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Thread: ITS ARRIVED

  1. #1
    Grand Master Andyg's Avatar
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    ITS ARRIVED

    WARRING THIS THREAD CONTAINS A BORING DIATRIBE ABOUT THE HISTORY OF THE BLANCPAIN FIFTY FATHOMS AND LOTS OF PICTURES (AT THE END).

    IN ORDER TO PREVENT THIS BECOMING ANOTHER BORING PICTURE BOOK THREAD, I HAVE INCLUDED SOME OTHER STUFF WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT BE OF SOME INTEREST - ALSO BY READING THIS YOU MAY ALSO LEARN STUFF – I DID.
    :D

    Before I start my ramblings I would firstly like to take this opportunity to give my thanks for all the folks on this forum (and others), especially to SimonK and Jason (964RS) for all their aasistance, and super special thanks to David (PipPip) for volunteering to become my personal Paris to the UK courier. I salute you all for you support, knowledge, WISdom and perhaps most of all your patience.

    Finally (following a difficult week :wink: ) I would also like to thank Eddie for providing a forum which make these things are possible. To me this is how the forum should really work.


    The hitchhikers guide to the Blancpain Fifty Fathom

    In 1952, two French naval officers, Commander Robert "Bob" Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud were directed by the French Ministry of Defense and the French Navy to set up an elite unit called "Les Nageurs de combat" - i.e. Combat Swimmers - which became then a highly selective and top notch unit within the French forces. (The equivalent to the Italian ComSubin, US Seals and the British SBS). Their underwater operations required rugged, water-resistant and reliable equipment capable of withstanding the testing conditions and environment of sub-sea missions. At the time, they found no diver's watch (did not look very hard ?) that could meet their demanding specifications. The two officers defined their requirements for a wristwatch and got in touch with Blancpain Rayville SA, in Villeret, Switzerland. The company's watchmakers then put their talents to use and came up with the Blancpain FIFTY FATHOMS - (50 fathoms or 91 meters) was regarded as a safety threshold for divers. Actually the watch itself did support 150 meters depth, not that I would want to try it.
    Since it was introduced in 1953 Blancpain produced numerous versions of the BPFF for many Navys around the world include the Royal Navy, French, German, US, Spanish and Pakistani Navy’s. During the past 50 years it was distributed through a number of other companies including LIP (France) who also supplied movements to Blancpain and Alan TORNEK (US) who produced Milspecs FF’s in the US to get around the “buy American” DoD procurement policies. It also carries two different brand names – the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms and the Blancpain AquaLung specific to North America. Later the BP FF shared some DNA with many other watches including Enicar and DOXA.
    As the requirements of the Blancpain customers evolved so did the watches so we see the MILSpec, the NO RAD MilSpecs, the introduction of the Compressor cases, Bunds designed for the Germany Kamfphswimmers and so on and so forth.
    For more historical information see
    http://blancpain.watchprosite.com/?show ... 403976&s=0

    The Potential Pitfalls

    Whilst I have lusted after the vintage BPFF for some years, it was not until 2007 that I first seriously considered buying one. So every so often I would look at the For Sale sections and see what was out there whilst at the same time would trying to “bone up” on the old Watchdeco.com site – which to me was the BPFF best internet reference library available.

    However to cut a long story short, the vintage BPFF scene is all a bit of nightmare. The main problems being:-
    a) Vintage BPFF are highly collectable (expensive) hence they are faked – in fact heavily faked especially the Non-Rad versions (google Polish MilSpec for more information)
    b) Blancpain went bust in the late 60’s and were sold to SSIH (Omega) in 1971, it was then again sold to Piguet in 1983 and as a result the majority of its records were lost, also some of these watches are now over 50 years old hence the vast majority of people who originally worked on them are retired or dead
    c) BPFF are not massively complex watches and in some respects quite agricultural, especially the movements which were mostly supplied by A Schild – who also provided them to other watch companies – hence quite a few frankens exist.
    d) There are 100’s of variations – different dials, different crowns, different case backs, different hand sets, different movements and even rotors. I personally get the impression that BP made their watches in small batches of about 50 using parts sourced from numerous suppliers. I have seen watches, separated by only a few serial numbers with major differences in respect to the dials, crown and rotors!!
    e) Since the demise of the original WatchDeco site, it is difficult to find an accurate source of information – yes there are lots of pictures of watches on the internet, however how many of the watches shown should be classified as 100% original? This lack of published material makes life very difficult (opportunity for someone to write a definitive book I think :wink: ).
    f) Unlike Vintage Rolex where we have a good number of trusted experts who post on line, the world of Blancpain is a bit more shadowy with “experts” failing in to two camps – “quiet” old boys who have been collecting for years (mostly in France/Germany) who rarely use the internet let alone post on it, and those that freely offer opinions and advice. This is OK, however trust me the problems start when you have a one collector saying one thing when another is telling you something different. Especially when an internet “expert” tell you one thing and the “quiet” collector pull out documented evidence which proves him to be wrong. Bloody nightmare I tell you. :lol:
    g) My knowledge of Rolex is pretty weak in the scheme of things, but my knowledge of Blancpain is pretty much non-existent, especially as I have never actually handled one. So finding a reputable seller becomes a must

