29 October 2023


By In Blancpain, Brands, General

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is a true icon within the history of diving watchmaking and 2023 results to be quite a particular year for this watch. Indeed, it is the 70th anniversary of its creation and we have reached the third and last act of its celebration with the Ref. 5901 5630 NANA.

The history

Created in 1953 by Jean-Jacques Fiechter, a diver enthusiast and then CEO of Blancpain, the Fifty Fathoms was the first modern diver chronograph. It was designed in collaboration with the French military department to meet the needs of military divers, specifically the Commandos of the Marine Nationale that were looking for a reliable dive watch for their missions, and along its history it was also able to survive US Navy testing with no requests for improvement. Such impressive results were reached since the Fifty Fathoms was designed with innovative features for those years, like the water-resistant case, the unidirectional rotating bezel for calculating dive time, luminous indicators that made it readable even at depth and a special indicator to verify the waterproofness of the watch. In the late ‘50s, the idea of introducing a circular colored disk able to change color once it gets in contact with water (even with the moisture) was quite clever and allowed users to quickly check and be sure that the watch was not damaged during previous divings, preventing potential issues and increasing safety. Such innovation was present on the dial of the Fifty Fathoms model known as “MIL-SPEC” (Military Specification) that won the rigorous selection process by the U.S. Navy, which chose the watch that would be part of its divers’ equipment. Therefore, we can say that this watch became an essential tool for professional divers. Over the years, the Blancpain FF has continued to evolve, staying a milestone in diving watchmaking and a style icon. Its history has been marked by numerous models and special editions, but its legacy of reliability and prestige remained untouched.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms MILSPEC I ref. RR1055 from 1953 showing the indicator to detect moisure and water on the dial.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms MILSPEC I ref. RR1055 – Photo courtesy of Romain Rea
70th anniversary – act 3

With the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3, Blancpain decided to apply for the first time the original case design and dial/bezel ratio. By looking at the front side of the watch, the dimensions of the case and dial result to be almost identical to those of a vintage Fifty Fathoms MilSpec. However, this is not a perfect copy of the original model. Indeed, the new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th anniversary Act 3 misses the distance ring between the bezel and the crystal. The ceramic insert of the unidirectional bezel features luminescent numerals and hour markers inspired by the typography of that period, but they appear larger than their ancestors, most probably due to the missing spacer ring. The matte black dial shows indexes that exploit the same color with applied SuperLuminova® and the moisture indicator that is white/gray as referring to vintage U.S. Navy models.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 ref. 5901 5630 NANA. Photo taked from the front side of the watch
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 ref. 5901 5630 NANA
– Photo courtesy of Blancpain

The 41.3 mm case is 13.3 mm thick and is made of gold-bronze, a patented alloy with 37.5% gold (with the 9ct mark), 50% copper, silver, palladium, and gallium. This alloy allows a smooth contact with the skin and prevents oxidation with its greenish effect. The case sides and lugs reveal their close kinship with the vintage ancestor, indeed the lugs are quite long, which is quite atypical for a modern Blancpain. Then, the dome shaped sapphire crystal significantly contributes to the watch’s character and personality. Such detail is reminiscent of the plexiglass used for its ancestors, and the distortion of the side view is a very interesting and pleasing feature.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 ref. 5901 5630 NANA
with a focus on the sapphire glass, lugs and bezel
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 ref. 5901 5630 NANA
– Photo courtesy of Blancpain
The calibre

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 offers a view of Caliber 1154 through a sapphire crystal set into the case-back. The construction of the case back and metal ring is again a direct reference to the vintage models, here with engravings specifying the watch’s occasion, individual number, and historic Blancpain signature. The Caliber 1154 reveals that it is based on the well-known 1150, still running at a frequency of 3 Hz and providing four days (100h) of power reserve, but it also shows some changes. Indeed, the new Caliber 1154 has been enlarged to fit the size of the case and the selected decoration is unique to this new Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3, basic but still technical. The finishing is of course handcrafted, as well as the rotor reminiscent of the vintage timepiece.

Blancpain Caliber 1154 showing the finishes and the engravings on the case back
Blancpain Caliber 1154 – Photo courtesy of Blancpain
Strap & kit

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary is equipped with a striped Nato strap made from recycled fishing nets, that demonstrates how sustainability has been kept into consideration also by Blancpain in recent years. The colors of the strap perfectly match the timepiece and support this unique look that is a mix between a vintage watch and a luxurious precious metal timepiece. The 9ct bronze gold buckle is inspired by the simpler buckles of the 1950s and perfectly matches the look of the reference 5901 5630 NANA. The watch comes with a box that is a beautifully crafted underwater camera body, as used in the early 1950s. This box is a work of art in itself and underscores the close connection between Blancpain’s unparalleled heritage of dive watches and underwater photography.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 box that reminds to underwater camera boxes
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 box – Photo courtesy of Blancpain

We had to wait a long time to finally see a faithful reincarnation of Blancpain’s vintage Fifty Fathoms and the quite unexpected choice of bronze-gold alloy for the case makes it even more special. The “new” aesthetic code for a modern Blancpain shows dimensions perfectly coherent with the original Fifty Fathoms and beautifully reminds of the legacy of dive watches. Together with Acts 1 and 2, this series of celebratory timepieces makes perfect sense: a new dimension for the modern Fifty Fathoms, a new diving instrument, and a faithful homage to the vintage Fifty Fathoms MilSpec. 

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 ref. 5901 5630 NANA
showing the NATO strap and the bronze-gold buckle
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 ref. 5901 5630 NANA
– Photo courtesy of Blancpain

The Act 3 is a limited edition of 555 pieces. Some people may criticize the marketing strategy of explaoiting limited editions, but Blancpain watches are intended to be collector’s models. Finally, we must also mention the price of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 ref. 5901 5630 NANA, which exceeds 30,000 Euro. However, the exclusiveness, awesomeness of the box and anniversary celebration may justify the price.

Written by Antonio Branca

Born in 1994, first a passion for watches and then for architecture and Harley Davidson. As with buildings he has a great interest in materials, technologies and timepiece design.