Hong Kong, 27-28 June 2015
Sold for HK$200,000
Panerai aside, most people regard the Rolex Submariner as the first professional dive watch following its unveiling at the 1954 Basel Watch Fair. But two years earlier a couple of rugged French Naval officers, Commander Robert Malouibier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud, had been instructed to establish an elite dive unit called Les Nageurs de Combat.
Top priority was to get hold of some decent kit, so the pair contacted Blancpain with a request for some high-spec waterproof watches. The result was the now-legendary Blancpain 50 Fathoms, a military dive watch capable of remaining watertight down to 91 metres, the then maximum depth attainable by a diver using compressed air.
Now that the model is once more a cornerstone of Blancpain’s sports watch range, interest in vintage examples is booming – although values can vary depending on the exact model and the marking and configuration of the dial. Especially popular, however, are German military versions that have an orange hour hand and 1950s pieces – such as this one – with the Aqualung marking and a radioactivity symbol notifying the use of Tritium markings.