Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bronze Milspecs. 14 years of investigation on case numbers

Oct 11, 2022,05:53 AM
 


14 years since now. In fact, it took me 5 years to fully understand the Fifty Fathoms Bronze Milspec case. From 2008 to 2013... In 2008, I discovered two Bronze Milspec, an US NAVY and a " Civilian ".

Since then, I started to investigate on them, contacted all my friends collecting vintage Fifty Fathoms, sellers, and made some researches on the net to cross all the informations I could gather here and there. 

In 2012, I had enough certitudes to jump on a Bronze Milspec which was offered to me, the Number 3221: 





Indeed, I could find some interesting coincidences about case numbers.Especially in the Serial Number range from 3163 to 3248...
 
There is a difference of 85 numbers, only, and there are two things I pointed out:
 
1/ The Serial Numbers 3163 and 3248 are both Civilian Milspecs, no Bronze case, with a 2 piece case back, which is not rare for a Milspec, BUT, more interesting, both come with drilled lugs....
 
Alain's marvellous specimen ( 3163 )
 
 




 
My " Ex " ( 3248 ) 
 
 



 
 
2/  More curious, the " Bronze case "...
 
" Bronze " is the color, not the material, to be clear. 
 
It is certainly due to the treatment made on the sandblasted case, as pointed out by some of us ( BDLJ ) in previous posts.
 
I observed several of them during these 14 years of investigation, the numbers 3201, 3205, 3208, 3215, 3217, 3221, 3223, 3224, 3225, 3226, 3227, 3229, 3232, 3233,3234, 3237 and 3239. I am aware of other Bronze Milspec, the 3246, the number 3220 and the 3230
 
Among these twenty, five of them are US NAVY, which were part of two prestigious collections ( Nr 3226 and 3233 ),  the third one ( Lot 231, Nr 3227 wink has attended the Fifty Fathoms Exhibition, and the last one, the 3217, has been auctioned by Phillips at the end of the year 2015, as well as the 3237, in December 2021.
 
Both of them come with the small crown, sometimes with a triangular index on the bezel, at 12 o'clock, sometimes with a losange index.
 
Here are the pics of a few of them:

- Nr 3201 ( Credit picture: Phillips ), with a dial which belongs to another Milspec, not to a Bronze Milspec, definitely...



- Nr 3217 ( Credit picture: Phillips ) :


 
- Nr 3221, my Bronze Milspec, which is strictly identical to the Nrs 3205 and 3208, as show, below.

The 3221:
 
 
 





The 3208: 





 
- Nr 3226 ( The Nr 3233, the Nr 3217 and 3237 are in all points identical, at the exception of the losange at 12 o clock, on the 3226, while the others have a triangle ) :
 






3237 ( Credit: Phillips ) :


 
- Nr 3223: ( The dial and the bezel are not correct, as the dial should of course be a Milspec, not a 3 / 6 / 9 / 12, the bezel should be bronze as well, not stainless steel ). The Nr 3234 and 3225 have the same incorrect dial, but with a correct triangle bezel.
 
 
3225 ( Credit Hodinkee )



 
 
A detailed view on the small crown, the long thick lugs and case back of the 3323:
 
 





 
 
- Nr 3224, seen in Konrad Knirim's reference book: A " curious " dial, while the rest of the watch is perfect.
 
 


 
 
- The Nr 3239 has been seen at the Fifty Fathoms Exhibition, too ( Lot Nr 237 ) and has a 6 / 9 / 12 + Date dial, signed " Technisub ", which cannot be the good one, for the same reason than Alain's " Bronze ". ( On the extreme right )
 
 

 
 
We compared the  lugs on the no Bronze and Bronze Milspecs, to see if the cases were different or not.
 
The answer comes with these pictures.
 
No difference between a " normal " Milspec and the Bronze Milspec:
 


The US Navy Bronze cases came all with an AS 1361 HACKING movement, while the others  housed an AS 1700 ( 1701 with date, but I already mentioned my reserve on any other dial than a Milspec, on these watches ).

The Cal AS 1700: 








The only exception to this rule is the 3215, which seems to have a " normal " microbillé case, a bronze outer part of the case back, a Cal 1361, and an early Milspec dial. Curious one...
 
From all these observations, raises a question, or a speculation...
 
Were all these Bronze cases supposed to be US NAVY Milspecs?
 
I have a theory, here, which seemed to be confirmed by someone who knows a watchmaker who worked at Blancpain.
 
This may well be a small batch of watches submitted to the US Navy, after the TR 900, but which didn't pass the tests. Why, I don't know...
 
Maybe because they were too expensive, maybe because the US Navy had other plans, maybe because they just didn't pass the tests...
 
Were they? We saw that it was not the truth. We can also guess that a few of them were coming with the US Navy Dial and the AS 1361, and that, after that the US Navy passed on them, Blancpain decided to put a " civilian " dial  and use an AS 1700, as it was the case for the Civilian Milspecs from this era...
 
