The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is perhaps one of the most iconic — if not the most iconic — dive watches in the world. It was also one of the most popular dive watches in the business, together with the Rolex Oyster plus a Panerai prototype.
In reality, there’s always some differences of opinion as to what is the dive watch among watch enthusiasts. Some say it was the Rolex Oyster (1926). However, these icons each, the opinion deserves its rightful spot in the history of watches.
Full of history and heritage, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms‘ exciting start involved a secret agent, strict diving demands, and a French battle diving corps.
Modern Dive Watch
At the moment, not one of the dive watches they tested since they have strict requirements when it arrived they needed, made the cut. The watch had to have a black dial with clear markings and large numerals. It had to have an outer bezel aligned with a large minute hand to check the oxygen period that is remaining. Along with the mark had to be luminous.
Capt. Robert ‘Bob’ Maloubier.
With these requirements, Capt. Maloubier had no option but to look for a watch maker that would make that specific watch for them. It took some time to Captain Maloubier before he managed to get in contact with Jean-Jacques Fiechter CEO of Blancpain and an enthusiastic diver himself. The two avid divers established what was to become the iconic Fifty Fathoms watch.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms: A Suitable Name
“Fathoms” is a British unit of length which is equivalent to 6 ft or 1.8m. So 50 fathoms is about 300 feet or near 100m. And at the 1950s, at the time, 100m was the thickness a diver can safely go submerged.
from Watch Prozine
The first Fifty Fathoms watch had a dial featuring luminous numerals and indicators with a black bezel. The stainless steel case powered through an automated movement and was 42mm in diameter. It had a crown and a caseback having a dual O-ring gasket.
In 1956, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms surfaced at the Cannes Film Festival, in which the famous French filmmaker, researcher, and oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau wore the watch to receive his Palme d’Or Award for The Silent World — Cousteau’s documentary that featured underwater cinematography revealing for the first time the sea churns in colour.