A very rare, early, and unusual stainless steel anti-magnetic diver's wristwatch with black lacquered dial and center seconds.

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  • Manufacturer: Blancpain
    Year: Circa 1953
    Movement No: 300’069’172
    Case No: 1121
    Model Name: Fifty Fathoms
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. AS 1361N, 21 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Leather
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel
    Dimensions: 41mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, and movement signed.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Even though Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms has been in production since the early 1950s, scholarship regarding this fascinating model continues to be written. The story of its origins are well known, rooted in solving the needs of an elite branch of the French Navy – the Service de Documentation Extérieure et de Contre-Espionnage – tasked with underwater espionage and other covert operations. The head of this unit was Captain Bob Maloubier, and he personally sketched out the watch that would one day be fully realized as the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. Maloubier found a champion for his project in Blancpain’s CEO Jean-Jacques Fletcher - a passionate diver himself. Fletcher named the watch after the greatest depth that a combat diver was believed able to withstand at the time.

    The watch combined cutting edge features such as an anti-magnetic and water-resistant case, a screw down case back, a "double O-ring crown system", an automatic movement and a rotating bezel. Extremely robust and reliable, it was truly designed by military professionals, and was soon selected by other militaries around the world for their diving units, including the U.S. Navy. Earliest examples such as the present lot have what collectors have dubbed the "Luxor" minute hand, referring to the small separation between the tip of the hand, resembling the obelisks of Luxor Temple in Egypt. Another indication of rarity is the gilt printing of the manufacture and model name, and the narrower text of ROTOMATIC versus the larger printing of INCABLOC. Later examples would have the dial graphics printed in white, with ROTOMATIC INCABLOC aligned. The original Bakelite bezel is also remarkably preserved, with no cracks as is often seen.

    “Des hautes cimes aux grandes profondeurs” – or, “from high peaks to great depths” – was the phrase used by Blancpain advertisements of the era, and indeed, these watches were meant to attain both – and some certainly did. To find such an early example preserved in such exemplary condition is an exciting opportunity for collectors.

  • Maker Bio

    Blancpain

    Swiss • 1735

    As the watchmaking brand with the earliest founding date, Blancpain remains close to tradition, concentrating on classical mechanical watches. Established in 1735 by Jehan-Jacques Blancpain, the Le Brassus manufacturer today continues to innovate with the development of high-quality calibres and is proud of their heritage, having never made quartz watches. One of the firm's greatest successes was the Fifty Fathom wristwatch introduced in 1953 — the vintage models of which are now highly coveted by collectors. The earliest dive watch available to the market, Fifty Fathom came out a year prior to Rolex's Submariner.  Another key model is the Air Command from the 1960s, considered one of the most mythical collector's watches due to their extreme rarity. Today, the firm specializes in creative innovated complicated timepieces. 

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Blancpain

A very rare, early, and unusual stainless steel anti-magnetic diver's wristwatch with black lacquered dial and center seconds.

Circa 1953
41mm Diameter
Case, dial, and movement signed.

Estimate
$20,000 - 40,000 
CHF19,900-39,900
€17,400-34,700
HK$157,000-314,000

sold for $30,000

Contact Specialist
Paul Boutros
Head of Watches, Americas
+1 212 940 1293
pboutros@phillips.com

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