Blancpain - The 2021 New York Watch Auction New York Saturday, December 11, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Manufacturer: Blancpain
    Year: Circa 1960
    Case No: 3237
    Model Name: Blancpain, Mil Spec, US Navy
    Material: Antimagnetic alloy
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. AS 1361, 17 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Nylon
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel buckle
    Dimensions: 41mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, and movement signed
    Accessories: Accompanied by photocopy Blancpain Analysis, and leather pouch

  • Catalogue Essay

    Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms is widely recognized for its historical significance as the first ‘modern’ diver’s wristwatch with a rotating bezel, released in 1953. While it has been in production since then, scholarship regarding this fascinating model continues to be written. The story of its origins 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.

    In the 1960s, the U. S. Navy reached out to Blancpain for a military wristwatch, however due to the 1933 "Buy American Act" the U.S. Navy could not directly purchase Swiss Blancpain watches, specifically the Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec. The model was already tested and approved for use by the Navy Experimental Diving Unit in 1958, but to conform to the Buy American Act, the American “Tornek-Rayville” brand was created by Allen V. Tornek - the U.S. importer of Blancpain based in midtown New York City. By doing so, the firm would win the bid to be the American supplier of Blancpain watches for the U.S. Navy.
    Presented here is one of the rarest military diver's watches in the world – a “Blancpain U.S. Navy" that is most likely a prototype produced just before the “Tornek-Rayville” series. Only four such examples are known, with Phillips having sold one of these four in November 2015 in Geneva. Another example was exhibited at the Fifty Fathoms exhibition in 2010. All four watches have serial numbers falling in the 3,2xx sequence. These watches are part of the milspec 1 series with which they share the same bezel featuring a triangle but also the small winding crown. All also feature the A. Schild caliber 1361 modified with a hacking seconds, with glossy dials fitted with a humidity indicator at 6 o’clock.

    It is understood that Blancpain was pitching for a larger order with the U.S. Navy, for which purpose these watches were made. As Blancpain did not win this important contract, the "U.S. Navy" model never went beyond the prototype phase. The case is made of an anti-magnetic alloy with a greenish hue, often called bronze by collectors. The Blancpain "U.S. Navy" is not only one of the rarest diver's wristwatches in the world, but also one of the best looking. The present example here, in extraordinarily good condition must be considered one of the most worthy collectors’ watches for aficionados of diver's watches.

  • 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 fine antimagnetic alloy diver’s prototype wristwatch with humidity indicator, made for the US Navy

Circa 1960
41mm Diameter
Case, dial, and movement signed

$50,000 - 80,000 

Sold for $94,500

Contact Specialist

Paul Boutros

Head of Watches, Americas

+1 (212) 940-1293


The 2021 New York Watch Auction

New York Auction 11 - 12 December 2021