The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms that tells the story of the frogmen who used them

Editor’s note: The Blancpain Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC, aside from being a damn good-looking dive watch, serves as a reminder that brands can reissue mid-century military watches without breaking the internet. We thought we’d take a look back at this Blancpain Fifty Fathoms tribute, which tells the story of when watches were specially designed tools that meant the difference between life and death. Blancpain has an excellent history in dive watches, and among the most coveted are the military-issued pieces. In this already hyper-specialised niche, the MIL-SPEC I and MIL-SPEC II watches stand head and shoulders above the rest. These watches were first created in 1957 to meet the very specific needs of the United States Navy. In fact, if you really want to nerd out, we’d highly recommend reading the actual military specification – MIL-W-22176A(SHIPS). The most distinctive feature of this watch is the hemispheric moisture indicator on the bottom half of the dial. It’s this feature that Blancpain has celebrated with the MIL-SPEC, and that lies at the heart of its charm. Before we dive into the current model, let’s first look back at the Tornek-Rayville. Created to meet MIL-SPEC II, this watch is a great example…

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RECOMMENDED READING: Can you get rich from collecting watches?

While antique categories such as art, furniture and artefacts have long been recognised as stores of value, watches are a relative newcomer to the game of “buy low, sell high”. And this poses an interesting question – can watches help you get rich? It seems like every auction season, old records are broken, and new ones are set for vintage references, and not just with the usual suspects of Patek Philippe and Rolex. While quality examples of Nautilus and Daytona models reach eye-watering prices, enthusiasts and collectors are seeing brands such as Universal Genève, Omega and Cartier climbing in value too. The New York Times recently published an excellent piece on this phenomenon, exploring why watches are increasing in value, if they make a reliable investment, and what to look for when you start collecting. Definitely worth your time. Read all about it at The New York Times.

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INTRODUCING: An Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph to celebrate The Hour Glass’ 40th anniversary

It’s a truism to say that the watch industry loves an anniversary, and while mostly it’s the watch brands doing the celebrating, this time it is a retailer celebrating the big 4-0. Boy, are they celebrating in style.  The Hour Glass is one of the major retail figures in the Asia-Pacific region, with more than 40 boutiques (including three in Australia). The first of these boutiques opened in Singapore back in 1979. The brand is celebrating their 40th anniversary by releasing a series of special limited edition watches with some of their long-term partners like Urwerk, Franck Muller, Nomos, Longines and more.  They’ve kicked off their series of special editions with a big one. The new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph For The Hour Glass comes in platinum — all 41mm of it. The Royal Oak doesn’t require much introduction, and it’s an apt choice, as the model has only been around a few years longer than The Hour Glass, even though this platinum model takes as inspiration the 2008 chronograph release. The standout feature here is the dial. Of course it’s the famous tapisserie pattern, in the twin tones of The Hour Glass — yellow and green. It’s a striking…

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LIST: 7 watches to check out at Melbourne Watch Week

For the second year running, Breguet, Blancpain, Jaquet Droz and Glashütte Original — The Swatch Group’s top-tier brands — are showcasing their latest and greatest at Melbourne retailer Monards Crown boutique.  Melbourne Watch Week, as it’s called, is running from June 20 to 30 (slightly longer than a week, but who’s counting). It’s a great opportunity to get up close and (somewhat) personal with these pretty special pieces. Yesterday I was filming some watches and I took the chance to have a look around at these standout pieces, and these are my seven picks.  Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Barakuda  Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms releases are always strong, and inevitably popular. Amidst all the more modern interepretations (and the awesome Air Command), we were taken by this delicious (and limited) vintage reissue. It’s inspired by a watch made for Barakuda — a German diving equipment company (hence the name). This explains the retro dial design, and indeed the smaller 40mm case.  RRP $17,650 AUD Glashütte Original SeaQ From one German-inspired dive watch to another. The surprising Glashütte Original SeaQ. Glashütte Original is not a brand known for their dive watches, even though they played a part in their history (the inspiration for this…

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5 *other* deep diving watches

With the news that Omega has pushed the bar (pun obviously intended) to a record-breaking point with their new Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep Professional, we thought we would look at the best-performing deep diving watches on the market.   Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller With a water resistance to 3900m, the Rolex DSSD is a strong contender for champion of the deep. Featuring the unarguably comfortable oyster bracelet, a case manufactured in grade-5 titanium, and a genuinely wearable 44mm on the wrist, it’s a fantastic watch for any dive enthusiast.   Sinn Model UX The German manufacturer pulled out all the stops with Model UX, even manufacturing the case in corrosion-resistant submarine steel. It is also made unique as the case is filled with synthetic oil that is uncompressible (which acts to resist external water pressure), and allows the dial to be read without reflection at any angle underwater. The Model UX is water resistant to 12,000m, making it functional to the deepest known points of the world’s oceans.   Blancpain X Fathoms The Blancpain X Fathoms is by no means a small watch, measuring over 55mm in diameter and 24mm thick; however, it packs a host of functions within…

