Blancpain has some history with making tool watches for the military. It famously created the Fifty Fathoms diver’s — among the first dive watches to hit the market during the mid-19th century — for the French Navy in 1953. The Fifty Fathoms was the first diver with a uni-directional bezel, a critical feature of dive watches today.

The original Fifty Fathoms from 1953

This year, Blancpain has introduced two models that pay tribute to this unique diving legacy, two watches that honor the long history of military partnerships and scuba diving which have formed the foundation of the collection’s legacy. The first of these watches is the “Nageurs de Combat” watch, a 300-piece limited-edition run designed to evoke the origins of the Fifty Fathoms line.

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The Nageurs de Combat and the Barakuda on the right

The second is a Fifty Fathoms Barakuda re-edition that is based on a model supplied to the German Bunesmarine and civilian market in the late 1960s via Barakuda – a company which specialized in the production and marketing of technical diving equipment in the country.

The large 45 mm case is depth-rated to 300 meters

The design inspiration of the Nageurs de Combat is drawn from 1953, whereupon the request of the French Combat Swimmers corps and after numerous prototypes, Blancpain delivered the first Fifty Fathoms watch. In today’s watch’s design, we see this DNA, with the brand using a prominent unidirectional bezel topped with its signature diamond mark, a matte black dial with triangular circular and rectangular hour markers, and straight sword-style hands and a slim arrow seconds hands.

The engraved combat qualification badge

Yet past the vintage stylings, the watch also has some more explicit honors to its history, as seen by the subtle 7 towards 6 o’clock, which references the maximum meter depth commando frogmen can reach when using pure oxygen. The engraved Combat Diver Qualification Badge seen on the watch’s case back, which is a mark authorized by the French army for Blancpain’s use in this watch, further showcases the shared heritage between the Swiss watch brand and the French military.

The watch uses a large 45-mm satin-brushed steel case that is 15.7 mm thick and produced using modern manufacturing practices. It is powered by the manufacture Caliber 1315, a self-winding movement with 5-day power reserve. Limited to 300 pieces, the watch is priced at CHF14,000.