16/12/2020 5:00 pm
BLANCPAIN Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC Limited Edition for HODINKEE
Much like the 500-pice Tribute to the MIL-SPEC 1 and one-off piece for ONLY WATCH from 2017, this watch draws inspiration from early Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC diver’s watches that were created in the late 50s.
As a Fifty Fathoms the watch is characterized by its minimalist dial design, as favored now by collectors as it was back in the day by divers who relied on its legibility for their very lives.
As a Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC the watch is further characterized by the how to say . . . ah, yes, big-f#ck-off yellow and white orb in the center of its dial just above the 6 o’clock index.
But don’t worry that’s supposed be there, in fact it’s what this very unusual watch is all about.
If you knew the OG model or discovered it decades later as a re-edition as I did, you’ll know exactly what the bizarre beach ball looking thingamabob is all about.
If not, well it’s actually a water-tightness indicator. Back in the day when watches weren’t nearly as high-tech as they are these days or indeed as well-sealed with Teflon-coated O-rings etc.
You might say that they were far from immune from the odd leak or two and in some instances catastrophic case breaches.
This was obviously a problem when your life depended on your watch being able to reliably indicate to you exactly how much time you had remaining underwater.
This safety feature and in fact another – an indispensable one that has literally defined diver’s watches as such for decades, the diver’s bezel are owed to a chap called, Jean-Jacques Fiechter, a sport diving pioneer who also happened to be head of Blancpain in the late 1950s.
Obsessed by diver safety, Jean-Jacques Fiechter decided to incorporate an additional feature for his dive watches: a circular water-tightness indicator.
If, per chance, water was to leak into the watch case, a disk at 6 o’clock would signal the problem by changing its color from white to red.
This water-tightness indicator was present on the dial of the Fifty Fathoms model called the MIL-SPEC 1, which was introduced in 1957-58 to meet the strict requirements of the military.
In the late 1950s, the US Navy tested a selection of different watches with the aim of drawing up specifications for a divers watch to be used in their underwater missions.
Following those tests, the Fifty Fathoms became the standard-issue watch on the wrists of US combat swimmers, as well as the reference point for future production to take place in the US.
Meanwhile, Blancpain obtained contracts to equip members of the elite UDT and the Navy Seals with MIL-SPEC 1 watches.
Later on, in the early 1960s, those evolved into the MIL-SPEC 2 and, under the Tornek-Rayville name, the TR-900. The water-tightness indicator became a requirement of the US Navy, and was incorporated in all these models.
With its water-tightness indicator this new LE for Hodinkee nods – nay salutes the OG MIL SPEC 1 and its subsequent successors.
Its 40.3mm in diameter satin-brushed steel case is distinguished by the absence of the Blancpain signature traditionally engraved on the mid-case at 9 o’clock.
In addition the notching generally adorning the bezel is also more discreet on this version of the MIL SPEC while the matt black no longer has the date display usually found between 4 and 5 o’clock.
Like any modern Fifty Fathoms the diver’s bezel has a Super-LumiNova-enhanced graduated dive-time scale protected by a Blancpain or was it Omega – nevertheless a Swatch Group innovation, a sapphire inlay.
Water-resistant to 300 meters and offering all the technical guarantees of a diving instrument, the watch is powered by a self-winding in-house caliber 1154, a no-date version of caliber 1150.
Resistant to magnetic fields thanks to the use of an Si (silicon) balance-spring, the 1154 mechanism boasts a four-day power-reserve. It can be seen beneath the watch’s sapphire crystal case-back.
The 250-piece special series is available from Blancpain Boutiques in the United States as well as online via the HODINKEE online shop.
Thoughts? I wonder if Ben requested a no crown-guard variant; I guess that would have meant a whole new case. This is definitely one of the more desirable FFs to own. Nice work.