A comparison between the two modern Fifty Fathoms MILSPEC

Jan 05, 2021,04:38 AM

A few weeks ago Blancpain surprised us with the Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC for Hodinkee. Only 3 1/2 years after the release of the Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MilSpec this is the second 40mm FF limited edition with the characteristic moisture indicator on the dial. Let’s compare the two MILSPECs side by side.

The case diameter between the two watches is identical with 40.3mm. The new iteration is a bit thicker, though: 13.23mm instead of 13.00mm, the reason for that is the bezel.

The 2017 MilSpec has a high polish case finish, the 2020 MIL-SPEC has a satin brushed finish. This difference has a significant impact on the aesthetic appearance of the two watches, the MIL-SPEC with brushed finish looks a bit larger, the lugs appear a bit broader.

For the first time a 40mm Fifty Fathoms lacks the Blancpain signature on the case flank with the 2020 MIL-SPEC. 

The new MIL-SPEC features a coin edge bezel, similar to the Fifty Fathoms Barakuda but with a satin brushed finish. The coin edge bezel is a little bit higher than the serrated bezel of the 2017 MilSpec, it’s shape is significantly different and it creates a quite distinct look from a lateral view.

The indications on the bezel are very different between the two modern MILSPECs. While the 2017 MilSpec features the typical Fifty Fathoms rhombus at 0/60, broad numerals and minute markers for the first quarter hour, the 2020 MIL-SPEC features the historic numerals, 5 minute markers only and a triangle at the 0/60 position. 

The triangle is a reference to the Tornek Rayville MILSPEC for the US Navy, other vintage MILSPEC watches featured a rhombus.

The moisture indicator on the dial is identical with both MILSPECs, every other element of the dial is different to some degree:

The 2017 MilSpec dial has a subtle sunburst finsh, smaller hour markers, it shows the JB 1735 logo and it of course features a date window between the 4 and 5 positions. The luminous material is applied thicker and more rounded than with the new MIL-SPEC. Naturally the sunburst finish works perfectly with the luxurious sapphire bezel and the polished case.

The dial of the Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC for Hodinkee has a grained semi-matte finish, larger hour markers, the Blancpain signature without logo and obviously no date window. The luminous material is applied a little flatter, the color is identical to the 2017 MilSpec, resembling the color of slightly patinated radium like it was used with the vintage FF MILSPEC from the 1950s.

The 5 minute markers are a bit longer than the others on the dial of the new MIL-SPEC, while the dial of the 2017 MilSpec showed all minute markers with the same length.

The hands of the new Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC for Hodinkee have a white lacquer finish and they appear a bit longer than the polished hands of the Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MilSpec. Especially the hour hand seems very large, both in comparison to the 2017 MilSpec and also to the historic timepieces. 

The Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC for Hodinkee features calibre 1154, which is basically the no date version of calibre 1151, which is used in the Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MilSpec.

Calibre 1154 has 190 parts compared to the 210 components of calibre 1151, but they both are identically slim with 3.25mm. Both feature a silicon balance spring and provide 4 days of power reserve with the help of two barrels. Both movements operate at 3 Hz and are non-hacking.

Let’s get to the topic of luminescence. Here’s a photo showing that both MILSPEC have identical strength of lime, which is a bit stronger than the luminosity of the Lettres du Brassus back cover which served as a background for this and other shots in this comparison.

The 2020 MIL-SPEC wears a bit larger optically because of the brushed case and the dominance of the dial over the bezel. Next to the moisture indicator the larger hands and the larger dots and sticks on the dial are the most prominent aesthetic features when you take a quick look at the watch.

In comparison the dominant aesthetic elements of 2017 MilSpec are the sapphire bezel with larger numerals and the ebony black sunburst finish of the dial, especially when exposed to bright daylight.

I must admit that I had my doubts whether a second MILSPEC within a few years is a good idea. Would it be too close despite the many different details? Would it be essentially the same watch, just with stronger references to the vintage timepiece?

Experiencing them side by side the two MILSPECs are showing quite different characteristics if you look beyond the prominent moisture indicator and the identical size.

The 2017 Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MilSpec is a modern day Blancpain with all the aesthetic depths, luxurious execution and attention to detail one would expect. It is first and foremost a modern day Fifty Fathoms, paying tribute to a heritage piece by re-interpreting some basic elements of it. 

The 2020 Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC for Hodinkee stays a lot closer to the vintage ancestor, it is more a re-edition of the vintage watch in a modern day Fifty Fathoms case. 

In essence, both MILSPECs exist in their own right. I personally do not consider the 2020 Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC for Hodinkee an improved or a lesser version of the 2017 Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MilSpec. 

