Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms
Jean-Jacques Fiechter, Blancpain’s CEO from 1950 – 1980, was responsible for Blancpain and Fifty Fathoms’ renown in the diving world. Sometime in the early 1950s and at the request of the French diving corps, Fiechter set out to create a reliable dive watch; as an avid diver himself, this was an assignment he obviously had a personal interest in.
The first thing he did was learn from the mistakes committed by the dive watches of that time – they were too small, largely illegible and, worst of all, not waterproofed enough.
Several innovative solutions were adopted to address these shortcomings. First, the crown received a second inner seal, which was then patented, to enhance protection against leakages.
Second, a locking mechanism, also patented, was introduced for the rotating bezel so that it wouldn’t accidentally move and throw off the diver in relation to the diving time.
A third patent came in the form of an additional metal ring that held the ‘O’ ring that sealed the caseback firmly in place.
In terms of legibility, Fiechter bucked trend – men’s watches used to measure less than 40mm in diameter - and introduced 42mm case with luminous hands and indexes. Last but not least, an automatic movement was deliberately chosen to reduce wear-and-tear from manually winding the watch.
The first Fifty Fathoms was released in 1953, strictly for French Navy use. A civilian model wouldn’t appear until much later and was differentiated from the military model by, curiously enough, a “No Radiation” symbol on the dial.
Do you know: The name Fifty Fathoms was inspired by a verse in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Also fathom is an old measurement for depth of water (one fathom = 1.8m), and fifty fathoms is a depth of 90m, the deepest that humans were thought to be able to dive back in the day.
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