Here’s an FF that will put hairs on your chest!
It’s got a nifty a 3H-interval timing bezel for true tech diver’s, it measures 47mm in diameter and is made from Ti G23, but you’ll have to suffer some integrated lugs.
Blancpain celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Fifty Fathoms diver’s watch from the stunning Rangiroa Atollin in French Polynesia, where their Tamataroa mission is currently taking place.
Once hailed as the first modern diver’s watch way back in the 1950s, the unveiling of this new Fifty Fathoms model showcases what seven decades of evolution can bring to this legendary bloodline.
Designed to meet today’s technical diving requirements, it features an innovation that was co-developed by Marc A. Hayek, President & CEO of Blancpain, and Laurent Ballesta, founder of the Gombessa project.
The creation of the Tech Gombessa as it is known makes it possible for the first time to measure up to three-hour immersion times, so is of use to only the most seasoned of desk diver’s and of course true tech divers.
Its release commemorates not only the 70th anniversary of the Fifty Fathoms but also the 10th anniversary of Gombessa, an initiative that Blancpain helped create by becoming the founding partner of the project from its inception in 2013.
Blancpain began the development of the project, starting with the two key elements represented by the movement and the unidirectional rotating diver’s bezel.
Unlike the bezels found on most conventional diver’s watches, the bezel on the Fifty Fathoms Tech Gombessa has a three-hour scale.
It is linked to a special hand that completes one full turn in three hours and whose material and color, a white luminescent coating with green emission match those of its markers.
This device invented jointly by Marc A. Hayek and Laurent Ballesta is a world first for which a patent has been filed.
It is the heart of the 13P8 self-winding movement, based on the same criteria of reliability and robustness that have made the Fifty Fathoms the ultimate diver’s watch for 70 years.
Once the combination of bezel and movement was defined, it was time to tackle the exterior of this new watch designed to plumb the depths.
The brief was clear yet meeting it proved tricky: the Fifty Fathoms Tech Gombessa had to look like a Fifty Fathoms while exhibiting distinct tech attributes.
Blancpain’s designers therefore opted for a bezel inlay in black ceramic instead of the traditional sapphire which they decided to endow with a stronger curve and tilt it towards the dial.
The latter’s legibility is optimized by a spherical crystal that eliminates any visual distortion. To ensure the best possible readability in the dark, the dial has a new finish: absolute black, whose structure is able to capture almost 97% of the light.
In the same vein, the hour-markers are formed by luminescent block-shaped appliques, this time in orange with blue emission color codes picked up on the hours and minutes hands to differentiate between time-related information and diving times.
Grade 23 titanium was chosen for the case. Recently introduced to the Blancpain collections, this metal also known as grade 5 ELI (extra low interstitials) is the purest type of titanium available.
It is distinguished by exceptional strength and anti-allergenic properties, while being remarkably light.
This material ensures that the watch is comfortable to wear and guarantees a barely-there feel on the wrist despite the 47 mm diameter.
This is especially true since the watch features – in a first for Blancpain central lugs attached from the inside of the case middle and integrating the strap.
Water-resistant to 30 bar (approximately 300 metres), the case is equipped with a helium valve. During saturation diving in a hyperbaric chamber, helium manages to seep into the watch.
During the decompression phase, unscrewing the valve facilitates the evacuation of the helium (a manipulation that has no effect on the watch’s water resistance).
The notches of the helium valve are identical to those of the winding and time-setting crown that enables simultaneous setting of the hours, minutes and dive-time hands.
As with all Fifty Fathoms timepieces, the crown is screwed down and associated with a crown guard that now features a new trapeze-shaped design ensuring visual consistency with the lugs.
Nothing has been left to chance either on the back of the watch. The lower part of the case middle is beveled rather than the rounded ‘bassine’ shape characterizing the other Fifty Fathoms models.
The notches used to screw in the case back have also been reworked, in the same spirit of robustness.
The anthracite-colored oscillating weight, stamped with the Gombessa Expeditions logo, features an innovative shape dominated by three large openings through which to admire the movement.
The black rubber strap is screwed to the back of the lugs. It has internal titanium reinforcement, guaranteeing ideal long-term shape, and is teamed with an extension for wearing the watch over a tech-diving suit.
The buckle with its extremely wide and ergonomic pin has been designed to reinforce the hold of the watch to the wrist and to facilitate fastening the extension.
The Fifty Fathoms Tech Gombessa comes in a special Peli™ presentation box that is water-resistant and shock-resistant as well as reusable and configurable.
The case houses a rest for the watch, the strap extension, a travel pouch, a magnifying glass, as well as a set of dividers and cutting tools offering the possibility of compartmentalizing it for any future use.
While all the details of the Tech Gombessa appear to have been smoothly combined, they have in fact involved numerous adjustments resulting from a multitude of tests in real-life conditions.
Marc A. Hayek personally tried several different prototypes of the watch during his dives.
The same is true for Laurent Ballesta and the divers of the Gombessa Expeditions, who tested the watch throughout its evolution.
Four prototypes were worn on the wrists of aquanauts for an almost 50-day trial period at a depth of 120 meters as part of the Gombessa V and Gombessa VI missions.
Conducted in the Mediterranean in 2019 and 2021 respectively, these expeditions combined saturation diving with closed-circuit rebreather diving for the first time.
Having lived for an entire month on both occasions in a 5 m² hyperbaric chamber from which they emerged daily to explore the depths, the divers tested several versions of the helium valve.
Its launch honors the Fifty Fathoms’ 70 th anniversary and sets the seal on ten years of collaboration between Blancpain and Laurent Ballesta whose Gombessa project was born in 2013 thanks to the involvement of the Manufacture as founding partner.
The arrival of this instrument in the Fifty Fathoms collection also inaugurates a new line, the Fifty Fathoms Tech, which will encompass all Blancpain watches dedicated to technical diving.