The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms needs no introduction to anyone who has ever dipped at least a toe in the history of dive watches as it is widely regarded as the “first true diver’s watch.” 2023 is all about the Fifty Fathoms celebrations for Blancpain, and today marks the debut of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 watch, the third edition created specifically for the 70th birthday of this unquestionably important collection.

Captain Robert Maloubier wearing an early Fifty Fathoms.

Be sure to read the article we linked to just above, and especially its second page, to familiarize yourself with the history of dive watches and how the Fifty Fathoms became an important tool in its field through a collaboration between Blancpain and a French elite divers unit called “nageurs de combat,” led by Robert Maloubier. While the chances of such a purpose-driven item becoming a cult classic are rather high, few of those early pioneers have lasted 70 years — much to our pleasure and entertainment, the Fifty Fathoms is still with us.

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The first Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, an early pioneer of professional and military use dive watches. Circa 1953.

We are looking at the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 watch in more detail in just a moment, but first, we should reiterate how the original Fifty Fathoms, along with the Rolex Submariner, opened a new world of possibilities in what was still a rather basic stage of dive timing. The Fifty Fathoms included a self-winding movement to reduce the wear on the components of the screw-down crown by reducing the number of times the crown had to be used to revive or rewind the watch; a continuous seconds hand to indicate that the watch is still in operation; large luminous hour markers, hands, and bezel markers; a timing bezel; anti-magnetic properties (required as magnetism is present in the world of diving); and proper water resistance down to a depth of 91.45 meters — which is, you guessed it, 50 fathoms. In essence, the original Blancpain Fifty Fathoms preceded (and helped outline) the modern ISO 6425 standard by some 40 years, the very standard that defines the characteristics of the modern dive watch.

The all-new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 (reference 5901-5630-NANA) is a heavy hitter despite its moderate size. At 41.3mm wide (like the historic MIL-SPEC Fifty Fathoms) and 13.3mm thick, it’s going to be a whole lot more comfortable and indeed more proportionate than the Fifty Fathoms Tech Gombessa (reviewed here) that debuted as “Act 2” in the 70th-anniversary celebrations. So what makes it a heavy-hitter, then? While there is no official word on weight, you can expect “Act 3” to come with serious heft as it is crafted from 9k Bronze Gold, a patented alloy that’s 50% copper allowing it to be called “bronze,” enriched with 37.5% gold allowing for the 9k hallmark, with a pinch of silver, palladium and gallium. That’s the jab, and here comes the cross: Despite the resurgence of bronze (not Bronze Gold, just bronze) in dive watches in recent years, the price does not reflect the heavy reliance on copper — the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 costs $32,000. For that sort of money, a watch on a woven strap arguably should be more gold than it is copper, but maybe that’s just us.

Safeguarded by some 164 fathoms of rated water resistance (that’s 300 meters) is the Blancpain 1154.P2 caliber, a no-date version of the 1151. Again, the generously sized sapphire crystal caseback reveals a somewhat underwhelming picture: The 1154.P2 does not offer too much in the way of eye candy, which is odd given that while this technically is a tool watch, it does come at a highly luxurious price. The self-winding rotor is in solid 18k gold, which is nice, and there are a few strips of shiny anglage and polished screw heads, but, for the most part, the 1154 leans rather heavily on a “technical” aesthetic. Spec-wise it is impressively thin at just 3.55mm thick and yet it offers an extended 100-hour power reserve, although that is achieved, at least in part, at the cost of reduced operating frequency, down from the more modern 4Hz to 3Hz. It’s interesting to know that “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.” Sounds cool until you remember that sister-brand Omega offers 15,000 Gauss dive watches for a fraction of the price, even in 9k Bronze Gold.

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The black dial features the grey-white moisture indicator that was developed in the 1950s by Jean-Jacques Fiechter, the co-CEO of Blancpain who was an avid diver himself and who played a key role in the creation of the first Fifty Fathoms. Apart from having something irresistibly and intuitively cool about it, the moisture indicator is also useful because it changes color and hence tells the wearer that water or moisture has somehow entered the watch. Water inside watches is bad, and salt water is even worse, given that the early Fifty Fathoms watches had no see-through casebacks but were subjected to heavy use by various military diving units, divers had to be made aware that the movement they were relying on was being eaten away by moisture and rust.

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is an absolute icon of the world of wristwatches (even if new research you’ll probably want to read from Perezcope seems to suggest it might have debuted not in 1953, but later) and it deserves every moment of celebration it receives — arguably including the new Swatch version that will hopefully direct the greater public’s attention at this notable watch that has proven its worth and importance under a great many professional and military uses. That said, as handsome as it is, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 watch is rather ambitiously priced at $32,000, limited to 555 individually numbered pieces. You can learn more at the brand’s website.


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