In the same way car brands have ‘halo cars’ that draw people to the marque – think the Jeep Wrangler, Ford Mustang, Porsche 911 or Holden Commodore (RIP) – watch brands have ‘halo watches’ that are immediately recognisable. Yet you’d be surprised how short the history of some of these timepieces are.
The Patek Philippe Nautilus, created by legendary watch designer Gérald Genta, first appeared in 1976 – 113 years after the brand was first founded. Hublot’s most successful model, the Big Bang, was only introduced in 2005. Even Rolex’s venerable Submariner, widely considered the stereotypical luxury watch, is less than 50 years old.
A ‘halo watch’ that predates all of these is Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms: an incredibly functional, stylish diver’s watch that’s been a trendsetter from day dot. Blancpain might not enjoy the same profile in popular culture as some of the other brands mentioned above but they have the unique accolade of being the oldest surviving watchmaking brand in the world, founded way back in 1735 in the foothills of the Jura Mountains in Switzerland. Since then, they’ve been one of the most quietly brilliant watch brands in the industry, producing fewer than thirty watches per day, each one a masterpiece made by a single watchmaker.
The Fifty Fathoms was arguably the world’s first modern diver’s watch: first introduced in 1953, the Fifty Fathoms has always had a military connection, its design a result of collaboration with the French Navy. The Fifty Fathoms also became standard issue for US Navy SEALs at the time and has been seen on the wrists of savvy operators of all stripes ever since.
2020 has seen the brand pay homage to its military roots with two unique colourways for two different versions of its Fifty Fathoms line: a new stunning dark green 44mm Bathyscaphe Chronographe Flyback as well as a limited-edition sand-coloured 43mm Bathyscaphe Day Date. Both flavours of Fifty Fathoms look stunning, and prove that the trend towards earthy-coloured watches isn’t slowing down any time soon.
The Chronographe Flyback (ref. 5200 0153 NABA) is a classically brilliant watch; the perfect companion for adventures above or below the water. The dark green is a particularly attractive colour and simultaneously evokes the olive drab so common among world militaries, as well as the rich colours of the natural world one experiences when diving. Its dial is a particular masterstroke: featuring a subtle sunburst effect created by several nanometric layers of material, it plays with light in a mesmerising fashion, making it a joy to use.
The Day Date Desert Edition (ref. 5052 1146 E52A) is a slightly more left of field offering. Desert sands and diving watches might seem like strange bedfellows, but it works surprisingly well on this highly-functional watch, evoking the desert camo used by modern militaries. The colour is a first for Blancpain, and indeed there are few watches of this tier in such an interesting colourway. Issued in a 500-piece limited series, the Day Date Desert Edition model comes with a sandy-coloured sail canvas strap matching the warm tones of the dial, which further underscores the adventurous nature of the watch.
The biggest challenge is figuring out which 2020 Fifty Fathoms Bathyscape you go with. Do you pick the lustrous, functional chronograph? Or go with the more minimalist limited edition? Either way, you’re onto a winner.
You can check out both watches online here.