In this episode of Behind the Dial we talk about the history of dive watches, the provenance of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms diver, and how Swatch Group and Blancpain came together to build one of the coolest watch collabs in the sea.

What is the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms?

The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms holds a prestigious position in the annals of diving watch history, marking its launch in the early 1950s as one of the very first dive watches ever created. The genesis of the Fifty Fathoms can be traced back to a request from the French Navy, who looked for a robust, reliable underwater timepiece for its divers. Jean-Jacques Fiechter, Blancpain’s owner at the time and a passionate diver himself, recognized the inherent risks and challenges of underwater timing. In 1953, Blancpain unveiled the Fifty Fathoms, a watch that met all the specifications required by the French military, including water resistance to 50 fathoms (approximately 91 meters), a rotating bezel for tracking dive time, and legibility in low light conditions. The Fifty Fathoms set a standard for dive watches that would influence the industry for decades to come.

Over the years, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms evolved, cementing its legacy as a pioneer in dive watch design. It was not just the technical specifications that made the Fifty Fathoms stand out; its aesthetic appeal also garnered attention. With its sleek, functional design, the Fifty Fathoms became popular among military divers and civilian enthusiasts alike. Its durability and precision under extreme conditions were proven in various naval missions and expeditions, further solidifying its reputation. The introduction of features such as a unidirectional rotating bezel and antimagnetic protection over the years kept the Fifty Fathoms in the limelight as the definitive dive watch.

Author Expertise John Biggs

Writer, editor, entrepreneur. Former TechCrunch editor, NYT reporter.

Last Update: February 1, 2024