Like the 500-piece limited-edition watch that was launched at the Swatch Group’s “Time to Move” event this past May, the unique piece takes its aesthetic inspiration from a divers’ watch supplied to the German Bundesmarine in the 1960s in partnership with Barakuda, a company that produced and marketed technical diving equipment. Those historical models, based upon the now-legendary original Fifty Fathoms watch launched in 1953 and adopted by France’s elite military diving units, were notable for their two-tone rectangular hour markers, white-painted fluorescent hands, and a big, white-framed, extra-legible date window at 3 o’clock. The new watch features all of these traits, along with a host of modern upgrades, such as the scratch-resistant sapphire insert in the unidirectional rotating bezel, an element Blancpain introduced back in 2003 in its earliest contemporary revivals of the classic dive watch.
The stainless steel case measures 40 mm in diameter — a size, the brand says, that is reserved only for Fifty Fathoms models produced in limited series — and is water-resistant to 300 meters. The black dial’s pencil-shaped, white lacquered hour and minute hand and arrow-tipped seconds hand, along with the aforementioned hour indices, are treated with a powder-blue-colored Super-LumiNova — a departure from the previous model’s “old radium”-colored lume marking this watch as a unique piece. This light blue tone is echoed in the numerals and gradations on the bezel’s divers’ scale. Also testifying to the watch’s uniqueness is the engraved rotor of the movement, Blancpain’s self-winding Caliber 1151. This oscillating weight not only has the telltale cut-out design used on previous Blancpain special editions, but also includes an “Only Watch” inscription along with the Blancpain logo. Visible through the sapphire caseback window, this manufacture movement is equipped with two mainspring barrels, to supply the watch with a remarkable 100-hour power reserve, and boasts the brand’s usual complement of haute horlogerie decorations.
The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Barakuda Only Watch edition is presented on a “tropical” style rubber strap that echoes the look of the original model’s, which was a popular style for divers of the era. As with all the unique pieces in the Only Watch auction, proceeds from the sale of the watch will support the Monaco Association against Muscular Dystrophy, a charitable organization that Blancpain has supported since its inception in 2001. The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Barakuda Only Watch is estimated to sell for between $13,000 and $20,000.