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Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms: What Makes It Special?

In recent years, one style of watch has outgrown all others – the dive watch. As a class of watches, “divers” as they are sometimes known, include some of the most brilliant and iconic timepieces in the world. Blending functionality, form, aesthetic, and value, one reason dive watches are so popular is their ability to multitask: they’re collector’s items, work essentials, tools, and for some, an embodiment of the oft-referenced “Go Anywhere, Do Anything” (GADA) watch.

However, in the world of dive watches—as with any other field, interest, or industry—there are a few standouts. One of our favorite examples of these distinguished models? The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms.

blancpain fifty fathoms bathyscaphe

An introduction to Blancpain’s first modern dive watch

Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms is a timepiece that is legendary in every sense of the word. Sharing a pedestal with other pioneering watchmakers such as the Rolex and Panerai, Blancpain’s flagship model stands out for all the right reasons. Adding to the mystique of the Fifty Fathoms is the timepiece’s backstory.

The Fifty Fathoms story begins in the 1950s. WWII veteran and Special Operations Executive agent, Capt. Bob Maloubier, understood first hand the need for a watch to keep up with commanding dive missions. Although there were many dive watches available in the latter half of the 20th century, none of them could meet the strict requirements set forth. To be able to keep up with the missions and conditions, Maloubier’s perfect watch had to meet the following criteria:

  • A black dial with large, bold numerals and clear markings;
  • An outer rotating bezel aligned with a large minute hand to quickly check the remaining oxygen time for diving or underwater applications, and;
  • Bright, long-lasting luminous markers and hands.

Although many modern dive watches meet these standards with ease, the timepieces of the 1950’s could not yet keep up. The scarcity of viable options led Capt. Maloubier to reach out to Jean-Jacques Fiechter, the CEO of Blancpain, to create a watch that was up to the task. An experienced diver himself, Fiechter took the challenge head on. The rest is history.

blancpain fifty fathoms automatic

Understanding the name

The name Fifty Fathoms may be synonymous with luxury and is certainly on par with other trademarks such as the Rolls Royce Ghost or Ferrari Enzo. Still, its true meaning is more utilitarian than luxurious. “Fathoms”, a somewhat arcane unit of measurement, was originally a British unit of length equivalent to six feet (1.8 meters). Used mostly by British operatives and divers who understood the maximum depth a diver could safely descend was “fifty fathoms” (100 meters),  it was a natural alliterative name for what would become a world-renowned diver watch.

Taking Capt. Maloubier’s needs into consideration, Blancpain had to develop a watch that was not only capable of meeting strict standards but also one that could keep up when pushed to the limits of human endurance. True to its name, the Fifty Fathoms was able to perform flawlessly and provide the capabilities that agents and operators needed at any point in time during their missions.

blancpain fifty fathoms bathyscaphe

What makes the watch so special?

Beyond an association with the toughest agents on earth and the fact that the most famous diver of all time, Jacques-Yves Costaeu, wore it to the 1956 Cannes Film Festival, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is notable for many reasons.

The Swiss timepiece holds the distinction of being small but highly capable. An attention to detail and high levels of craftmanship make it a shining example of a tool watch that is also luxurious. Besides working amazingly in even the harshest conditions, it is also a collectible piece for many because of its sleek, handsome looks that settle perfectly on any wrist. Additionally, the Fifty Fathoms is unique because it undergoes constant development—there are now models that can withstand 200, 500 and 1,000 meters and an endless back-catalog of references, representing thousands of material, size, and complication combos.

blancpain fifty fathoms bathyscaphe

As one of the world’s most famous dive watches today, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms possesses a reputation unlike any other. If you’re looking for a sign to invest in a timeless piece that will always be an important figure in the watch world, this is it!

Feldmar Watch takes immense pride in being the place to be if you want to buy new or used luxury watches in Los Angeles, CA. Browse through our large collection of dive watches today!

About The Author: Tom Roth


Born in Washington state, Tom developed an interest in photography during college at University of San Diego. There, he got started in music journalism, interviewing artists and taking photos at concerts. A life-long tinkerer and collector, it wasn’t long before Tom became fascinated with fountain pens and watches.

Those interests collided in November 2020 when Tom started at Feldmar Watch Company where he lives out every watch geek’s dream: photographing and writing about timepieces. When he’s not tinkering with his watch collection, Tom can be found traveling, biting his nails while watching PNW sports teams, and taking flying lessons.

Read more from Tom Roth

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