This is something we'll still have to dig out, with time, luck and help from the Fifty Fathoms Community!


Best,
 
Nicolas.


More posts: Fifty FathomsMilspecTornek Rayville

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Comments: view entire thread

 

What an interesting review to start the day with, Nicolas!

 
 By: Mary Anny : October 11th, 2022-06:55
Thanks for sharing it! ...  
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Nice modern contender, mon ami. The spirit is here.

 
 By: amanico : October 12th, 2022-08:55
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No comparison here,

 
 By: Mary Anny : October 12th, 2022-15:06
Just an amateur!
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Not at all, the BB is very well made!

 
 By: amanico : October 12th, 2022-15:07
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It is, but those are historical pieces...

 
 By: Mary Anny : October 12th, 2022-15:19
In a couple of decades, maybe!
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Many thanks for the superb overview

 
 By: 198042 : October 14th, 2022-16:01
Cheers from CH Richard
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My pleasure, Richard. See you soon!

 
 By: amanico : October 14th, 2022-22:01
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Thanks for informative post, Nicolas. By the way, pics are superb!

 
 By: J K : October 11th, 2022-06:57
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Thank you so much for your kind words, J K.

 
 By: amanico : October 12th, 2022-08:55
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300 K posts ! Congratulations !!! And what a post ! 🤩🤩🤩🤩 ! Thank you so much for all your work for us !

 
 By: LFPTK : October 11th, 2022-06:57
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+1

 
 By: Gwai : October 11th, 2022-09:26
Fantastic milestone post, Counsel! Cheers Marc
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A thousand thanks, Marc.

 
 By: amanico : October 12th, 2022-08:57
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I tried to choose it carefully. And it was a good opportunity to reveal a watch I have hidden for 10 years. ;)

 
 By: amanico : October 12th, 2022-08:57
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Damn research you have done for so many years! Congratulations for this fantastic post!

 
 By: Joker2a : October 11th, 2022-07:35
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Grazie, amicu.

 
 By: amanico : October 12th, 2022-08:58
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Informative, interesting and impressive! Thank's for the post and the fantastic photos!

 
 By: lm6 : October 11th, 2022-08:16
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My pleasure, Im6.

 
 By: amanico : October 12th, 2022-08:58
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Great research job and thanks for sharing ! This is typically a purist's worry to understand the specs of specific models :) It is part of the pleasure, you learn so many important things.

 
 By: montres1 : October 11th, 2022-08:22
Plus the FF is an icon and highly sought after, it is important to have minimum knowledge to ensure not buying a Frankenwatch ! I will ask for your help the day I have a budget to buy one of these marvels !
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That will be with great pleasure. Yes, it takes some time. There is almost no literature on this one.

 
 By: amanico : October 12th, 2022-08:58
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I hope the answer is never found, Nicolas. The mystery . . .

 
 By: Dr No : October 11th, 2022-09:50
. . . only adds to the legend. 😌
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Superb statement. I like that a lot. Thanks, Don Turo.

 
 By: amanico : October 12th, 2022-08:59
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A very interesting and informative post indeed! Thank you!

 
 By: colin.cc.lam : October 11th, 2022-09:52
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Merci, Colin.

 
 By: amanico : October 12th, 2022-08:59
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Great 300,000th post. So informative, like so many others. Cheers to you ami!

 
 By: TheMadDruid : October 11th, 2022-13:44
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Aaah, you see, it finally came! ;)

 
 By: amanico : October 12th, 2022-08:59
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And it took forever.

 
 By: TheMadDruid : October 12th, 2022-13:06
I had to slow down to give you a chance to catch me. 😂
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Hahaha! ;)

 
 By: amanico : October 12th, 2022-14:04
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Is it 300k or 3M? I can't read all of the zeroes!

 
 By: MichaelC : October 11th, 2022-13:47
I knew The Post would hit like a sledgehammer... very fitting for your hard work and dedication to our shared passion. Thank you, Dear Friend.
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Who knows, who knows... ;) Merci, Michael.

 
 By: amanico : October 12th, 2022-09:00
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Great job!

 
 By: Briandumais : October 18th, 2022-02:16
I have been gone away on a work trip and haven't had the time to study your post. I have been waiting years to see your research and there is a lot info to digest. I did get a bronze case many years ago that some guy picked up at a Hamilton board of trust... 
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Do you remember the case number of your Bronze? Well, we'll see if I am able to discover where are the good twenty others. ;) Merci, Brian.

 
 By: amanico : October 18th, 2022-06:53
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Love seeing all your research and the photos of so many amazing condition milspecs, thank you for putting this together! Of all watches I think the FF has some of the most fascinating history and mysteries worth discovering

 
 By: Fastwong : October 11th, 2022-14:08
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How right you are! Thanks, Fastwong, mon ami.

