Fifty Fathoms diving watch

Fifty Fathoms diving watch, estimate £20,000-30,000 at Reeman Dansie.

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It was named after its water resistance although its key ‘first’ was the rotating bezel with minute markings to judge dive times.

The watch debuted on the market in 1953, a year before the release of the Rolex Submariner.

Numerous versions of the watch were made. This example, dated c.1955, is signed to the black enamel dial signed Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Rotomatic Incabloc.

It comes for sale at Reeman Dansie in Colchester as part of the firm’s April 30-May 2 auction having been owned by the vendor Norman Malthouse since 1957.

Training to be a deep-sea diver, Malthouse spent the summers in Club Alpin Sous Marin in Cannes between 1954 and 1957.

He recalls: “During the summer of 1957 we were joined by two experienced divers. All the chatting was in French of course, when one of the gentlemen turned to me, and in perfect English, said that he noticed that I did not have a dive watch.

“In next to no time, he was taking off his own watch and offering it to me saying that he ‘made them’ and I could have this one at factory price. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

He later learned his companion was Jean-Jacques Fiechter, owner of Blancpain.

The watch has an estimate of £20,000-30,000.