View Full Version : DSN Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Revisited

10-30-2011, 01:11 PM

A long, long time ago, I can still remember when I bought my first real rep. And by "real" I mean a quality piece costing more than a hundred bucks, rather than a for-peanuts fake, bought furtively in a dark Kowloon alley, with a lifespan measurable in months. Instead of going the usual Noobmariner route, I decided that I wanted a Panerai rep by Davidsen. (Recall that DSN was near the leading edge of PAM reps at the time!) But while going through his photobucket, I saw that he'd started selling vintage Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, which is a watch I've long dreamed of owning. One wire transfer and a few weeks later, and I had it. I was happy, and wrote my first rep review (at RWI).


Fast forward a couple of years and I noticed that I wasn't wearing the FF as much as I used to. I'd changed straps and bracelets countless times in an attempt to get the old spark back. It wasn't working; I'd been spoiled by newer, more accurate and labor-intensive builds like my Explorers and Daytonas. It also didn't help that the Blancpain's factory-fresh finish contradicted its supposed age. What to do?

I got my first bit of inspiration after seeing pictures of the Helson Skindiver, which is a Fifty Fathoms homage released earlier this year. It's a terrific looking watch, and a better FF proxy than the MkII Stingray or the Precista PRS-50, in my opinion. (Also the Corvus Bradley, which is really more of a TR-900 homage.) One detail I especially liked was the bezel: It was as (inaccurately) beefy as on the other modern homages, but its circumference was indented to suggest the delicate, jutting bezels of the original Blancpains.

And when I think "machined round metal objects", my first instinct is to contact jmb. So off the FF went to Justin, who protested that it was the ugliest watch he's ever worked on. (Blancpain fans, please send your letters to him.) Prying the bezel off was a tricky ordeal, which explains the tool marks. Nevertheless, the bezel was eventually removed, trimmed, and re-installed. It's still too tall, but the shelf visually thins it from most angles:


I also wanted to replace the crystal to make the bezel appear even less thick. Unfortunately, I had no luck finding suitable domes.

Next step: Age the dial. The vintage Blancpains had glossy black dials, but very few maintain a perfect sheen today. I reached out to the man who put the patina on my 4-line 5512, and ChiMan said yes. I sent him a few pictures of gens, hoping that one of them could serve as his model. This turned out to be the winner:


I was planning a vacation through the Rockies in September/October, and I'd made plans to meet up with C in Calgary. As soon as J finished his work on the case, he sent it up north. It arrived with one day to spare, and C amazingly finished his patination process in just one night.


Fine, fine work for a rush job! Even under the weak lights of The Keg, I was able to admire the quality.

The Fifty Fathoms is now near the top of my rotation again, thanks to a couple of very good guys. Big thanks to ChiMan and jmb for helping me out yet again.



10-30-2011, 01:37 PM
Great team effort and fantastic result. I have long wanted one of these but have yet to engage in the project.

We will have to work on jmb some more. He will come around.

10-30-2011, 04:40 PM
Now that looks even better. The bezel and dial don't look so new and perfect without looking like it was dragged down a gravel road.
Perfect job. :applause:

10-31-2011, 03:13 AM
We will have to work on jmb some more. He will come around.
Mrs. jmb is allegedly a fan of the Blancpain, so it's just a matter of time!

Thanks, guys!

11-20-2011, 10:19 AM
I had the same treatment applied to the dial/hands on my LIP...Pbdad took it a step further by discoloring the number indices. They give it a bit more vintage feel. We tried to melt the bezel insert a little but it only resulted in a resin mess. :(

Phuong's new FF offering looks good but the price is outrageous. Maybe someone will revisit this revered model some day and give us a super rep version!

Good friend dcf07 took this pic while it was in his care...the bezel has since been vintaged. When it comes back from servicing Ill snap a few pics:



11-20-2011, 03:04 PM
Nice one, Tony! I believe the majority of DSN's sales were of the '53 LIP dial, since it looks so sharp.

The Phong FF is a retread of one of the older Vietnamese reps. (One of several, I imagine.) It's a bit more compact than Davidsen's, and has a closer resemblance to some Aqualungs I've seen. Visually, it's almost a completely different watch. And, yeah, a bit steep!

11-22-2011, 05:39 AM
what is the Phong FF?

11-22-2011, 06:59 AM
what is the Phong FF?
FF=Fifty Fathoms
Phong=Nickname for jewelryandwatch.com

11-23-2011, 07:25 AM

What strap is this?

12-20-2011, 01:50 PM
Time to revisit the Revisited thread... with strap options! I've long been trying to find out which metal bracelets were used on the Fifty Fathoms back in the 50s and 60s. I've had this ad in my Blancpain picture archive for a while:


Looks like your standard expansion band bracelet, which was strangely popular at the time. Finding a match was harder than expected, especially since the genuine vintage FFs had lug spacings of 19-20mm (rather than the DSN rep's 22mm). There were good matches on eBay by NSA and J.B. Champion. Unfortunately, these were selling for around $80, so I decided to go cheap and "close enough" with a good ol' Speidel:


And by "good ol' Speidel" I mean "good ol' ill-fitting, hair-tugging, rattly, chintzy Speidel aka 'The Depilator'". You probably won't be seeing this bracelet ever again!

Next up is a vintage "Tropic-style" 22mm rubber strap that I recently bought for peanuts. The strap is soft, flexible, and in far better shape than the oxidized rubber on my Tropic (pictured in the OP). Other than the keepers, the strap is a good match for a real Tropic. It's either a "Hong Kong Tropic" (manufactured in the 1980s, I think) or a Voguestrap Skindiver (which might be the same thing).


Curved ends look good!

But the look that gets the most attention isn't from the 50s or the 60s, but from that shark-hunting, disco-dancing decade: It's the 1970s, so it's got to be mesh.


12-20-2011, 05:39 PM
Gorgeous, LH!! :)

I need one of these :)

10-20-2012, 07:54 PM
Does anyone know what SS bracelet is this?


10-27-2012, 09:32 PM
It's from other watch, just reworked to fit blancpain, btw looks ugly.