 
 By: amanico : October 12th, 2022-09:00
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Thank you Nico for a tremendous 300k post! Ça fait toujours plaisir! 🙂

 
 By: oyster case : October 11th, 2022-14:30
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Plaisir partagé! Merci, Oyster Case.

 
 By: amanico : October 12th, 2022-09:01
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You picked a great one for #300K!

 
 By: RabidManatee : October 11th, 2022-15:58
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I do think so! ;)

 
 By: amanico : October 12th, 2022-09:01
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Congrats Nico for.... all!

 
 By: fifty fathoms : October 11th, 2022-16:38
Very impressive research you have done. I had to read it several times, there are so many informations and they form new questions. Why had the Bronzes civilian hands, except the U. S. Navys? For me the 3225 is a kind of mariage. You will have noticed, it... 
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Aaah, my friend, they had civilian hands because at the exception of the 5 US Navy Protos I know, the others were not proto and came with a civilian dial and hands, and the AS 1700 instead of the AS 1361.

 
 By: amanico : October 12th, 2022-09:04
As for the 3225 offered for sale by Hodinkee, it doesn't have the good hands and dial. You are right! As for the big crown on the 3163, it is correct, it is a Milspec from the late 60's. Best, mon ami. Nicolas
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I was certain you would make this post special my friend and your report is yet again exemplary ! Congratulations on an unsurpassable milestone, thank you for such a detailed and informative piece of research and

 
 By: templetowers : October 11th, 2022-17:49
thank you for all your advise, encouragement & friendship Best Wishes , Will
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Thank you for the kind words, my friend Will.

 
 By: amanico : October 12th, 2022-09:06
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Bravo Nico, for this investigation

 
 By: tombub : October 11th, 2022-20:38
A superb model, My ex, now with a good friend ...  
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Oh yes, it was definitely a good one, the 3208. ;)

 
 By: amanico : October 12th, 2022-09:06
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Bronze?

 
 By: fifty fathoms : October 12th, 2022-05:14
I found this Fifty Fathoms on eBay Kleinanzeigen, local eBay, some years ago. I was to late for bidding. What do you think about it? ...  
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You can pass on this one. ;)

 
 By: amanico : October 12th, 2022-09:00
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Great write up 👍

 
 By: MiguelFlash : October 15th, 2022-12:57
And great photos to go along 👏👏
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Thank you, Miguel.

 
 By: amanico : October 15th, 2022-14:10
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Thank you so much for a very interesting and topic

 
 By: hans_jorgen_1968 : October 18th, 2022-06:43
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Thanks for reading, my friend Hans.

 
 By: amanico : October 18th, 2022-07:03
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Bronze

 
 By: XX-FF : October 19th, 2022-09:43
Merci pour tes recherches et ton analyse sur cette énigmatique série»bronze » J’ai effectué plusieurs plongées avec une de ces montres lors d’un séjour plongé au Mexique. Mes conclusions: ces boîtiers en bronze ne sont pas fiables pour la plongée, au cont...  
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Thank you so much for your very valuable feedback on these Bronze, mon ami JL.

 
 By: amanico : October 19th, 2022-14:49
I think we agree on the story about this special FF. How many did you have? Best, Nicolas
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Fantastic post dear Nicolas!! A lot of interesting information gathered during such a long period of work and investigation and stunning pictures to illustrate it. What a project!!

 
 By: Subexplorer : October 19th, 2022-15:15
Thanks a lot for devoting your time to this study and for sharing with us my dear friend. Abrazos Nicolas! Abel
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I have some other posts like this in reserve... ;)

 
 By: amanico : October 19th, 2022-15:17
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Look forward to that dear Nicolas!! This is a wonderful source of information that you share here!! Muchas gracis amigo! Un abrazo! Abel

 
 By: Subexplorer : October 19th, 2022-19:22
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Next investigation, the Fifty Fathoms AM. ;)

 
 By: amanico : October 19th, 2022-20:39
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That sounds very interesting!! Look forward to that post! Abrazos amigo mio! Abel

 
 By: Subexplorer : October 20th, 2022-13:12
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Still digging a bit the topic...

 
 By: amanico : October 20th, 2022-13:34
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Ah, yes. I imagine that to make a post like this one is not an easy task and something which can take years to research. Well worth the waiting and very generous of you to share here.

 
 By: Subexplorer : October 21st, 2022-13:20
Abrazos amigo mio! Abel
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And I don't have all my answers, too...

 
 By: amanico : October 21st, 2022-15:08
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I feel that in the history of this wonderful watch several questions will remain unanswered but you are making a great job with the big quantities of questions collectors make you finally resolved with your research.

 
 By: Subexplorer : October 21st, 2022-15:51
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All together, we'll solve some mysteries.

 
 By: amanico : October 21st, 2022-16:02
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Of course!!

 
 By: Subexplorer : October 22nd, 2022-00:45
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