2023 begins with a good indication of what to expect from the year ahead in watches. But to know more, we have to look back 70 years. In 1953, sport watches as we know them today were born, and one of several important models that debuted that year was the Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms — it was one of the first modern dive watches.
Now, Blancpain is celebrating that 70-year anniversary with a new, limited model that's downsized to a significantly more wearable 42.3mm.
It's smaller, but not in an overly retro way; rather than the vintage-reissue approach, it's based on the modern iteration of the Fifty Fathoms as reintroduced in 2003 (yes, another anniversary). That model is typically 45mm wide, and though an impressive watch, it's kind of ginormous for many average-sized wrists. The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms has come in many forms and sizes (including the likes of 40mm limited-edition reissues), but never something quite like this.
The sizing here is, however, not just about fitting on smaller wrists and following trends. Firstly, it nods to the original sizing of the first Fifty Fathoms from 1953. Secondly, the Blancpain 1315 automatic movement inside with five days of power reserve wouldn't have fit in a case that was, say, 40mm. You can see that movement through the caseback window with its platinum rotor reading "Fifty Fathoms 70th."
This smaller Fifty Fathoms is a limited edition, but just the beginning of a promised year of releases to celebrate the famous dive watch. It comes on a NATO-style strap made of recycled fishing nets (with an odd lug width of 21.5mm) and series of only 70 each will be produced for three markets for a total of 210 examples (Series I, II or III will be indicated on the dial depending on the series/market). Pricing is yet to be confirmed but will be well into five-figure territory.