Blue Steel

Blancpain shows why it’s still mas­ter and com­man­der of the seas


AT RISK OF RIDICULE, I ad­mit I be­long in the camp of desk denizens and lounge lizards who en­joy the feel of a good dive watch on the wrist but haven’t quite mus­tered the courage to bring it down into the deep.

Out of the wa­ter, there’s some­thing about the lack of nu­mer­als on a dial, the heftier size and the click of the uni­di­rec­tional bezel that makes me go weak in the knees and ready to hand over the ask­ing price. It’s safe to say that the modern dive watch has evolved into a state­ment piece for the wrist.

While tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tions may not have changed (a dive watch still needs to be wa­ter re­sis­tant to a min­i­mum depth), the ad­di­tion of pre­cious ma­te­ri­als and di­a­monds on more ex­trav­a­gant pieces have al­tered the func­tion- driven mind­set with which the orig­i­nal dive watches were cre­ated.

For Blancpain, this bal­anc­ing act be­tween the modern watch lifestyle and its her­itage has re­sulted in the con­tin­u­ous evo­lu­tion of its Fifty Fath­oms range. The iconic dive watches were con­ceived in the 1950s, an era that gave rise to sev­eral mil­i­tary-driven watches be­sides the Fifty Fath­oms time­pieces.

At a time that the watch in­dus­try was focused on cre­at­ing avi­a­tion time­pieces for pi­lots fight­ing wars, Blancpain was ap­proached by Cap­tain Robert “Bob” Malou­bier and Lieu­tenant Claude Rif­faud of the Free French Forces to cre­ate a watch that met the spe­cific needs of com­bat divers. The story goes that the two were turned down by sev­eral brands be­fore hit­ting the jack­pot with then-CEO of Blancpain, Jean-Jac­ques Fiechter.

Fiechter was a pas­sion­ate diver and was happy to be in­volved in the project. The team worked to de­fine what has now come to em­body the qual­i­ties that each dive watch must pos­sess. A screw-down case back and a dou­ble O-ring sys­tem for wa­ter and pres­sure re­sis­tance, and a uni­di­rec­tional ro­tat­ing bezel to en­sure divers have an ac­cu­rate mea­sure of

The brand pays trib­ute to the navy quite lit­er­ally by in­tro­duc­ing the Fifty Fath­oms in a dark azure blue dial, bezel and match­ing strap

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