The 2017 MIL-SPEC limited-edition watch is a nod to a timepiece that turns 60 this year
If you know your watch history, you’d know that the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is the godfather of all dive watches. It was the first modern day dive watch that set the benchmark for timepieces within its category.
The technical specifications that Blancpain achieved in the course of its production became necessary requirements for any timepiece that wished to be classified as a dive watch. These include a screwed down case back with an automatic movement inside for increased reliability, a unidirectional rotating bezel to time dives more accurately and a proven waterproof resistance for, yes, fifty fathoms or 300feet below the surface.
In 1953, the first batch of Fifty Fathoms were delivered to the elite French military diving unit. They trusted these mechanical timing machines, quite literally, with their lives – this, at a time when dive computers didn’t exist and the only thing that could indicate that it was time to resurface was the watch strapped on your wrist.
A few years later, Blancpain innovated with another life-saving feature on the watch. It introduced the MIL-SPEC 1 Fifty Fathoms timepiece in 1957 that featured an indicator at 6 o’clock that would change colour if water penetrated the movement, thereby signalling to the diver that the timing mechanism had been compromised and that he should resurface.
This year, on the MIL-SPEC’s 60th anniversary, Blancpain unveiled a faithful reinterpretation of that iconic timepiece at Baselworld a few weeks ago. It uses an updated modern calibre 1151 automatic movement and the rotating bezel is coated with sapphire to protects it for getting scratched all too easily.
The 2017 edition limited to 500 pieces and costs $14,100 a pop. While you could opt for a bracelet on this one, the smart money’s riding on a NATO strap that lends it that much more of a military watch vibe.
If the watch is compromised and water does enter the timepiece, the white part on the circular indicator at 6 o’clock will begin to turn reddish orange. But since you’re more likely to find yourself at nothing deeper than the base of your bathtub, rather than a hundred feet beneath the surface on a clandestine reconnaissance military mission, we wouldn’t quite hold our breath on seeing those colours on the dial change.