If Jean-Jacques Fiechter was alive today, he would scarcely believe his eyes. The former Blancpain CEO was instrumental in the development and release of the original Fifty Fathoms dive watch way back in 1953, following an underwater near-death experience. That fateful timepiece, fitted with a robust doubled-sealed crown and self-winding movement, helped to redefine modern watchmaking. Flash forward 70 years and Blancpain is doing it again with the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Tech Gombessa.
Like much of Blancpain’s recent work, the new Fifty Fathoms timepiece has been envisioned through a lens of sustainability. Created in partnership with Laurent Ballesta, diver, photographer and founder of the Gombessa project, alongside Blancpain president and CEO, Marc A. Hayek, the new Tech Gombessa marks a first for the watch industry – the ability to measure up to three-hour immersion times.
“It was a bit surprising for me – a traditional watch for a modern diver? These two things don’t work together. But finally, I realised that what made the difference between the traditional dive and modern dive is not the depth, it’s not the silence, it’s the duration,” Laurent Ballesta said. “So what we needed to do was make a new measurement of the dive time.”
According to Blancpain, the new innovation was designed to meet the needs of all extreme divers, starting with the members of the Gombessa Expeditions. Ballesta’s world-renowned crew partakes in long-duration deep dives in order to study the behaviour of the great hammerhead shark, Sphyrna mokarran, in French Polynesia. It is precisely here in this shark-infested region that Blancpain chose to unveil the new Tech Gombessa, representing a new frontier for deep-sea exploration.
From a generalist’s perspective, the lure of a three-hour dive measuring system isn’t exactly strong. After all, few divers have the rebreathing technology to facilitate it, but it hardly matters. The rising interest in dive watches over the past decades has little to do with an uptick in underwater adventure, so while the feature will be largely unnecessary for most, it’s still a feat of ingenuity worth admiring.
In order to make the function work, Blancpain updated a few key elements to its iconic Fifty Fathoms design, namely on the bezel. For the Tech Gombessa, the bezel has a three-hour scale that is linked to a special hand that completes one full turn every three hours, complemented by a white luminescent coating with green emission that matches the markers. Inside, the new timepiece is powered by the 13P8 self-winding movement which Blancpain confirmed was based on the same criteria that the original watch was conceived on.
“In the same spirit as the 1953 (model), it’s totally respectful to the DNA of the Fifty Fathoms collection,” Marc Junod, Blancpain vice-president and head of sales & marketing said. “It is really made with the diver in mind. It’s really beautiful.”
Naturally, the new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Tech Gombessa is wrapped in Grade 23 titanium, an exceptionally strong material revered for its anti-allergenic properties and lightness, which is handy because it isn’t small. Measuring in at a whopping 47mm, the dive watch is noticeable, however, Blancpain has rejigged some of the design elements for ease of wear.
The central lugs, for instance, have been redesigned to attach from the inside of the case middle and integrate the
strap, a first for Blancpain. Additionally, to pair with the 300-metre water resistance, a helium valve has been added, along with a bevelled case middle rather than the rounded ‘bassline’ shape we’ve come to expect from other Fifty Fathoms releases.
The new Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Tech Gombessa is available now from Blancpain boutiques, priced at AUD$38,900. Better yet, Marc A. Hayek confirmed that it will not be a limited release, however, did indicate that production numbers will be small, with ‘around 100 units’ made each year.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Tech Gombessa
Model: Fifty Fathoms 70th Anniversary Tech Gombessa
Movement: 13P8 self-winding movement
Material: Grade 23 titanium
Water Resistance: 300m
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