Revisiting the Fifty Fathoms 50th Anniversary

These days 210 excited collectors wait for their Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1 to be delivered very shortly, which gave me the idea to (again) make its predecessor, the Fifty Fathoms 50th Anniversary, the topic two decades after its introduction.

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A significant step for the Fifty Fathoms

Celebrating 50 years of an iconic dive watch is a perfect occasion to look back and forward at the same time. That’s exactly what Blancpain did with the Fifty Fathoms 50th Anniversary reference 2200A/B/C-1130-71.

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The most obvious part of looking back is that the timepiece is building on the 1990s Trilogy FF by using essentially the same 40.3mm case and also the dial configuration with applied numerals. What makes this Anniversary FF leave the path of the Trilogy series and pick up the more distant first days of the famous dive watch is the bezel.

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Small details make all the difference

The sensual aesthetic of the old time Bakelite bezel was brought into this timepiece by using the world’s first sapphire bezel. This solution is a visual and haptic delight, and besides the nod to the history of the Fifty Fathoms it also gave a hint on the future. From 2007 onwards a sapphire bezel has been a key element of the modern Fifty Fathoms, both in the 45mm regular collection and the limited 40mm editions.

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The dial configuration and the hands of the Fifty Fathoms 50th Anniversary are similar to the Trilogy series, the dial finish is different, though. The Trilogy dials had stepped dials, here the subtle sunburst finish of the ebony black dial goes uninterrupted from the center to the outer part. Though being a rather subtle change, this finish has a rather large effect visually.

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Talking about visual effects: there’s a lot of writing on this dial. In addition to the usual text we have the 50th Anniversary signature and something rather unusual: we read either Series I, II or III next to it.

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The idea behind this was to designate one third of the 150 timepieces to Europe (Series I), another third to Asia (Series II) and the remaining third to the Americas (Series III). The same idea was now used for the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1, albeit with 70 watches for each region.

Let’s get back to the 50th Anniversary timepiece: the solid case back shows beautiful engravings with the limited edition numbering, the series and the 1953-2003 celebratory occasion.

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The bracelet is basically identical to the Trilogy series FF, but with a new type of screws. The link attaching the case has also a set of screws, in the case of this Anniversary timepiece for a very special reason:

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With the watch Blancpain delivered a unique rubber strap, meant to be worn over a dive suit. To fit that one you don’t have to take of the entire bracelet: keeping the end links attached to the case you use the screws to detach the remaining bracelet. The rubber strap is specifically designed to hold the watch including the bracelet end links, a solution that is unique to this specific timepiece until today.

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To help the process Blancpain also added a watch holder with some tools, spare screws and pins. This procedure was executed by Marc A. Hayek underwater during the presentation of the watch, so if it works there it works above ground, too.

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If you think that the package of the 50th Anniversary FF is already extraordinary, wait for the last element: the watch did not come in a „normal“ case but in a dive torch shaped box with a wooden holder. The top of the torch holds the watch on a cushion and is of course removable.

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Conclusions

The Fifty Fathoms 50th Anniversary is not only a beautiful watch with a remarkable and very special package. It was an important link between the past and the future of the Fifty Fathoms, reflecting on the rich heritage and foreshadowing the next generation of the iconic dive watch at the same time.

Now, how does this celebratory timepiece work after two decades? To me it hasn’t aged one day since 2003. But that’s no surprise, with Blancpain we are used to enjoy designs and executions that stand the test of time, keeping their appeal and sometimes even becoming more attractive with each passing year.

Specifically with the Fifty Fathoms 50th Anniversary one aspect has to mentioned, too. The past 20 years have seen the trend of ever larger watches come and go. This timepiece was made before this trend picked up speed and finds itself right in today’s sweet spot of 40-42mm for sports watches again. So it’s now time to enjoy the 42mm Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary timepiece, which again looks backwards and forward at the same time.

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Find the 2022 Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 1 here on the Blancpain website. A first hands-on with its prototype can be found here in the blog, my first blog post on the 50th Anniversary FF is available here, the history of the Fifty Fathoms can be seen here in a striking two part documentary.

I hope you enjoyed this essay and the photos!

Cheers

Henrik

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