Since 1953, Blancpain has accompanied exploration under the sea in its greatest challenges. A union that makes plain our true passion for this realm and goes far beyond the performance of our timepieces dedicated to sea diving.
During the 1950s, the French navy created its elite unit of “Combat Swimmers” and sought a watch capable of providing accuracy and legibility to its frogmen on missions. As there was no watch on the market that met the specification, Captain Robert (“Bob”) Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud, the founders of the unit, submitted the project to the Blancpain Manufacture, which accepted the challenge. The order related to a watch-instrument capable of withstanding the pressure at great depth and of absolute reliability, the guarantee of survival for the divers.
The traditional unit of measurement of depth is the “fathom”. Its name derives from the technique used by sailors, which consisted in throwing a weighted rope into the sea and the hauling it up from the bottom, counting the number of fathoms, or arm-spans, as they did so. As the maximum depth reached by divers using the equipment of the time was about 50 fathoms (91.45 metres), the specification submitted by the French navy demanded the creation of a watch capable of accompanying its divers down to that depth. One year later, in 1953, Blancpain presented the result: the Fifty Fathoms was born.
The navy's order marked the beginning of the joint history of our Manufacture and the exploration of the deep. This military instrument quickly became standard equipment for many armed forces. On the strength of this success, Blancpain adapted the model to make a version designed for the general public, and the Fifty Fathoms became the standard of reference for diving watches. Today, when the depths attained are measured in hundreds of metres, this watch still retains its legendary name, although its capacities have developed. It remains the standard of reference for diving watches, and still accompanies divers in their record-breaking descents.
A partnership to protect the oceans
After many years partnering the Monaco Yacht Show and the Cannes Festival International de la Plaisance, Blancpain has set a fresh course, committing itself to a partnership, unique world-wide, with the National Geographic and its Pristine Seas Expeditions projects.
This project, combining exploration, research and conservation, aims to discover, study and further the protection of the last remaining healthy and unspoilt areas of our Oceans. Through meticulous study of the operation of ecosystems that have been spared human interference, we can learn how to help healthy reefs to prosper, how to enable reefs in difficulty to recover, and how best to protect the Ocean, which covers two thirds of our planet.
Rolling back the bounds of the possible
Since 2007, Blancpain has been associated with Gianluca Genoni, holder of more than 15 free-diving records. A year later, on 26 November 2008, Genoni achieved an exceptional duration of 18′03″ in static apnea, after pre-inhaling oxygen, thereby beating the previous record held by the English illusionist David Blaine (17′04″). In October 2010, at Zoagli, off Portofino, this diver of impressive physical and technical capacities descended to a depth of 152 metres in an apnea dive, setting a new world record. To carry out his exploit, Gianluca Genoni relied on his Blancpain 500 Fathoms, the “big sister” of the Fifty Fathoms, with exceptional guaranteed water-resistance to a depth of 1,000 metres.
A “Fifty Fathoms” with a storehouse of images
In 2008, the mythical name of “Fifty Fathoms” invested the pages of an exclusive magazine devoted to the under-sea world. This publication was the pictorial expression of our passion for the world beneath the waves. In each of its twelve issues, the magazine made space for the art of photography, inviting four photographers of repute to exhibit their work.
This periodical revealed a number of characteristics that relate to the legendary timepiece. For example, the total perimeter of the open magazine corresponded to a length of exactly one fathom. And adding up the 50 double pages gave a total perimeter of exactly Fifty Fathoms.