There seems to be a running theme this year at Baselworld and it is vintage. Joining in on the trend is Blancpain with it’s Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC. Based on the original MIL-SPEC 1 that was designed by Jean-Jacques Fiechter and produced in 1957, this is the first time Blancpain has produced a modern MIL-SPEC and it doesn’t disappoint. Let’s dive in (pun totally intended).
In case you don’t know, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms was the dive watch back in the day. It was the first automatic dive watch and the first with a rotating bezel. It truly accommodated the needs of professional divers. It was designed by Captain Robert Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud, commanders of the French Combat Diving School, who shopped it around to watch manufactures (like Lip), with Blancpain CEO Jean-Jacques Fiechter taking the bait (the puns keep on coming).
The Fifty Fathoms was born in 1953. Shortly thereafter a new feature was added to the dive watch, a feature that alerted a diver if water made its way into their watch. This was incredibly important at the time, due to the lack of computers and technology engineered for deep dive missions. As a result, the MIL-SPEC 1 was born with a circular indicator on the dial at six o’clock that would change color should water seep into the mechanism, therefore compromising the watch’s accuracy and dependency. If your life-saving tool was broken, you’d know it right away.
For the watch’s 60th anniversary, Blancpain brought it back with the watch you see here – the Tribute To Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC. As I mentioned, we haven’t seen a MIL-SPEC from Blancpain since the 1960s. This new edition starts with a polished 40mm case with uni-directional rotating bezel that is coated in scratch-resistant sapphire (an innovation that dates back to 2003). The dial is a rich matte black matte with SuperLuminova indexes and hands that mimic radium in color and texture.
The water-indicator is that half orange, half white circle you see prominently placed at six o’clock. If the dial is exposed to water – even a relatively small amount – the white part will begin to turn a reddish-orange to match the other side. Basically, if you look down at your watch and can’t still easily tell that the circle is two colors, you know you have a problem. The Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC is water resistant to 30 bar (300 meters) though, so you shouldn’t ever see that dot change colors.
And the movement? The new MIL-SPEC is powered by the caliber 1151, an in-house automatic movement that has a four-day power reserve (the same caliber used in some of the Villeret watches). This movement also has a silicon balance spring and a solid gold rotor with NAC coating (a platinum alloy), which is displayed nicely through the caseback.
The Tribute To Fifty Fathoms MilSpec will retail for $14,100 and is a limited edition of 500 pieces. It is available with a bracelet, NATO Strap, or sail cloth strap. For more, visit Blancpain online.