I hope you enjoyed the comparison between the two modern Fifty Fathoms MILSPEC timepieces!



More posts: Fifty FathomsMilspecTornek Rayville

  login to reply

Comments: view entire thread


Great comparo!

 By: roundel : January 5th, 2021-04:48

Thank you!

 By: shortys home : January 5th, 2021-09:00

Beautiful review

 By: Arronax : January 5th, 2021-04:49
Thanks for sharing, enjoyed it a lot! I prefer painted white hands during the day but polished hands work better in low light conditions in my humble experience. I also think a matte grainy dial is more appropriate for a vintage reissue. Just out of curio... 

The coin edge bezel has significantly less grip...

 By: shortys home : January 5th, 2021-05:08
... while it is reminiscent of the vintage bezel, that one had a different modus operandi: push down and turn. Cheers Henrik

Cool comparison. Aside from the name, I prefer most everything about the Hodinkee.

 By: MichaelC : January 5th, 2021-05:07
No date, case finish, bezel design - wow, it is super. I have never owned a Blancpain, I know little about the lines of watches or history. But just as a watch guy, the Hodinkee version is so much more appealing to me.

Henrik thanks for the report

 By: Mr.Gatsby : January 5th, 2021-06:39
It is very detailed and well covered. One thing for sure, I actually appreciate the 2017 piece more than before because you pointed out the differences. The date window aside, aesthetically the 2017 piece is quite nice. It’s more refined than the 2020 pie... 

Thanks a lot, my friend!

 By: shortys home : January 5th, 2021-09:03

Thank you for pointing out the differences!

 By: patrick_y : January 5th, 2021-11:15
A very informative post!

Thanks for your comments 🙏

 By: shortys home : January 5th, 2021-22:46

Great write-up Henrik — thank you!

 By: JohnFM : January 5th, 2021-14:52
Both beautiful. Prefer the Hodinkee overall but may like the hands and bezel more on the 2017. Not sure of brushed vs. polished. The latter is beautiful but the brushed is lower key and quite nice. Do you have a favorite Henrik or are they like children t... 

Good to hear shortys

 By: JohnFM : January 6th, 2021-09:34
They're both beautiful, congratulations, and enjoy them both! I'm surprised I couldn't work up the courage to pull the trigger on the 2020 version when it was announced. I've liked the FF for many years but always thought the newer versions were a little ... 

Thank you so much for the thorough comparison Shortys Home

 By: Gelato Monster : January 5th, 2021-16:10
I have been thinking about them

Fantastic review, Henrik!

 By: AlexSunrise : January 5th, 2021-17:20
Amazing comparison! You made me realize the complete list of nuances between the two Mil-Specs. I appreciate both for different reasons, so it would be hard to choose if one had to. Happy start of the year, All the best, Alex

Great comparison/review

 By: LemaniaChrono : January 7th, 2021-20:53
Great work and your blog site is excellent. IMHO I prefer the 2017 version but like the Barakuda the most out of their 40.3mm versions. For me the polished case and bezel work better on the 2017 model. That Jean Rousseau nato is perfect for the Milspecs. ... 

Thanks a lot for your feedback!

 By: shortys home : January 7th, 2021-22:18

Spring bars different on the HODINKEE version?

 By: jarraa : January 10th, 2021-15:07
Henrik, Thank you for the lovely and informative post. Given my 15.5cm wrist and my infatuation with blancpain history in the last 18 months, i waited for a while for a new 40mm diver to be issued and pulled the trigger on the 2020 version. Such different...  

The 2017 MilSpec came with friction pins, which was quite a hazzle...

 By: shortys home : January 10th, 2021-20:53
... but it was easy to switch to spring bars immediately. If the strap is not too thick, straight spring bars surely work. With the tropic I personally also use slightly curved spring bars. Cheers Henrik

Welcome here! Nice shot.

 By: amanico : January 10th, 2021-22:51

Great post as usual Henrik. I concur that the watches are quite different

 By: Roystock1 : January 10th, 2021-23:44
I was "shocked" to hear the release of Hodinkee Milspec. I was skeptical but I am glad that I ordered the one. As it turned out, both are different and attractive in their own ways. I like, and going to keep both. Cheers, Chow PS: did they use different A...  

Congrats! And yes, the AR coating is different...

 By: shortys home : January 11th, 2021-00:28
... interestingly the FF MIL-SPEC for Hodinkee shows the blue hue we were used to with the Leman series, and which was gone for quite a while now. Cheers Henrik