    The chase is on

    After a number of false dawns spreading over 3 year, including coming close to non-issued FF96 (which was lush, but not really want I wanted), a “Polish” Milspec (which I bottled out on and I am glad I did :twisted: ), a couple of Non-Rads which (with my limited knowledge also looked a bit iffy) and a few “lost” e-bay watches usually because I squeaked on price :shock: , I posted yet another WTB – this time on the MWF and to my amazement got 3 responses. A non-RAD from the 70’s with a excellent providence, an early Rotomatic which had recently done the Grand Tour as part of the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Anniversary Expo and an even earlier Rotomatic from a collector in France. After some thoughts I decided to focus on the Rotomatics, which in my book are the truly “original classic” BPFF’s.
    The “grand tour” model was very nice indeed, low serial number (4###), fixed lugs indicating that it might have been an issued watch – Blancpain/the owner believed it might have been issued to Spanish Navy, however it was quite heavy in the patina stakes. Discolored dial, hands missing quite a lot of lume and a pretty beaten up crystal – nothing which could be sorted providing the parts could be obtained, however saying that it would have been a shame to change anything. Very much a collectors watch, however I wanted something I could wear.

    The second watch (AKA Frenchy) was in pristine condition (and therefore a little more expensive)and had the 3,6,9 dial rather the just the plain dot indexes which were on the “grand tour” watch. Also this one was even earlier having a 1### serial number – so from the mid 50’s - very early indeed. Further investigation would be required.

    What followed next was about 7 weeks due diligence comprising daily rounds of email requests followed by pictures, followed by more e-mails, followed by more questions, etc, plus emails to all the BP expert I knew (including Blancpain Customer Services who were pretty good – something that Rolex should look at). The outcome of which were two problems which kept coming back. The first was the Crown had most likely been replaced with a later (but correct version). Not great, not surely not the end of the world. The second was more tricky – the Rotor was not liked for twio reasons. One, the rotor was just brass, rather than rodium plated brass, (which is typical on every other BPFF I have ever seen). And two, the engraving on the rotor looked a bit off!
    More e-mails followed between me and the owner (French, but excellent English) who was struggle to see what the fuss was all about, but finally sent me some pictures from an article written for a French Watch magazine showing pictures of lots of different BPFF and movement configurations, including a picture of the same engraved rotor (plated) in a different watch. We still have not got to the bottom of the un-plated rotor, however in the opinion of the seller, either it has lost part of this plating and a watch repairer had just tidied it up by removing what remained (possible as I had seen pictures of partially plated BP rotors before) or that on this watch it simply bypassed the plating process. Both a possibility, especially as I could not seen a fakers making and then engraving a rotor and then forgetting to plate it!!.

    If people are interested in seeing the article please PM me and I will provide the link – its in French but the pictures are really useful if you like that sort of thing. All the pictures featured were from watches owned or which passed through Watch-Deco.

    Now satisfied with the rotor (which I believe I can get re-plated – if I can be arsed), this just left me with the crown. Again the owner (who actually collects Military Breguet and LIP BPFF’s) again provided pictures showing 4 of his other watches each with different crowns, but including one watch with the same crown as Frenchy. At this point I was still unsure, however if it sealed the deal he offered to remove a crown from one of his other watches in order to make me “happy”. I finally agreed however fortunately it was not necessary as his watch repair guy (also in Paris) had one in the bottom draw!!.

    The back story

    During my numerous emails/conversations with the seller, he told me about how he was initiated in to watch collecting by René Bruyeron who owned a watch shop in the Saint Ouen Flea Market in Paris. Rene (who died in July 2009 ) was the owner of the Watch-Deco and was responsible for the content on the original Watch-Deco watch site. Cool eh!! So a bit like having a Jed, Mike and James Dowling all on your doorstep.

    He also told me “Frenchy” came to him from another collector in Paris (who had also purchased many of this watches from Rene over the years). This collector was the same person who had a number of watches on the 2010 Blancpain Grand Tour including perhaps the rarest of them all – the gold LIP BPFF - believed to be one of one.

    For those interested in the BP Grand Tour I have attached some links showing some of the 270 watches on display. You can also see a picture of Commander “Bob” who was the special guest. Even cooler neis par.
    http://blancpain.watchprosite.com/show- ... ti-662702/

    As finally we get to the money shots. My congratulations to thoseWIS’s who made it this far.

