My vintage BP collection. Part 1: Fifty Fathoms

Jan 07, 2010,06:21 AM

The FF was one of the first, if not the first, professional bezel dive watch! I think that it is not necessary to resume the history of this breathtaking tool watch for you, because you all know the background of this legendary timekeeper. So let's fly over the foreplay and let's start with the mainly and the most important, the watch itself!

There existed two different types of big sized FF's, the civilian version distributed by LIP with dials and movements signed by LIP and Blancpain and a second version, all original distributed by Blancpain itself, with signed dials and movements only by Blancpain. If these Blancpain versions were only made to order for special units is difficult to say. The only thing I know is that the Blancpain serial number on the caseback was always a 4 digit number and the LIP a 6 digit number! In my opinion, this is one of the very first FF issued in 1953. It's the big size, 41 mm diameter, steel polished case with the small crown, screwdown caseback and the rotating bezel with the losange and the small numbers, movement is the automatic caliber AS 1361!

The tropical 3/6/9/12 dial has very nicely aged and is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. Normally I could stop here, you would congratulate me for my watch and I would go on and prepare the second part of my BP collection review. But, we are talking about Blancpain's , and vintage FF's always hiding some surprises, that's what makes collecting these watches so special, unique and exciting and of course never easy!! So let's quickly go back and take a closer look at this amazing marvel.

Did you notice the special and uncommon minute hand before? No, so please look again. I never before saw a luminous triangle in the pointed end of the minute hand. The easiest explanation or conclusion for this would be that the hands are no more original and replaced, but I don't think so, because the hands here are absolutely authentique in size and style with the common FF's hands and still have the original luminova. They match perfectly in size to the outer 1/5 seconds ring of the dial! Were these the very first hands ever produced for the FF? But, please why turned the radium from the dial and the seconds hand to black, and the radium hour and minute hands to a nice orange colour? Did they used radium for the dial and the hands or did they experienced with some other luminous material here? Does the radioactive material used in this watch took influence on the dial, so that it changed to this astonishing colour?

Another uncommon part of this watch is the dial. At first sight there is nothing 'incorrect' but if we are comparing the Rotomatic-Incabloc writings here with other dials, it is very strange and bizarre that the writings are aligned! Were these the very first dials ever produced for the FF?

And still I cannot close this post without showing you the last mistery of this FF. The serial number of this watch is 1200, the lowest I have ever seen on a professional Blancpain, but that' s still not all!! The 12 is punched with much larger numbers as the double zeros! Coincidence? For what stands the 12 or the 00. Many military or Milspec versions only have 4 digit numbers on the caseback! Why? Is that a special 'code', because they were mostly made in very small quantities only?!

Was this a prototype or a special ordered watch for a military unit? Maybe it belonged to Mr. Maloubier or Mr. Riffaud. ;-) There stay so many questions! I am afraid that nobody can ever tell me more, or helping me out in finding important informations, about this special FF! There stay still a lot of research to do for me.

best claude

More posts: Fifty FathomsMilspec

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Interesting observations and a ...

 By: small-luxury-world : January 7th, 2010-07:09
cool vintage watch to look at. Thanks for sharing with us and I am looking forward the next part. May I ask one question: Does it bother you that BLANCPAIN is not a big help for doing research about their vintage pieces? Cheers Oliver

No Oliver, it does not bother me at all...

 By: claude.f : January 7th, 2010-07:40
First of all, thank you very much for your kind words!!! I understand very well that Blancpain has no interest in putting money and time in vintage watches. They have to look forward and they must try to survive in this hard world of 'exclusive timekeeper... 

I would have to disagree.....

 By: MiniCooper : January 7th, 2010-14:22
I think that Blancpain should take time & effort to help vintage collectors.... A long history should be supported..... My 2 cents.... Cheers

Interesting POV´s and ...

 By: small-luxury-world : January 8th, 2010-13:54
thanks for your frank asnwer. From my POV, I would applaud more interest in their heritage. Should be a real asset, for both . They don´t have to burn money, because of taking care about vintage watches. Some of the "best" competitors are able to do so an... 

I agree with both of you, Oliver and PP, but ....

 By: claude.f : January 8th, 2010-17:16
I am sure that nowadays BP not have many informations about their vintage FF's. I also believe that the most watches were made by order in the past, and that there exist such a variety of different models that it is nearly impossible, even for them, to ge... 

