Back to the roots: the Fifty Fathoms Nageurs de combat

In 2019 Blancpain has introduced three limited editions during Time to Move, with the Fifty Fathoms Nageurs de combat ref 5015E-1130-B52A maybe being a bit overshadowed by the Air Command and Fifty Fathoms Barakuda. But this very special Fifty Fathoms 5015 actually stands out as one of the most important watches Blancpain has introduced in the last years.

FF Nageurs de combat

Let me start with a few high contrast shots to introduce this special Fifty Fathoms:

Before we get into more detail, a look back into history helps to put the FF Nageurs de combat into perspective.

The first professional dive watch

In 1953 Blancpain introduced the Fifty Fathoms as the world’s first professional dive watch, based on the requirements defined by the French combat swimmers unit Commando Hubert, which was founded in 1952. Captain Robert „Bob“ Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud discussed the necessary features of the watch with Blancpain CEO Jean-Jaques Fiechter, who himself was a passionate diver, and the Fifty Fathoms was the result, featuring the patented uni-directional bezel as world’s first. Actually, no other dive watch including the Rolex Submariner and Sea Dweller  featured uni-directional locked bezels until Blancpain‘s patents ran out in the 1980s.

The original Fifty Fathoms was created as a diving tool, not a luxury watch. It was sold in stores for diving equipment (among others the Aqualung and Barakuda shops) not in fancy jewelry shops. And based on the obvious qualities of the watch, it quickly became official equipment for military naval units in multiple countries, e.g. Israel, Spain, Germany and The USA. Outside of the military environment but with no less requirements, the Fifty Fathoms was used by Jacques Cousteau and director Louis Malle during the shooting of “Le Monde du Silence” (The World of Silence), the 1957 award-winning underwater movie.

The modern Fifty Fathoms

In 2007 Blancpain introduced the modern era Fifty Fathoms, reference 5015. And this merged the tool watch qualities from the 1950s to 1970s with today’s refined aesthetics and details, paired with a new movement that combines high horology finish with sturdiness and precision, calibre 1315.

This new Fifty Fathoms instantly became the quintessential luxury dive watch, available in many different versions in the last 12 years (an overview on all variations can be found here). In 2019 three new Fifty Fathoms reference 5015 were introduced, with a titanium version of the 2007 standard model, the most luxurious 5015 ever crafted in brushed red gold with a blue ceramic dial and the subject of this report: the Fifty Fathoms Nageurs de combat.

FF Nageurs de combat

The best of both worlds

To commemorate the historic connection, the French combat swimmers unit has asked Blancpain to jointly create a modern Fifty Fathoms for them. This project was of course undertaken with great passion on both sides and it resulted in the Fifty Fathoms Nageurs de combat, introduced 66 years after the first collaborative result. In total 300 pieces are made, with 20% being with the French unit and the remaining pieces being sold through Blancpain Boutiques and authorized dealers.

There are a plentiful of details paying tribute to the joint history. White lacquered hands sit on top of a matte black dial with the traditional indications, with the segmented minute hand, the characteristic tip of the seconds hand and the long triangle at the 12 position it is closest to the historic Tornek Rayville MilSpec, obviously without the moisture indicator.

Tornek-Rayville
photo credit: Nicolas Fondaneche

And then there is the black on black printed 7, a special wish of the French combat swimmers. The number 7 is historically relevant because it is a reminder that in times when swimmers and divers used pure oxygen the depth of 7m was the maximum they could go because of oxygen becoming toxic at a pressure of 1.7bar.

FF Nageurs de combat

FF Nageurs de combat

The solid case back shows a relief that depicts the official French Combat Diver Qualification Badge with two winged seahorses over an anchor. This beautiful detail makes the Fifty Fathoms Nageurs de combat an eye catcher on front and back, even with the beautifully finished calibre 1315 being hidden from view.

This version of the modern Fifty Fathoms reference 5015 is combining the charms of heritage with the luxurious execution of a modern day timepiece. It is without doubt a very important watch for Blancpain and also for the French combat swimmers.

It looks special, and it feels special wearing it. Personally I prefer it on a green Blancpain Nato strap with brushed steel hardware, an option that originally belongs to the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe. In this configuration I find it has an even stronger tool watch character, but that may only be me 😉

The 45mm Fifty Fathoms Nageurs de combat wears exactly like the other 5015 steel versions, but it has a different charisma. It is the 1953 watch transferred into 2019, so one could say that the evolution of the Fifty Fathoms over 66 years is now resembled in this very watch.

For more information on the Fifty Fathoms Nageurs de combat please find my initial report from Time to Move 2019 here and the presentation of the watch on the Blancpain website here.

I hope you enjoyed the report and the photos.

Cheers

Henrik

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