First Impression: Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 — Old Shapes In New Bronze Gold
The best way to introduce a new dive watch is to go for a dive. And that’s what we did before the unveiling of the third watch that celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Fifty Fathoms. Marc Hayek, President and CEO of Blancpain, showed up more than ready to take a plunge. On his wrist was a 45mm dive watch in white gold, the Fifty Fathoms Tourbillon 8 Jours on a black nylon NATO strap. But in the end, the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 in Bronze Gold outshone that complicated “tool watch” with great ease.
It wasn’t all about watches on the eve of the presentation of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3. It was also time to dive into matters that were a bit more important. And that’s why the Blancpain Ocean Commitment was put in the spotlight. The panel talk with environmental experts and activists, ranging from an underwater photographer to a watch brand CEO, proved refreshing. And by “refreshing,” I mean that a splash of cold water shakes up the audience and makes them aware of the necessity of taking care of the oceans. The experts made it crystal clear: ocean conservation is of the utmost importance. Oceans hold more life than any other environment, and they will save the 8 billion people on land because we depend on the oceans for food and a healthy climate.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 — Whoever saves one fish saves the oceans entire
The Blancpain Ocean Commitment shows that through exploration, involvement follows. Exploration leads to knowledge, and without knowledge, preservation is not possible. Knowledge also leads to action, and action means hope. Marc Hayek believes in taking action. His actions and commitment to preserving the oceans with Blancpain got him a Lifetime Achievement Award from PADI. According to one of the panel members, it was for being such a good citizen of planet ocean.
Blancpain uses the part it plays in the conservation of the oceans as a marketing tool. The Fifty Fathoms was designed to be in the water, so it makes perfect sense to connect the watch to a good maritime environmental cause. Allow me to adapt famous words from the Talmud by writing that whoever saves one fish saves the oceans entire.
The Shakespearean Fifty Fathoms
This year is an important one for the Fifty Fathoms. There’s online debate about whether 1953 was actually the birth year of Blancpain’s famous dive watch, but the brand sticks to its story, so the 70th anniversary is being celebrated in 2023. It’s a celebration set up like a stage play — very Shakespearean. That makes sense. This is how the song “Full Fathom Five Thy Father Lies” from his play The Tempest starts:
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them,—ding-dong, bell.
The Fifty Fathoms spectacle started with Act 1, a series of three times 70 watches in a steel 42.3mm case that pay homage to the 2003 rebirth of the Fifty Fathoms. It continued with Act 2, the instrumental Tech Gombessa with its 47mm titanium case and innovative timing system capable of measuring dive of up to three hours. The five-model-strong Blancpain × Swatch Scuba Fifty Fathoms can be seen as an intermezzo. And now there’s Act 3, the third 70th-anniversary watch that brought us to Île Sainte-Margueritte near Cannes in the south of France.
Why not wear a tourbillon while diving?
Cannes and Île Sainte-Margueritte just off the coast of the famously chic city were the stage for the unveiling of the third celebratory watch. It started with a bit of diving and snorkeling with the brand’s president Marc Hayek.
Hayek wore a Fifty Fathoms Tourbillon 8 Jours in a 45mm white gold case on a black NATO strap for the occasion. Later that night, he changed that precious metal watch for another one in a noble alloy, the Bronze Gold Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3.
Original looks, new execution
The Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 comes in a 41.3 × 13.3mm bronze gold case with long, slender lugs. This case’s size and shape stay close to those of the watches supplied to several naval forces in the 1950s. It is a no-nonsense case design that pays tribute to the watch conceived by former Blancpain CEO Jean-Jacques Fiechter and French Navy combat divers Captain Robert “Bob” Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud. By executing the case in 9K Bronze Gold, Blancpain elevates the tool watch to a luxury piece. Yes, you’ve seen Bronze Gold before because Omega debuted the alloy. This patented alloy consists of 37.5% gold, 50% copper, and smaller percentages of silver, palladium, and gallium. In this watch, the Bronze Gold shows a grained texture that looks robust and luscious at the same time.
Why did Blancpain go with Bronze Gold instead of just bronze? That’s because Bronze Gold doesn’t age or patinate as quickly as less noble bronze. And the nobler alloy also looks more like rose gold than bronze. There is a very distinct pink hue that’s both warm and luxurious. And that’s what you want from a luxury diver — I promise you will get the price later. Interestingly, 9K Bronze Gold also looks a bit like German silver that has been touched by time. German silver was the material of choice to make cases for vintage Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC models.
A beloved indicator on the dial
When any model of the Fifty Fathoms has an indicator on the dial, it tends to excite collectors and aficionados. On the black dial of the Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3, there’s a gray-white moisture indicator to get the juices flowing. And while the Act 3 might go back to its roots in terms of looks, the bezel has a modern black ceramic insert. The beige Super-LumiNova on the bezel and dial provide a vintage touch. Additionally, the vintage Blancpain logo plays its part in creating a warm retro look.
When you flip the Act 3 over and remove the striped NATO strap made of recycled fishing nets, you will discover a display case back showing the Blancpain 1154.P2 caliber. This is a 3Hz automatic movement offering a power reserve of 100 hours. The movement is the 1154 no-date version of the 1151. The caliber uses a silicon balance spring and vintage-inspired rotor. Decoration of the movement is sober, almost industrial, but is, of course, done by hand and looks very appropriate for a noble tool watch. And just like on the dial, you will also see the vintage logotype on the movement.
Price and a promise
The 555-piece limited-edition Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Act 3 (5901 5630 NANA) in 9K Bronze Gold comes on a NATO-style strap and has a list price of CHF 30,000 / US$32,000. Let the watch and its price sink in. I will do the same and write a follow-up article soon. In that thought piece, I will put the Fifty Fathoms in its natural habitat, a highly competitive world where other dive watches roam and fight for survival. In the meantime, let us know what you think of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70 Anniversary Act 3 in the comments.