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Vintage Collector: From Grand Seiko to minute repeaters

Editor’s note: Felix interviewed Anders a few years ago to discuss his journey as a vintage collector and what he looks for when purchasing watches. One thing he mentioned then was his motto to never sell, which got us wondering: If nothing ever leaves the collection, what else has been added since then? Have a browse through his Instagram to see an incredibly uncommon minute repeater, a trio of Gérald Genta designed beauties and one of the best Cartier designs of all time. Here’s the original chat Felix had with Anders: The world of watches is very small and very global. The story behind this interview is a case in point. Just before Christmas I received an Instagram notification saying, “Felix, you like watches – check this guy out”,  from a friend who used to work in a café I frequent in Melbourne. She tagged me in the account of a regular customer at the café she now works at in the Norwegian capital of Oslo. After checking out @everydaycollector’s beautifully composed pictures of art, interior design and watches, I knew I had to get in touch with Anders and find out more about his careful and considered collection. Tell…

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Vintage Collector: From Grand Seiko to Patek Philippe minute repeaters

Editor’s note: Felix interviewed Anders a few years ago to discuss his journey as a vintage collector and what he looks for when purchasing watches. One thing he mentioned then was his motto to never sell, which got us wondering: If nothing ever leaves the collection, what else has been added since then? Have a browse through his Instagram to see an incredible Patek Philippe minute repeater, a trio of Gérald Genta designed beauties and one of the best Cartier designs of all time. Here’s the original chat Felix had with Anders: The world of watches is very small and very global. The story behind this interview is a case in point. Just before Christmas I received an Instagram notification saying, “Felix, you like watches – check this guy out”,  from a friend who used to work in a café I frequent in Melbourne. She tagged me in the account of a regular customer at the café she now works at in the Norwegian capital of Oslo. After checking out @everydaycollector’s beautifully composed pictures of art, interior design and watches, I knew I had to get in touch with Anders and find out more about his careful and considered collection.…

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RECOMMENDED READING: This is what Kanye’s go-to art guy thinks of Breguet

Breguet — as we discovered last week — is a pretty classic brand. Heck, they’ve even got a line called the Classique. So when we saw a story on what Wes Lang — controversial American contemporary artist and collaborative creative to the stars — thought of the buttoned-up brand, you can bet we hit the link.  And we’re glad we did, because Lang’s take on the ultra pure Breguet Classique 7147 is pretty on point. He nails its timelessness.  But the payoff is huge. The 7147’s dial has a depth of colour that is nearly indescribable — it almost looks alive. And there’s the unbelievably perfect transition where the enamel practically melts down into a slightly recessed sub-dial for the second hand. You can’t see it from some angles. Then you turn the watch and the light catches it … There are watches that try to be cool, and then there’s this one, which just really is cool. Read more at GQ. 

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Ever seen this before? The mysterious Rolex Submariner Date ref. 116659 SABR

Editor’s note: Most of Rolex’s new releases are shown to the press and make it into the catalogue. Sometimes, though, they don’t. The gem-set Rolex Submariner Date ref. 116659 SABR is an example of one that didn’t. And we were pretty lucky to get to see it at last year’s Baselworld …  There was a lot of mystery surrounding this piece when it was pulled out of a large green box during our appointment with Rolex at Baselworld. And, to be honest, we were too caught up in the moment, too dazzled by the gemstones, to take it all in at the time. It’s formally known as the Submariner Date ref. 116659 SABR, a variant on the white gold, blue-dialled ‘Smurf’ (ref. 116659 LB), but while at first glance it might look like the stones are the only addition, the dial is completely different. Not only is it darker, and has a sunray effect, but there’s a notable omission. Look closer. Have you spotted it yet? That’s right, there’s no depth rating. On a typical sub, there’s a line underneath the ‘Submariner’ text that says the watch is good to ‘1000ft = 300m’; not so here. And there’s also no specific mention…

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The ultimate watch glossary – advanced edition. Beat rates, pallets and more

Editor’s note: If you missed instalments one and two of our glossary, you might want to quickly check them out, because now we’re in part three, we’re starting to get a little more technical. We’re moving beyond the basic parts and starting to explore how they operate together. Tick tock. Escapement The escapement is a collection of components responsible for the time-keeping accuracy in a watch. These components work together to act as the timekeeping (or regulating) organ of the watch. Every watch needs an escapement to distribute the impulse from the power source (whatever it may be) to the hands (or time display) so that the time can be communicated to the wearer. There are several different types of escapement. Most of which are confined to history or concept watches. The most common type of escapement is called the ‘Swiss lever escapement’. The main components of this escapement are the escape wheel, the pallet, the balance wheel, and the hairspring. Pallet The pallet (or anchor as it is often referred to in Europe) is a T-shaped component that has a U-shaped notch on the tail of the T, and two faceted rubies (the entry and exit jewel/pallet) held in…

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