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  • Manufacturer: Blancpain
    Year: Circa 1965
    Case No: 300’587
    Model Name: Fifty Fathoms, Aqua Lung
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. R310, 17 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel link bracelet
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel JB Champion deployant clasp
    Dimensions: 41mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and clasp signed

  • Catalogue Essay

    The development of the Fifty Fathoms was under the direction of the French Navy’s Service de Documentation Extérieure et de Contre-Espionnage, an elite underwater team who carried out covert operations. The unit head, Captain Bob Maloubier, sketched out his desire for a cutting edge watch, and approached various brands to see if they could produce such a watch. Rejected by many brands, Blancpain’s then CEO, Jean-Jacques Fletcher, a passionate diver himself, would agree to create the watch. The model produced featured an anti-magnetic automatic movement, and a water resistant case with a screw down caseback and double O-ring crown system. Flecther named the new model “Fifty Fathoms”, for the greatest depth a combat diver was believed able to withstand at that time.

    Released in 1953, the Fifty Fathoms was a 42mm diameter dive watch with a rotating, Bakelite bezel and luminous markers on the dial and bezel for ease of reading in the darkness found on deep dives. During the early 1960s, new regulations imposed by governments required changes in luminous materials used. Blancpain complied by using a less radioactive material, and some dials, as seen on the present example, would feature the universal symbol for radioactivity with a cross mark labelled “No Radiation”, giving clear indication to the owner their luminous bezel and dial were harmless. The watch was not sold through luxury boutiques given its practical use, but rather through specialist diving brands and shops, and this example features one of the best known – “Aqua Lung”, named for Jacques Cousteau’s invention.

    The present example is fresh to the market, and is preserved in wonderful, original condition. It is apparent it was used as intended by a diver, yet the case remains unpolished and very well-defined. Its dial is stunning – highly glossy and without any flaws. This rare and iconic dive watch, retailed by Aqua Lung, is a wonderful opportunity for collectors to own one of the most important dive watches of the 20th century. It is a watch that is sure to excite all collectors.

  • Artist Biography

    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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105

A large and attractive stainless steel diver’s wristwatch with “no radiations” black glossy dial, retailed by Aqua Lung

Circa 1965
41mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement and clasp signed

Estimate
$15,000 - 25,000 
CHF13,500-22,500
€12,700-21,100
HK$116,000-194,000

Sold for $32,760

Contact Specialist

Paul Boutros
Head of Watches, Americas & International Strategy Advisor
Senior Vice President
+1 212 940 1293
[email protected]

Racing Pulse

New York Auction 12 December 2020