20/12/2020 5:00 pm
Squale x AWCo SUBINO & NO RADIOBINO Limited Editions
You know how they say “don’t shoot the messenger”? Well in this case the messenger is me and yeah, you should go right ahead and blimmin’ shoot me cos’ I’m as late to this party as a very late man who’s missed the boat heading to his own funeral – actually I should probably just shoot myself.
But they also say that you shouldn’t cry over spilt milk either, so chin up and let’s see what the heck we just missed out on and remember there’s always the secondary market, and if you read on you might even discover some light at the end of the tunnel.
Introducing the Subino & No Radiobino, a pair of ultra-rare Squale x AWCo Special Editions watches steeped in dive watch lore. AWCo btw is the Amsterdam Watch Co.
while Subino & No Radiobino sounding more like the names of the host and show-name of the Italian version of the Wiggles refers to these two very awesome Squale divers that are equipped with NOS Blancpain Fifty Fathoms cases from the 50s.
I’m not sure if Squale CEO Andrea Maggi (who btw I have met a couple of times and is a very nice chap) was having a bit of clear out or was rummaging through some of his old inventory from Squale but he struck upon gold when he uncovered 180x NOS (new old stock) FF case from the 1950s.
One of Squale’s more interesting claims to fame is that once upon a time they supplied watch cases under the Von Büren name to other legendary Swiss dive watchmakers such as Doxa, Heuer and indeed Blancpain with whom the boutique dive watchmaker had a longstanding relationship with.
For instance Blancpain’s 1970s Fifty Fathoms Bund used the exact same case that Squale’s current 1521 is equipped with.
There are even Blancpain models with the Squale logo at 6 o’clock on their dials as well as the Von Büren mark on their case-backs to signify who the case manufacturer was.
The earliest Squale FF’s cases date back to the 1960s; this particular batch of cases came via a company that used to assemble watches for Blancpain.
The cases which were apparently in mint condition were originally used for Blancpain’s MC4 diver’s watch as well as the Waltham-branded variant.
Squale even managed to track down the original patent filed for this case design, and it was signed by Jean-Jacques Fiechter, no less, the very same inventor of the diver’s bezel and water-tightness indicator as found on the (recently featured) FF MIL-SPEC who was co-manager of Blancpain from 1950 until 1980.
The patent was filed in 1954/55 and granted in 1959, dating the case’s actual development to the early fifties. The patent shows a design for a waterproof dive watch case with a friction-based bidirectional rotating dive-time bezel and a rather special case-back.
It is made up of two separate components; the actual cover and a surrounding ring that holds it in place.
The patent document itself is a charming piece of history, from a time when legal-jargon was not nearly as oversused as it is today. It is said to be very readable and perfectly understandable – yes, even for OceanicTime’s editor.
Another interesting feature of the cases which were even equipped with the original acrylic bezel inlays with cream-colored triangular 12hr markers, is a tiny sign on the inside of their case-backs, reading Rayville SA.
When the company was sold outside of the Blancpain family in 1932, it had to change its name. At the time it was Swiss law that a family name could no longer be maintained when selling a business.
The new owners took the name of the village where the brand came from, Villeret and rearranged the letters to create a name with a more international-appealing ring to it – Rayville.
So that’ the history – now to the two new (now SOLD OUT) models that were lucky enough to have been bestowed with the honor of being based on such an historic diver’s watch case.
Limited to 60 pieces, the first model, nicknamed SUBINO, Italian for little sub (aww so cute) is a nod to the current Italian ownership of Squale and the modest, vintage-feeling case-size of the watch.
It is powered by a reliable ETA 2671 movement. This smaller version of ETA’s well-known caliber allows for the implementation of a rotor.
This means an automatic caliber could be fitted into a case that was originally designed for a flat hand-wound movement.
The dial features a 3-6-9-12 dial layout with clean painted stick markers in between. The indices are executed in modern Super-LumiNova C3, in a shade that balances with the original Blancpain bezel inlay.
There is a closed seconds track around the matte black dial, optically divided into four sectors with subtle triangles at 3, 6, 9 and 12. The AWCO name can be seen in red.
The handset is another nod to the early dive watch era. The same pencil style hands you would find on a Blancpain diver from the time were chosen.
The second model the NO RADIOBINO (also limited to 60 pieces) is another nod to early dive watch history.
The original Fifty Fathoms was adopted by the French Navy as a tool for their Special Forces frogmen. These watches featured large amounts of radio-active Radium lume for optimal under-water visibility.
When a civilian version of these watches was introduced, it featured this distinctive yellow and red NO RADIATIONS symbol on its dial, indicating the absence of harmful Radium.
Its matte black dial features diamond, stick and dot indices, characteristic of dive watches of the day. The same pencil-style hands are once again used as well as the same automatic ETA movement as the Subino.
Measuring a mere 34.8mm in diameter these truly remarkable diver’s watches are not only cute of name but are cute in stature however in terms of the sheer amount of history and provenance that they come with surly allow them stand head and shoulders above many of their contemporaries.
Btw you don’t need to be a mathematician to have realized that there are still x60 FF cases from the 180, that are an accounted for – stay tuned!