This is *THE* diver’s watch

A classic, and a watch you should know about

Think of the most prominent car designer in the history of the automobile. In the watch world, that’s Gerald Genta. Now think of the most influential executive in the car world. In the watch world, that’s Jean-Claude Biver. Born in Luxembourg in 1949, Biver has successfully revamped a plethora of Swiss luxury brands including AP, Omega, TAG Heuer and Blancpain.

Blancpain is the oldest watch brand in the world - founded in 1735 - and it is also one of the few Swiss watch companies that never gave in to quartz. This came at a hefty cost because by the late 1970s, Blancpain was in a coma. A has-been brand that no one cared about. Biver bought the brand for CHF 22,000 in the 1980s (CHF 88,000 or $94k in today’s money) and sold it to Swatch Group (known as SMH Group back then) for 43 million dollars. Not a bad deal.

In 1953, Blancpain launched the first Fifty Fathoms, produced in partnership with the ‘Nageurs de Combat‘ (combat swimmers) a branch of the Marine Nationale (French Navy) and legendary naval officer and explorer Jacques Cousteau. In 1958, the US Navy Seals also began using the Fifty-Fathoms.

The watch is still used as a point of reference for modern diving watches and emulated by many. Even Seiko made a homage to the Fifty Fathoms (ref. SNZH57). Fans of the brand call it the ‘Fifty-FIVE Fathoms’.

The name is a reference to the watch’s depth rating of 91 metres which, at the time, was considered to be the maximum depth that a diver could reach while using a single-use oxygen source. The modern Fifty Fathoms is rated at 1000 mt.

The bad news is all that history, the heritage, and the technical capabilities come at a price. The cheapest pre-owned Fifty Fathoms I could find on Chrono24 will still set you back €4,000, which is a lot of cash, but not too bad for a piece of history.

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Comments (10)

  • This is *THE* diver’s watch @tribe

      12 days ago
  • Blancpain probably couldn't have foreseen how influential this watch would become. Dive (style) watches are arguably the most popular type of watch, and pretty much every single one has elements that were introduced on the Fifty Fathoms. It may not be the most famous dive watch (that's probably the Rolex Submariner) but it is The Daddy.

      12 days ago
    • The only thing I don’t like about Blancpain is their claim “there’s never gonna be a quartz Blancpain”. Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with quartz watches, even in the high-end segment of the market (F.P. Journe anyone?) and secondly,...

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        12 days ago
    • Yeah, "always" and "never" are dangerous words in corporate communication.

      And no, there is obviously nothing wrong with quartz- I'm going to have to make up the numbers here, but I'd say well over 90% of all watches sold worldwide are...

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        12 days ago
  • The problem with these is just how expensive they are. As the only Blancpain the majority of watch guys care about, I think they suffer the same issue as the Submariner, they're reputation has made them overinflated both new and old. Dive watches are not my thing, I admit that, but the ones that I do like are far cheaper and easier to acquire than either a good Submariner or a good Fifty Fathoms.

      11 days ago
    • True. Honestly, if you like the way it looks, just get a Seiko homage. There are also mods on eBay with the “Fifty Fathoms” name on the dial (not Blancpain, obviously), because apparently they can actually do without infringing copyright

        11 days ago
  • Still a world cheaper than a Vecheron Constantin. I must admit, i do like a classic Fifty Fathoms, but for a not-too-dissimilar price point, I'd have Chopard Mille Miglia, but Im mpre of a "drivers" watch type of guy, with the occasional penchant for a big pilots 👌🏼 But as you said, this one is most arguably the penultimate divers watch, surely. The Seiko is a rather tidy homage indeed, might have to add one to my collection sooner or later. As always mate, you nailed it. You my good sir, are a proper aficionado 👌🏼💯

      11 days ago
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