The story of the Fifty Fathoms and Blancpain’s love affair with the oceans begins in 1953. Unlike a great number of contemporary dive watches, which are sea-worthy only in name, the Fifty Fathoms was forged in the crucible of actual dive experience.
In 1952, war hero Capt. Robert “Bob” Maloubier was in the process of outfitting his Ecole des Nageurs de Combat divers for military action. Dive technology was still in its infancy, and Capt. Maloubier and his team designed a lot of their equipment — suits, fins, goggles, watches — from scratch. They brought their watch designs, tailored around the highly exacting needs of the military diver, to various watch companies, but the only one who would consent to manufacture these watches for them was Blancpain. The then-CEO of Blancpain, Jean-Jacques Fiechter, was himself a passionate scuba diver, and made the milestone decision to produce the world’s first modern diving watch.
Over the years, Blancpain has emphasised its support for initiatives that protect our invaluable oceanic resources, furthering research into this vast and beautiful — some say unknowable — realm. Chief among the beneficiaries of this support include the National Geographic Society’s Pristine Seas Expeditions, led by Dr Enric Sala and marine biologist Laurent Ballesta’s Gombessa Project.
Blancpain recently presented the Blancpain Ocean Commitment, which unites all of the company’s ocean-related activities under a single umbrella. Part of the Blancpain Ocean Commitment will be a series of limited-edition diving watches, of which a portion of the watch price will go towards the oceanic environmental causes affiliated with Blancpain.
The first of these limited-edition watches is the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Ocean Commitment Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph, a version of this year’s hugely popular Baselworld debut, but executed in gray ceramic with a blue bezel and dial. Only 250 of these watches will be produced, and Blancpain will put EUR1,000 towards the Ocean Commitment with each watch sold, hence earmarking a total of EUR250,000 for this cause. The owners of each limited-edition watch will also be automatically included in the Ocean Commitment Circle, an exclusive group with privileged access to Blancpain-related activities.
The presentation of the Blancpain Ocean Commitment and the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Ocean Commitment Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph was held in the Cap d’Antibes on a beautiful evening in early October, where Blancpain President and CEO Marc A. Hayek personally hosted dignitaries, friends of the brand, partners and press. After being thoroughly introduced to the Blancpain Ocean Commitment and the Ocean Commitment Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph, guests were invited to discover the dedicated website for this initiative at blancpain-ocean-commitment.com. Also on display were exceptional examples of underwater photography that allowed guests a glimpse into the aims of the Blancpain Ocean Commitment. A commemorative volume that explores Blancpain’s relationship with the oceans, Fifty Fathoms: The Dive and Watch History 1953–2013 was made available for browsing, underscoring the link between the evening and the long-term goals of Blancpain Ocean Commitment.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Ocean Commitment Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph
(Limited edition of 250 pieces)
Blue dial, unidirectional satin-brushed grey ceramic bezel with blue ceramic insert and Liquidmetal hour-markers, satin-brushed grey ceramic case, sapphire crystal caseback, canvas strap
Movement: Automatic calibre F385
Beat rate: 5Hz (36,000vph)
Power reserve: 50 hours
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date
Water resistance: 30bar