Now that's a great catch, Claude.

 By: amanico : January 7th, 2010-07:23
These 3 / 6 / 9 / 12 dials are sublime, and among my favourite in the FF Family. Sincerely, you did well to take it. The good thing with these Vintage FF is that you have to do a lot of homework before getting one. But it will always remain a part of Myst... 

I will release the other one shortly!

 By: claude.f : January 8th, 2010-03:54
Please be patient a little more ;-) Thanks a lot for your encouraging words!! HAGWE my friend!! best

Now that's a gorgeous Civilian Milspec, Claude!

 By: amanico : January 8th, 2010-04:58
Congrats, my friend, and welcome to the Club! That's a beautiful catch... Wow, I'm very happy for you, Claude. Best, Nicolas

Civilian Milspec! That's what I first thought, but....

 By: claude.f : January 8th, 2010-06:01
non drilled lugs and microbillé case speaking against a civilian version! Big crown and dial speaking against military version! The small crown version also got provided by professional dive shops like MAR-VEL. A marriage watch?! Absolutely not!!!!! I hav... 

The Civilian Milspecs came with the microbillé case, also.

 By: amanico : January 8th, 2010-06:07
And very few of them were used as Military watches. Non drilled lugs, but fixed bars? Here again, I know some military Milspecs with non fixed bars. Big crown? Most of the Military Milspecs came with the small crown, as well as the TR 900. So, the big cro... 

Thanks a lot for your help Nicolas!!! :-)

 By: claude.f : January 8th, 2010-06:41
Personnaly I don't care if it's a military or a civilian version! They both rock!!! ;-) best Claude

Can't agree more, mostly if we speak about such great specimen!

 By: amanico : January 8th, 2010-06:43
Can't wait to see your other pics on this marvel. I'm really in love with! Best, Nicolas

What a nice and great post, Claude!

 By: E.J. : January 7th, 2010-14:42
I´ve enjoyed the reading a lot, my friend. Your research work made is impressive, for our pleasure reading it and admiring such a nice and cool early FF. Huge congrats for your watch and for the work made. Searching the net, I´ve found an earliest FF (Lip...  

Some other important thoughts Emilio!!!!

 By: claude.f : January 7th, 2010-19:24
Thank you very much for your pictures, I didn't noticed these hands before, but I was sure that this kind of hands must have existed Emilio, because the 2003 anniversary edition uses the same (but only the true 'series 1' edition)!! What I do not understa...  

You see, Claude... how many answers around those amazing FF!

 By: E.J. : January 8th, 2010-12:54
And, Imo, it´s an important thing that mades these watches so beautiful, so rares and so craziest! Because we become crazy people collecting and searching all the infos (no more infos) that are around this marvels. Yours is an awesome watch... I´... 

Great post !

 By: DrStrong : January 8th, 2010-01:23
and nice example of an early FF, the most beautiful to me ! Cheers Jeff

Thanks a lot Jeff!!

 By: claude.f : January 8th, 2010-03:51
I adore the earlier FF also, they are such great pieces!! HAGWE my friend!! Best P.S. Hope you're not angry because I posted a picture from your site earlier?

who knows more about these Aqualungs

 By: fifty fathoms : January 9th, 2010-13:16
Thanky you . The story of the FF is very interesting. For years I collect pictures from the www ( ebay, forum, sellers and so on). I found thes pictures from the Fifty Fathoms aqualung. With their wide luenette the aqualung look much more older than the f...  

Hey Stephan...

 By: claude.f : January 9th, 2010-18:22
The Aqua Lung was the US version of the Fifty Fathoms and only sold in the States. I must dissapoint you Stephan, but I am sure that the 1000 feet was released later. The 50 Fathoms (like the name says) was the first 100m waterresistant diving watch besid... 


 By: fifty fathoms : January 10th, 2010-07:39
Thank you Claude and respect for your knowledge !. Yes it helps me a lot. The AquaLung with its wide bezel has its own charme. There are so many Fifties I would to "finger" one time ! best regards Stephan

Thankyou Claude.. :-)

 By: hans_jorgen_1968 : January 27th, 2010-03:19
For a great and insightful presentation... I like the secrets or divergencies .. I am still short of a Blancpain divers, but I am everyday getting closer to a purchase tdue to articles like yours Best Hans