The vintage watch revival of the past five years has been focused on minimalist time-only dress watches, so it’s refreshing to see Blancpain revisiting a sportier vibe from the ’50s and ’60s with two new limited-edition Fifty Fathoms dive models. When first launched in 1953, the Fifty Fathoms was one of the few diver’s watches that met the requirements of specialized divers, and it was initially reserved for professionals only. In the 1960s, Blancpain supplied the German Navy with watches via Barakuda, a company specializing in the production and marketing of technical diving equipment. The model later became one of the first dive watches to be made in production quantities and available to the public.
The Fifty Fathoms Barakuda limited edition retains the features of the original 1960s version, including the two-tone rectangular hour-markers, fluorescent hands, and the highly visible date display at 3 o’clock, a key element of the original. The large red and white hour markers are coated with an “old radium” shade of Super-LumiNova for authenticity. The luminescent hands are white lacquered. It comes on a tropical-type rubber strap, a style popular in the ’60s that is enjoying a revival today. Modern touches include a newer movement, automatic caliber 1151, and a bezel with a domed insert made of scratch-resistant sapphire, an innovation introduced by the brand in 2003. The Barakuda is water-resistant to 300 meters and will be made in a limited edition of 500 pieces.
The second limited edition is the Nageurs de Combat, inspired by a 1953 model designed by Blancpain for French Combat Swimmers, special commandos of the French Navy that were trained for aquatic missions. The watch was developed by Blancpain CEO at the time, Jean-Jacques Feichter, an avid diver, who wanted to create a watch robust enough to take on personal dives. It helped define what became the universal criteria for diver’s watches, including luminescent hands and markers contrasted with a dark dial, a secured rotating bezel, an automatic movement, water-resistance, and an antimagnetic case. The new limited edition (300 pieces) honoring the original bears the signature diamond mark on the bezel, and the circular and rectangular hour markers. sword-shaped hands, arrow seconds hands. The closed-back of the 45 mm case is engraved with the French Combat Diver Qualification Badge. The lower dial is discreetly embossed with the number 7, symbolizing seven meters, the maximum depth commandos could while using oxygen before it becomes unsafe. It contains the automatic caliber 1315, with a five-day power reserve thanks to three series-coupled barrels. It is water-resistant to 300 meters.