Widely regarded as the first modern dive watch, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms holds a significant place in the history of horology. Its origins can be traced back to the early 1950s when Blancpain’s then CEO, Jean-Jacques Fiechter, collaborated with French naval officers Bob Maloubier and Claude Riffaud to create a watch that could withstand the rigors of deep-sea diving while ensuring precise timekeeping and excellent legibility. In 1953, Fiechter delivered a watch that fully met their testing criteria—the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms.
Named after the depth at which it could be submerged, the Fifty Fathoms featured several groundbreaking innovations including a robust watertight case made of stainless steel, a unidirectional rotating bezel with clear markers for timing underwater dives, and a highly legible dial with luminescent hands and hour markers. These features ensured that divers could easily read and measure elapsed time accurately, even in low-light or murky conditions. Furthermore, the Fifty Fathoms boasted an automatic movement, which eliminated the need for manual winding and provided additional convenience and reliability for divers.
After the initial release, Blancpain continued to refine and innovate the Fifty Fathoms collection to meet the needs of its wearers, which included the French Navy, the U.S. Navy, and Jaques Cousteau's famed Calypso divers. Notably, in the late 1950s, a slightly smaller and more civilian-oriented version of the original Fifty Fathoms was introduced—the Bathyscaphe. It offered a sleeker 35mm to 38mm profile for everyday wear while maintaining the core characteristics of its predecessor.
Many years later, in 2013, Blancpain released a re-interpretation of the Bathyscaphe in a 43mm case. While the watch was well-received, the chief complaint was about its size and the brand eventually released a 38mm version in 2017 that was more in line with the ethos of the original. Available in either white, black, or a stunning “abyss blue”, the 38mm Bathyscaphe featured several luxurious adornments including a Liquidmetal ceramic bezel, a sunburst dial with jewel-like hour markers, and an automatic movement with a whopping 100-hour power reserve and an 18K gold rotor. The smaller size has served the brand well and is now more tasteful than ever as dive watches such as the Tudor Black Bay 54 return to vintage proportions with much fanfare.
Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe
Blancpain black textile strap with tang buckle
Max Wrist Size:
Hand model has a wrist size of 6.2 in
UNWORN: Case is pristine with no signs of use. Original stickers may still be present. Dial, hands, and lume have no imperfections and may show natural, even aging.
MINT: Case has only a few superficial hairlines. Lugs are thick, full, and sharp with superb finishing. Dial, hands, and lume may have micro imperfections visible only with a loupe.
EXCELLENT: Case has very light scratches or nicks. Lugs are thick, full, and well-defined. Dial and hands may have imperfections visible upon close inspection. Lume is fully intact and may show slight discoloration.
VERY GOOD: Case may have a few moderate scratches or nicks. Lugs are thick and full but may have softened edges. Dial and hands may have light stains or marks. Lume may have cracks or discoloration.
GOOD: Case has many scratches and nicks. Lugs may show signs of moderate polishing with worn edges. Dial and hands may have noticeable stains or marks. Lume may be damaged or show significant discoloration.
Case: The satin-brushed case shows very little wear with only a few faint hairlines and micro dings present. The lugs are thick and sharp with superb definition at the beveled edges. The ceramic insert is in pristine condition with no notable imperfections. The surrounding steel ring shows a couple tiny dings at the edges visible on close inspection. The caseback is consistent with the rest of the watch and has been wonderfully preserved. The backs of the lugs show light scratching from strap removal. The model and serial number engravings remain sharp and deep.
Dial, Hands, & Crystal: The black sunburst dial and polished paddle hands are in perfect condition with fully functioning Super-LumiNova. Both front and rear sapphire crystals are squeaky clean and scratch-free.
Bracelet/Strap: The Blancpain textile strap is in fantastic condition with no staining or creasing. The sides of the strap near the lugs show light fraying. The threading near the buckle holes has some wear, but remains intact. The buckle itself has a couple faint scratches. The engraved Blancpain logo remains crisp and detailed.
Functions: All functions including the crown winding, time setting, and quickset date are working as expected.
Service History: None.