‘Milspec 1’ Blancpain Fifty Fathoms
There is no greater tell that a watch is firmly in the collector zeitgeist than when Hodinkee writes a guide on its genealogy. But when the Fifty Fathoms passed that milestone passed last month, it seemed perhaps a bit overdue? I mean this is really the first dive watch as we know the formula today. In it, I was relieved to see Tony give much daylight to my favorite iteration, the Milspec. See, the FF was immensely capable for its time. If the original FF were a person, you get the sense that it would win a bar fight. But the Milspec, well that’s capable to an extreme. It’s your friend who’s drunk on Coors before you reach the front door. It’s your friend whose night doesn’t stop until 2PM the next day, because he pulled three girls. The Milspec wouldn’t just win bar fights, but only go out drinking in order to scrap; Rambo with an escapement.
The Milspec came after the initial French Navy watches. Once other countries saw that success, Blancpain got orders from British, German, Israeli, Spanish, and US Navies. The specification included the humidity indicator you see at 6. If the humidity level rose, meaning water resistance had been breached and the movement was no longer accurate, the indicator’s line would rise and change to entirely pink. While Milspec is literally engraved on back, one should note not all these were issued; some went to dive shops or sold directly to hobbyists. But there’s a decent chance this watch served somewhere, though where we may never know.
In watch collecting there’s an oft-repeated saying, ‘all roads lead to Patek Philippe’. I don’t really agree with this, I think my more accurate version would be something like, ‘all roads will take you to or past a Patek Philippe at least a couple times.’ Which is why I’d like to take this moment to proffer my next maxim, which I’m hoping will be on Blancpain billboards next year: ‘All roads in dive watch collecting will probably take you to or past a Fifty Fathoms at least once, but you’ll probably buy the Sub instead because you’re scared.’ My hope is that with my somewhat dramatic introduction/explanation, Tony’s excellent (actual) journalism, and Adam of Menta’s exceptional sourcing, maybe one or two of you will be curious enough to take that daring step into deeper fathoms. Because I know there’s at least one of you reading this with a black eye who’s going to get absolutely gazeboed tonight. This is your watch.
And what a Milspec it is. Original radium dial, with the pinkish fade to the humidity indicator we always see. There’s no cracking in the hand lume. There is a bit of cracking in the bezel, as is more often than not seen with these. The case is full and movement looks great. It comes from Menta in Miami, who’s made quite a name for himself in Fifty Fathoms in recent years. Great stuff.
Find this Milspec Fifty Fathoms here from Menta Watches for 55000 USD.