty Fathoms is very much alive and well. This is the kind of thing that Blancpain should shout about more often really, as many divers I know who dive are only vaguely aware of the special place that the Fifty Fathoms has claimed as a diving instrument. Perhaps in looking to broaden the appeal of this watch, we have the two pieces that were launched in conjunction with this event.

For 2013, it is the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe for men and women. We published a hands on with the men's version which you can read about here.

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  • MarkCarson

    Easily one of my top 5 watch favorites from when I was at BaselWorld 2013. This is a watch that is elegant and sporty at the same time. The sailcloth (or whatever is is, I can’t recall precisely) was a wonderful complement to the sunray black dial. The is one classy diver.

  • Kris C

    Not that I’ve ever really lusted over an FF, I am in the herd that prefers the more recognizeable ‘bubble’ bezel.

  • Ulysses31

    Still like this watch.  Something about the stark, hard lines and large dial appeals to me – it’s not like most other divers.

  • JonnyD

    MarkCarson  
    Hi Mark,
    Can I ask were you at BaselWorld in a personal capacity or with your line of watches, or both? Apologies if I’m being overly inquisitive.

  • MarkCarson

    JonnyD Hi Jonny, no problem. I was there in a personal capacity. I did not exhibit my watches. I was fortunate to be able to tag along with Ariel and James Stacy and see and handle a number of great watches at the show. The Blancpain FF Bathyscaphe was truly one of my favorites at Baselworld. Not the most expensive watch I put on my wrist (there were a couple of $300K ones) but a watch with great execution and design balance. It is thin for a diver too. The opposite of a crass looking giant Invicta dive watch.

    Another diver I really liked was the Muhle Glashutte Rasmus 2000 (the orange in particular but the other colors were great too). http://www.muehle-glashuette.de/en/wristwatches/nautical-wristwatches/rasmus-2000.html
    This Blancpain is an elegant watch but still have the technical chops to work as a real dive watch. That is an unusual combination. And it does not look like another Submariner clone (which the world is full of). It looks even better in person than in photos. If you are in the market for a $10K watch (dress, sport or dive), this should be on your list of watches to check out in person. Cheers.

  • JonnyD

    MarkCarson

    Thanks for that heads up Mark. If only I had that $10k to spend on a watch! I have seen the dressier side of Blancpain in person and was very impressed. I think it was this model, but with a beautiful green dial:
    http://www.blancpain.com/en/watch/6651-3630-55b

    I don’t have a dive watch in my collection as yet, but the FF bathyscaphe is definitely up there to be the first. I love the classic look it shows and agree with you, the thinness is refreshing.