Blancpain - The Geneva Watch Auction: XI Geneva Sunday, June 28, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Manufacturer: Blancpain
    Year: Circa 1955
    Case No: 4085
    Model Name: Fifty Fathoms, Aqua-Lung
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 1361N, 17 jewels, stamped "FOG"
    Bracelet/Strap: Nato strap
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel pin buckle
    Dimensions: 42mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial and movement signed

  • Catalogue Essay

    Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms model is widely recognised for its historical significance as being the first ‘modern’ diver’s wristwatch with a rotating bezel, released in 1953. The story of its origin is 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 design for what would one day be the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. Very large for the time (42 mm), expensive and with a limited audience (basically, only professional divers), the watch was regarded with much suspicion by most brands approached for its manufacture. The CEO of Blancpain - Mr. Jean-Jacques Fiechter - was however an avid diver, and agreed to produce the watch, thus began the history of this iconic model.

    While the watch is today known as Fifty Fathoms, a number of different names can be found on the dials of early specimens. This is due to the commercialisation strategy adopted for the watch. Two main suppliers were used: Spirotechnique - dealing mostly with military forces - and the civilian scuba diving gear supplier Aqua-Lung - dealing with civilian clients.

    The present Blancpain Aqua-Lung bears an early case number and the beautiful 12 / 3 / 6 / 9 dial layout typical of Fifty Fathoms and Aqua-Lungs of the era, with puffy luminous material that has aged beautifully over time, an exceptionally well-preserved case, and a perfectly intact Bakelite bezel. Perfectly correct for an early, pre-1960s example, the luminous material is radium. Furthermore, the inner caseback features the designation “Patent-pending” which classifies the present example as one of the very earliest specimens, realised when the patent was still in the process of being granted.

  • Artist Biography


    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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A very rare and extremely well-preserved diver's automatic wristwatch with black gloss luminous dial and bakelite revolving bezel

Circa 1955
42mm Diameter
Case, dial and movement signed

CHF25,000 - 50,000 

Sold for CHF56,250

Contact Specialist

Alexandre Ghotbi
Head of Watches, Continental Europe and the Middle East

41 79 637 1724

The Geneva Watch Auction: XI

Geneva Auction 27 - 28 June 2020