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1952. Though the Second World War had ended, the world was not at peace. Tensions between East and West gave rise of a need for specialized military units: combat divers.
Acting under the utmost secrecy, the men (known colloquially as frogmen) in these units were to enact covert missions: intelligence-gathering, attacking ports, sabotage.
The French Navy, in conjunction with its Secret Services, was the first to create such a unit. In its infancy, it consisted of two men: Lt. Claude Riffaud from the Navy, and Captain Bob Maloubier of the Secret Service. Since the very idea of SCUBA diving was itself in its infancy, no blueprint existed for such a unit—and no specialized equipment existed either.
Though Riffaud and Maloubier had a general idea of what gear the divers needed—compasses, depth gauges, watches—in the latter field, there was no watch on the market ideally suited for the rigorous use these combat divers would put them to.
So Maloubier sat down with a pencil and a protractor and sketched a watch. Not just any watch, but a watch ideally suited for diving. It needed to have a robust, watertight case, and a dial that would be legible under cover of darkness and deep underwater.
With such strict requirements, Maloubier had a hard time finding a manufacture who would be willing to take on such a project—in fact, Lip, one of the first companies he contacted, even dismissed Maloubier’s design as a “portable clock without any future.”
These words would come to haunt Lip after Maloubier's “portable clock” would go on to become this watch: the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms.
As an avid amateur diver, the CEO of Blancpain—Jean-Jacques Fiechter—was all too eager to jump at the chance to create a specialized dive watch, the first of its kind.
The Fifty Fathoms was initially sold through La Spirotechnique, an official supplier of the French Navy, until in 1954 Lip—without a sports watch of its own—agreed to sell it as well.
A year after dismissing it as an idea “without a future.”
Of course, the Fifty Fathoms would go on to have a long and bright future, but it’s watches produced during Blancpain’s partnership with Lip—which ended in 1957 with the launch of Lip’s own dive watch, the Nautic-Ski—that remain some of our favorites.
This one is a “boy’s size,” but at 34mm it’s ideally suited for the smaller-wristed individual—man or woman—who nurtures dreams of strapping on a watch and disappearing, like frogmen, into the murky depths.
Stainless steel case is approximately 34mm (excluding crown). Circa 1950s.
Overall Condition: Case is in very good condition overall showing light signs of use and wear. Bakelite bezel shows some signs of age and wear, including moderate cracking and patination. Dial is in very good condition showing patina to the luminescent (radium) elements. Hands have likely been refinished to match in the past. Unsigned crown.
Includes one 18mm light brown leather strap.
Analog/Shift stands behind the authenticity of our products in perpetuity.
We back each Analog/Shift vintage timepiece with a one-year mechanical warranty from the date of purchase.
All of our watches include complementary insured shipping within the 50 states. We are happy to hand deliver your purchase in Manhattan or you may pick it up at our showroom.
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