In the early 1950s, an elite unit of the French Navy, responsible for their own diving equipment and not satisfied with any of the current diving watches on the market, set out to make their own watch that they deemed suitable for diving. At the time, Blancpain was still a small watch manufacturer, and in the early 1950s, the job was offered to the more prevalent house, LIP. LIP would pass on the job, and as a result, what we now recognize as one of the preeminent vintage diving watches – the “Fifty Fathoms” – was eventually created by Blancpain in 1953. A full one-year before the Rolex Submariner.
However, because Blancpain was still a relative unknown in the watch market, they would be forced to sign a distribution deal with LIP in order to get their watches out on the French market. In 1954, we would begin to see Fifty Fathoms models bearing a double-stamped dial of Blancpain and LIP. Unfortunately, their partnership would be a short-lived one, and a few years later in 1957, the two houses parted ways.
Beginning in 1960, LIP began to produce their own diving watches in limited quantities. This is one such watch. These rare LIP-produced diving watches shared the same characteristics of those early Blancpain divers: a patented bakelite bezel with a newly created locking system, and a two-piece caseback with Blancpain’s patented “O-ring” system for sealing the back as tight as possible to accommodate the higher pressures in deeper dives. This is why, while a LIP-produced watch, the dial is signed “brevets Blancpain”. Brevets is french for “invention” or “patent”.
The example we offer to you is in EXCEPTIONAL condition. The case is mint and unpolished, and the bezel only has one, typical crack at the 12 o’clock marker. You may notice that the dial looks immaculate. Well, that’s because it is!! This watch was recently fitted with a NOS dial and movement! Yes, you read that correct. The dial and movement are brand new. In case you were feeling sentimental, don’t fret: we are throwing in the original dial and movement with it as well!
As seen on Hodinkee’s “Bring a Loupe” on October 23, 2015!