    To make it a bit more exciting it is a bit of a slow reveal .












    And finally a gratuitous comparison between a mid 50’s FF and a Mid 70’s SD.


    Andy (happy as a dog with two dicks)

    Whoever does not know how to hit the nail on the head should be asked not to hit it at all.
    Friedrich Nietzsche


  2. #2
    Master Guz's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    :shock: :shock:

    A stunner 8)

    And what a super write up :thumbright:

  3. #3
    Master EdRonax's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    A great post/story that I found really interesting, thanks.

  4. #4
    Grand Master
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    that's just fantastic.. loved reading the write up.. you must be well chuffed :)

  5. #5
    Master Marios's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Congrats Andy! A strong contestant for the most iconic watch ever IMO :drunken:

    And thanks for the interesting and informative write-up :thumbup:

  6. #6
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Great post


    Ivan
    iwcforme

  7. #7

    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Congratulations. An absolute classic and a thoroughly interesting write up, especiallymwhen you're in bed with man flu!

  8. #8
    Craftsman jeff's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Thanks for that. Thoroughly enjoyed reading the details and I am more than a little envious! You must be over the moon!

    regards

    jeff

  9. #9
    Master RLE's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Now this was an enjoyable post.

    Top drawer Andy 8)

  10. #10
    Grand Master Andyg's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Thanks chaps - to be honest I could have written more, especially about some of the stuff I uncovered during the DD, but to be honest it was getting a bit long winded as it was I did not want for bore anyone to much.

    A couple of corrections however

    a) A Schild and ETA movement were used - however the AS1361N appears in the early watches.

    b) The Gold LIP FF is actually believed to be one of 200 made - not that I have ever seen another.

    More corrections will no doubt follow :wink: as this is very much a road of discovery.

    Once I find some time I will do a comparison between the FF and a 5513 - should be fun.

    Andy

    Whoever does not know how to hit the nail on the head should be asked not to hit it at all.
    Friedrich Nietzsche


  11. #11
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Excellent write up, thank you very much.

  12. #12
    Grand Master learningtofly's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    :shock:

    8)

    :drunken:

    That sums it up nicely, I think.

  13. #13
    Grand Master Daddelvirks's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Thanks for posting!
    This made really nice reading, I often wondered about those Blancpains myself.
    I really didn't know you could get lost in a jungle of different models, movements, styles, cases, crowns etc.

    Congrats on finally having found a nice example.

    Daddel.
    Got a new watch, divers watch it is, had to drown the bastard to get it!

  14. #14
    Master
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Great post, thanks for taking the time to write it, it made very interesting reading. And congrats on a stunning piece, I am rather jealous :thumbright:

  15. #15
    Craftsman
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    I admire your perseverance. Fantastic end result. Thanks for taking the time to write the post.

  16. #16
    Journeyman
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    That was a pleasure to read, thank you for sharing! I love vintage FF watches they are truly spectacular, congrats!

  17. #17

    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Classic post. Well done and many thanks. I for one would love to see some the the extra detail you mention.

    Looking forward to the FF vs 5513 write up too.

  18. #18

    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Really enjoyed that write up, thanks for posting!

    Very cool watch to boot..

  19. #19
    Grand Master Andyg's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Quote Originally Posted by gentlemenpreferhats
    Classic post. Well done and many thanks. I for one would love to see some the the extra detail you mention.

    Looking forward to the FF vs 5513 write up too.
    As requested - its a bit trickey (best save it then read it) however its worth the effort.


    http://patrimoine.larevuedesmontres.com ... 09-48.html

    Also a bit more stuff.







    That last one cracks me up - the FF for $49.95 and a underwater Leica for $67.50.

    They have gone up a bit since

    Andy

    Whoever does not know how to hit the nail on the head should be asked not to hit it at all.
    Friedrich Nietzsche


  20. #20

    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Quote Originally Posted by Andyg
    A couple of corrections...
    One further correction for you Andy...

    Quote Originally Posted by Andyg
    My knowledge of Rolex is pretty weak in the scheme of things...
    This is clearly rubbish!!! :D

    I didn't comment on your 16550 thread as I was away when you posted it and when I finally caught up with the forum I didn't want to resurrect it just to say something pointless like how great it looked (it looks great by the way! :D )

    Anyway, I would just like to echo the other replies and say congrats and thank you for such an informative post!

    All the best,

    Paul

  21. #21
    Master RABbit's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    An excellent post and congratulations, a real iconic watch.

  22. #22

    Great Write-Up of a Great Watch

    thanks for telling the story, of these great watches and your own watch . . . enjoyed reading this one!!

    Jeff

  23. #23
    Grand Master Andyg's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Quote Originally Posted by lawnmowerman78
    One further correction for you Andy...

