As a December surprise Blancpain introduced the Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC in collaboration with Hodinkee. Let’s take a look at the details and the official press photos of reference 5008-11B30-NABA.
BLANCPAIN & HODINKEE
The first collaboration between Blancpain and Hodinkee was the limited to 100 pieces 38mm no date Bathyscaphe, introduced last year and sold out within minutes.
Therefore another collaboration was likely to happen at some point, and now it’s here: the limited to 250 pieces Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC for Hodinkee on a black Nato strap with brushed stainless steel buckle. 50 watches of the total quantity are distributed through select Blancpain Boutiques, the 200 pieces distributed through the Hodinkee website were again sold out after just 15 minutes.
There are some notable differences to the 2017 Tribute to Fifty Fathoms Milspec and other 40mm limited editions: the case is satin brushed like with the OC III, but for the very first time does not have the Blancpain engraving on the left case band. The case height is identical to the FF Barakuda with 13.23mm.
The bezel has the same coin edge shape as the Barakuda, the sapphire insert for the first time displays smaller numbers and a triangle instead of the rhombus at 12 o’clock. Both differences are true to the vintage MIL-SPEC, the triangle specifically to the Tornek Rayville for the U.S. Navy.
The dial of this “MilSpec 2.0” is matte black, the 2017 Tribute to MilSpec had a sunburst finish dial. The moisture indicator seems unchanged to the 2017 limited edition, the Blancpain signature comes without the logo. Most notably, there is no date indication, a feature that was already essential to the first Blancpain for Hodinkee. Obviously the vintage Fifty Fathoms had no date as well.
Compared to the 2017 MilSpec the hands have changed in color and size. Like with the 2019 Barakuda, Nageurs de combat and Air Command the hands have a white lacquer finish, in this case the hour hand appears to be very large and the hour dots and sticks seem significantly bigger (can’t tell for sure from the photos), both in comparison to the previous limited edition and the vintage inspirations.
The watch is powered by caliber 1154 (190 parts), which is the no date version of caliber 1151 (210 parts), the 4 day power reserve movement with silicon balance spring used in the other 40mm Fifty Fathoms editions. The rotor shows the Hodinkee name in addition to the usual Blancpain signature.
Some initial thoughts
It is a very beautiful timepiece, no doubt about that. This release left me pondering some thoughts without getting to a conclusion as of yet. Let me share some of those:
To me this new Fifty Fathoms in the 40.3mm case (which has been previously used for the 2003 Anniversary FF, the 2017 Tribute to FF MilSpec, the 2018 FF OC III and the 2019 FF Barakuda) came as a surprise, especially as a collaboration timepiece. It seems, though, that Hodinkee limited editions have become a regular part of Blancpain novelties, and they focus on historically influenced no date timepieces, adding nicely to the Blancpain lineup.
The fact that there is a 2.0 version of a rather recent special edition, namely the 2017 Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MilSpec, may raise some eyebrows with collectors of that very watch. That some key heritage elements of Blancpain repeatedly find their way into new timepieces has to be expected , and we all enjoy those watches a lot. But seeing the same heritage element twice in the same case and the same size within only 3 years is – again – a bit of a surprise.
The Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC for Hodinkee was clearly designed with the idea of getting closer to the historic timepiece than the 2017 Tribute to FF MilSpec. No date, the triangle and smaller numerals on the bezel, white lacquered hands: all are close references to the 1950s watches.
However, this timepiece is not as faithful to its vintage inspiration as the 2019 Air Command, which in addition has a case shape following the lines of the historic predecessor. The rather broad lugs of the 40.3mm FF case are obviously very different from the vintage MIL-SPEC, but with the satin brushed finish and no Blancpain signature on the case band an effort was made to go as far as possible with this case shape.
Initially I miss the Blancpain signature on the case flank as a key aesthetic component of this case shape. And I consider the hour hand and the hour dots and sticks a bit too large for the rather small dial. But I reserve final and better informed judgement on the Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC until I may hopefully see the watch in the metal some day for a hands-on report.
The Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC for Hodinkee can be found here on the Blancpain website and here on the Hodinkee website. You can find last year’s Hodinkee edition here in the blog. My comprehensive report on the 2017 Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MilSpec is available here.
All photos credit to Blancpain and Hodinkee.
I hope you enjoyed this introduction and my initial thoughts on this surprising and very compelling timepiece.