This feature has been produced in partnership with Blancpain.
Borne out of a collaboration between Blancpain CEO Jean-Jacques Fiechter and French Navy combat divers Captain Robert “Bob” Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud, the Fifty Fathoms was a triumph of design. A double-sealed crown; a rotating, locking bezel; an extra-secure caseback and an anti-magnetic inner soft iron case… The Fifty Fathoms’ utilitarian yet handsome design remains an icon.
Over its long history, the Fifty Fathoms has been a canvas upon which Blancpain – the oldest watchmaking brand in the world – has experimented and introduced some of the most novel features in horological history.
In what’s sure to be exciting news for Antipodean watch fans, Blancpain has brought three of its most historically significant models to Australian shores in order to share the story and evolution of the Fifty Fathoms line. These ultra-rare references, on display to the public for the first time in Australia, are in exquisite condition and show off some truly unique features.
First up, we have the Fifty Fathoms Rotomatic Incabloc from 1953 – one of the very first Fifty Fathoms ever produced.
If you were to strap it on, you would be surprised just how modern it is despite its age: a 42mm case diameter, stark black dial (for maximum contrast while diving) and a self-winding movement (valuable for a diving watch in order to minimize wear on its crown and seals) make this an eminently wearable watch, even for day-to-day use.
These features really emphasise how forward-thinking Jean-Jacques Fiechter’s design was.
The exhibition also includes the Fifty Fathoms LIP ‘Small Model’ from 1954-56.
Even as early as 1954, Blancpain was experimenting with different versions of the Fifty Fathoms – emphasising how immediately important the model was for the Le Brassus brand.
At 34mm, it’s rather small, but packs a mighty punch with its signature feature: the very first moisture indicator in a dive watch. In the event of moisture intrusion, a small disc at 6 o’clock will change colour– a very clever little feature.
Lastly, we have the Fifty Fathoms 1000 Automatic Incabloc from the 1970s.
As the name implies, this was the first Fifty Fathoms model to be water-resistant to 1,000m – imagine taking a watch a kilometre underwater!
Despite this impressive hardiness, the watch boasts a date window and a remarkably slim case, something many modern dive watches fail to feature. A cushion-shaped case and ultra-legible indices add a beautiful aesthetic touch.
These references will be on display at Watches of Switzerland’s Sydney boutique on George St near Circular Quay starting this weekend until Sunday the 25th of April. In addition to these vintage watches, visitors can discover and try the current Fifty Fathoms collection.
The exhibition will then find a home at Watches of Switzerland’s new Perth boutique on Raine Square between Thursday the 29th of April and Sunday the 9th of May, followed by Partridge Auckland on Queen St from Tuesday the 18th to Sunday the 29th of May, and finally to Melbourne’s Monards 101 on Collins St from Tuesday the 8th to Sunday the 20th of June.
It’s a rare treat that you won’t want to miss, no matter which city you find yourself in.