Style / World of Watches (WOW)

Review: Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatique and Chronographe Flyback

WOW spends some time with new additions to the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms collection

Oct 26, 2018 | By Ruckdee Chotjinda

The pair of Fifty Fathoms that World of Watches was fortunate to play around with

A “fathom” is an archaic unit for depth. Used mostly by imperial and the U.S. customary systems, one fathom equals six feet; therefore, 50 fathoms is essentially 300 feet or about 91.44 metres. In the watch world, the term Fifty Fathoms has transcended being just a measurement of distance, but rather a measurement of success in diving watches.

When Blancpain built a dive watch in 1953, it used the record-setting depth that its timepieces could descend to as a way to name the watches. Turning 65 this year, the story of the Fifty Fathoms is one that revolves around a match made in horological and oceanic heavens: the French Navy Combat Swimmers Corps were trying to identify a dive watch to meet their specifications, and only Blancpain rose to the challenge with a product independently developed under the guidance of the then-CEO, who was a diver himself.

The first Fifty Fathoms, released in 1953

The watch featured a double sealed crown system, a special case design to mitigate the possibility of the o-ring gasket becoming twisted when the caseback was screwed into the case, and a unidirectional rotating bezel to safely time a dive.

In modern times, when military forces no longer use mechanical dive watches, Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms has migrated smoothly to the civilian world. The new models are infused with additional functionalities and manufacturing techniques. WOW was fortunate enough to touch and feel two modern-day options from the line-up.

Going on Hands On with the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms

Perhaps the closer of the two to the original, the Fifty Fathoms Automatique wears well and stands out on the wrist, the perfect balance

Fifty Fathoms Automatique Ref. 5015-1130-52 reflects the archetypal Fifty Fathoms but in a contemporary fashion. The stainless steel case measures 45mm in diameter and takes a 23mm strap. It houses the Calibre 1315 with the more than ample power reserve of 120 hours. The date window is nicely tucked into the space between the four and five o’clock markers, although this writer would not mind if it was omitted totally for the sake of absolute symmetry. Elsewhere on the watch, the domed bezel is preserved, complete with the diamond marker for the top of the hour position.

For a more liberated variation, consider the Ref. 5085F.B-1140-52B, otherwise known as the Fifty Fathoms Chronographe Flyback. Blancpain encases the Calibre F185 flyback chronograph movement with 40 hours of power reserve into a 45 mm stainless steel package, keeping the same thickness of 15.5 mm; this means that it is not any less wearable than the time and date model above. Most importantly, the chronograph pushers are operable even when the watch is submerged – a claim that can be made by very few watches. Guilloche engraving in the central area of the dial adds to the luxury of this royal blue watch.

A radial guilloche pattern sits at the centre of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Chronographe Flyback

Both of these contemporary models are water resistant to 300 metres. They can come on bracelets as well, but we chose to photograph them on the sail canvas strap, for shooting convenience. Similarly, they are both produced in the other colour, in case you want a blue time and date or a black chronograph, for example. If you are already building a collection of dive watches, it is almost imperative that you add the Fifty Fathoms to your assortment.


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