    Quote Originally Posted by Andyg
    My knowledge of Rolex is pretty weak in the scheme of things...
    This is clearly rubbish!!! :D

    I didn't comment on your 16550 thread as I was away when you posted it and when I finally caught up with the forum I didn't want to resurrect it just to say something pointless like how great it looked (it looks great by the way! :D )

    Anyway, I would just like to echo the other replies and say congrats and thank you for such an informative post!

    All the best,

    Paul
    Its kind of you to say, however the real giants are the Mike and Jed. These guys are the true experts, however even they would agree they only know a faction of the entire story - although to be honest Rolex?Patek is easy compared with this Blancpain :wink:

    Glad you enjoyed the 16550 - the dial is a killer and rarer than rocking horse poo :wink:

    Andy

    Whoever does not know how to hit the nail on the head should be asked not to hit it at all.
    Friedrich Nietzsche


  24. #24

    ITS ARRIVED

    Top post, though if I'd have known it was going on that long, I'd have made myself a brew and got a bit more comfy.

    Malc

  25. #25
    Journeyman
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    What a great writeup, and what a nice piece you ended up with.
    I have been hunting my BPFF for a year now. And I agree on all the pitfalls as you mention. Every time I think I have found one, is it either sold, to expensive, looks dubious or not correct parts (according to the experts I know)
    Well, the hunt is on :-)

  26. #26
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    An interesting and educational read, thank you Andy.

  27. #27
    Master thattallchap's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Andy that is a stunner, the FF is one of the few non Rolex watches that i will have - at some point.

    PS - Rolex knowledge a bit weak? Pull the other :)

  28. #28
    Grand Master seikopath's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    brilliant post andy, i appreciate that. :thumbright:
    Good luck everybody. Have a good one.

  29. #29
    Master Thewatchbloke's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Excellent read, beautiful watch :thumbup:

  30. #30

    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Thank you for sharing, and congratulations.

  31. #31
    Grand Master GraniteQuarry's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Yay, now that's a watch and that's a result. Pleased as punch for ya mate, know you've been searching for quite a while.

    The four fellas involved, you are the A-Team! :D

  32. #32
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    I admire your perseverance as well and the watch is a stunner.

    please write more if you like. :)

  33. #33

    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Great post, really interesting read, sounds like quite a journey. I never realised there were so many variations in terms of cases, movements dial etc.

    Oh yeah and great watch, congrats :)

    Andy.

  34. #34
    Master westy's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Very enjoyable read, thanks for taking the time to post it! 8)

    Oh and the watch isn't too bad either.... :shock:

  35. #35
    Master
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    What a lovely story,a welcome contrast to our tendancy to instant gratification.

  36. #36
    Grand Master gray's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    That's quite nice :lol: :wink: :lol:

    Congratulations on a fruitful hunt
    Gray

  37. #37
    Master
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Congrats!

    I enjoyed the story behind how you came to own it as much as the pictures themselves, great work.

    Wear it with pride 8)

  38. #38
    Master j111dja's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    A great watch and a superb read. What a classic combination. 8)

  39. #39
    Master numberjack's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Fantastic watch and fantastic post mate.
    I would love a vintage FF but with my lack of knowledge I fear it will always evade me.

  40. #40

    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Wow.

  41. #41
    Grand Master SimonK's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Glad to see it all worked out well. Great result and well worth the wait.

  42. #42
    Grand Master Neil.C's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Great FF Andy, you must be very pleased and a brilliantly educational write up to go with it.

    This is watch forum gold. :D
    Cheers,
    Neil.

    My Speedmaster website:

    http://www.freewebs.com/neil271052

  43. #43

    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Excellent, whilst i was hooked on vintage dive watches last year, i tried to digest as much info as i could on them. The BPFF was always mentioned as being a grail watch in collecting terms amongst the most respected and knowledgable posters.

    Well done on securing a gem and a lovely write-up indeed.

    James.

  44. #44
    Craftsman Andsan's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Great post.

    Anders

  45. #45
    Master Stinkinbadger's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    What a fantastic story, thanks for posting.

  46. #46

    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    thanks for putting the effort into writing this, I enjoyed reading it.

    These watches deserve their iconic status.

  47. #47
    Master PipPip's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Great post Andy and nice to learn all about the watch I delivered! Have to say its a stunning watch in the metal and I had no idea that my carrying it across from Paris was the end of so much due diligence and effort. Congratulations again!

  48. #48

    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    its hard to find any other words than just droooooooolin' ...........

    very nice :)

  49. #49
    Master shalako's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Great post, just what watch passion is all about, thanks for posting.

  50. #50
    Grand Master Andyg's Avatar
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    Re: ITS ARRIVED

    Just wanted to say thanks for all the nice things people have said :D .

    Andy

    Whoever does not know how to hit the nail on the head should be asked not to hit it at all.
    Friedrich Nietzsche


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