This year, Blancpain continues to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Fifty Fathoms, with their ‘Act 3’ – a MILSPEC model adopted by the main armed forces at the time of the Fifty Fathom’s release in 1953.
2023 is a milestone year for many brands, and for Blancpain, this year marks the 70th Birthday of one of the most iconic dive watches in the world – the Fifty Fathoms. This anniversary model is the third this year, hence ‘Act 3’, and you’d be forgiven thinking you have seen this watch before as it looks very similar to the Blancpain X Swatch collaboration models with the striped Nato strap. But this piece is very much Blancpain and a cool homage to the models from the 1950’s.
The story of how the Fifty Fathoms came into existence is one of legend. One day when then Blancpain co-CEO and passionate diver Jean-Jacques Fiechter was diving in his favourite resort of Cannes in the south of France, he suddenly ran out of air. This dramatic and pivotal experience made him realise the extent to which divers needed a time-measuring instrument tailored to the needs of scuba diving, and led him to create the Fifty Fathoms, the world’s first true diver’s watch.
Whist there is still dispute on whether or not the Fifty Fathoms or the Rolex Submariner was the world’s first true dive watch, both being launched in 1953, it’s safe to say that both have led to the dive watches we see today, and both being just as recognisable in the watch world. Whilst Rolex may have taken over pop culture, you can’t argue that the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms has contributed a lot to the world of diving watches, and it’s military heritage can’t be over looked.
The Fifty Fathoms’ self-winding mechanism (involving less wear on the crown gaskets than in a hand-wound movement); its resistance to magnetism (present in the world of diving); its water-tightness to at least 10 bar; along with its XXL luminescent hour-markers contrasting with the dark dial (for improved legibility) represented a set of key elements presented on the 1953 model. The crown fitted with a double watertight seal; the caseback sealing system (to prevent any distortion of the O-ring when the case is fitted); as well as the lockable rotating bezel would all be patented.
Due to these features, it led the Fifty Fathoms to be used by the leading military forces of France, Germany, the United States and Norway, to name a few, and they adopted this timepiece for their combat divers. Jean-Jacques Fiechter went a step further with the Fifty Fathoms, developing a moisture indicator for the watch. This was done as an additional safety feature so divers knew the watch hadn’t been damaged by another diver on a previous mission.
Due to these features, including the moisture indicator that appeared on the 1957 MIL-SPEC watches, the US Navy regarded this model as the only one to meet all the strict criteria laid down for its underwater missions. Thus the Fifty Fathoms has some true military credentials, and as such, the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 pays tribute to that watch.
Staying true to the original, the Fifty Fathoms Act 3 is 41.30mm in size like the historic MIL-SPEC, is 13.3mm thick and is water resistant to 300m / 30ATM. The case is made from a gold/bronze alloy Blancpain call 9k Bronze Gold – a patented alloy enriched with 37.5% gold (hallmarked 9K), copper – 50%, allowing it to be called “bronze” – silver, palladium and gallium. This gives the metal a pink-bronze hue and due to its composition, won’t oxidise and patina anywhere near as fast due to the gold content. Good news for those that want this as an everyday wearing watch.
Inside the Fifty Fathoms Act 3 is the 1154.P2 Calibre. An automatic winding movement, pivoting on 26 jewels, beating at 3Hz / 21,600 VPH and with 100 hours of power reserve in the tank. The Calibre 1154.P2 also has an anti-magnetic silicon balance-spring, meaning it’s resistant to magnetic fields up to 1000 gauss, plenty for everyday life with all our devices on. The movement is also visible through the sapphire crystal caseback. Whilst this is a modern inclusion, not seen on the vintage models due to the iron inner case and screw in case back to ensure magnetic resistance, it’s a welcome sight on the model of 2023.
The Blancpan Fifty Fathoms Act 3 comes as a limited edition of 555 pieces and is presented in a box inspired by a historic camera housing, echoing Blancpain’s ocean protection initiatives. Since underwater photography developed at the same time as the diver’s watch, and both assisted in underwater exploration and documentation, this is a nice touch adding to the uniqueness of the piece.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Act 3 is a worthy addition to the previous 2 pieces brought out by Blancpain this year to celebrate the icon’s milestone Birthday. Bronze watches can be a little hit and miss, but when done well, they are very cool and stand out. In this case, Blancpain have done a good job with the Bronze Gold alloy and should make some wearers very happy due to the lack of, or speed of oxidation, and for those wanting a smaller sized Fifty Fathoms, your wished have been answered!
Reference: 5901 5630 NANA
- Case: 41.3mm diameter, 13.3mm thick
- Case: 9k Bronze Gold with Unidirectional satin-brushed bezel, black Ceramic insert & and vintage Super-LumiNova® hour-markers
- Dial: Black dial with Super-LumiNova® numerals and indices. Moisture indicator at 6 o’clock
- Crystal: Domes Sapphire crystal
- Water resistance: 300m / 30bar
- Movement: Mechanical self-winding Calibre 1154.P2. Pivoting on 26 jewels, beating at 3Hz / 21,600 VPH
- Power reserve: 100 Hours
- Strap: Striped black and bronze gold coloured fabric NATO with pin buckle