Blancpain and Rolex both introduced their signature dive watches at roughly the same time, though the story of the Fifty Fathoms is significantly less well known and worthy of the telling. We’re going to quote ourselves now for the sake of expediency, because we work here, and we can do that:
“Designed from the ground-up in 1952, the Fifty Fathoms was born from the mind of French secret service agent Captain Bob Maloubier, MBE, who worked with the Special Operations Executive during WWII. Tasked along with Lt. Claude Riffaud of the French Navy with formulating a new, secret dive unit, Maloubier sketched his ideal dive watch and brought the design to several companies. Blancpain bit, and the Fifty Fathoms has since became one of the most well-known military divers in the watch world. The company still makes modern versions.”
Debuting in 1953, the Fifty Fathoms would go through numerous military and civilian iterations over the years, including the Barakuda, which debuted around 1970. This particular Fifty Fathoms was so-called because it was issued to the German military via Barakuda, a diving equipment outfitter. The watch, which was also issued to the American and, in small numbers, to the Polish military, was later made available to the civilian market, and featured oversized, two-tone hour markers. Original military versions are, needless to say, extremely rare.
Today, Blancpain has announced a reissue of the original Barakuda, which retains many of the aesthetics of the original but provides numerous technical upgrades. The reissue features a stainless steel 40mm case (actually slightly smaller than the original’s 41mm) depth-rated to 300m, the classic two-tones hour indices of the original, and “aged” lume. You also get a unidirectional, sapphire dive bezel and a vintage-inspired, “Tropic”-style dive strap, the type on which an original Barakuda likely shipped.
Inside the new Barakuda is the automatic Frederic Piguet cal. 1151 with a 95-hour power reserve and an 18k gold rotor. The Barakuda is priced at roughly $19,500 and limited to 500 pieces.
Gear Patrol also recommends:
Doxa Sub300 Searambler “Silver Lung” ($2,190)
Omega Seamaster Co-Axial Master Chronometer ($5,200)
Rolex Submariner ($7,500)
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