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Blancpain, the esteemed Swiss manufacture that opened its doors way back in 1735, is known worldwide for crafting some of the most elegant pocket and dress wristwatches in history. Many of these pieces are brilliant works of horological art, and as a category are worthy of in-depth study and analysis. But today we want to talk about Blancpain's other genius - their entrant into the world of purpose built tool watches, and the industry's prototypical modern diver's watch, the legendary Fifty Fathoms.
Alongside the Rolex Submariner and DOXA Sub 300 Series, the Fifty Fathoms is without question one of the most important dive watch designs in history, and is often credited with being the first purpose-built timepiece with sub-aquatic usage in mind.
This particular example is a 35mm civilian date model (often referred to as a 37mm model with the inclusion of the bezel), and is fitted with the Calibre R. 134 automatic-winding movement. With classic styling cues including a sharply angled steel case, rotating bezel and glossy gilt dial with applied luminescent markers (radium!), there is little question that this watch was originally purchased by someone who intended to use it in the manner for which it was destined.
Of particular delight is the co-branded Blancpain/LIP dial, indicating this piece originated in the French market, which of course is the land of its birth. Interestingly, the proposal for manufacturing the original Fifty Fathoms for the French Navy was denied by LIP (who did construct at least one prototype), claiming that the "oversized wrist clock" had no future! The story of how Blancpain got the contract is fairly well documented, and the rest, as they say, is history. This particular watch was signed and branded for retail through LIP, and is one of less common configurations on the collector market today.
Perfectly sized for modern wrist wear, the 35mm Fifty is svelte, but there is no chance it will go unnoticed. Its glossy dial positively gleams in the sunlight, and its characteristic bakelite bezel and bold 3,6,9 hour markers out, calling you to slip on a wetsuit, buckle up the Swiss-Made Tropic strap, and descend into the depths.
For an in-depth look at the history of the Fifty Fathoms, have a look at this excellent in-depth article over at Timezone, HERE.
Stainless Steel Case is approximately 37mm (including bezel/excluding crown). Blancpain Calibre R.134 Signed by Lip. Circa 160.
Overall Condition: The case is in excellent condition over all showing only light signs of wear with no major blemishes or dents. Original gloss dial shows light even patination. Original luminescent plongeur hands. Original case back signed by LIP/Blancpain. Unsigned crown.
Includes one 20mm tropic style strap and two nylon straps by Crown & Buckle.