The Blancpain static apnea experience

In early March, the Belgium Watch Club was invited by Colman Jewelry & Watches to participate in a “static apnea experience”, with no less than multiple world record holder Gianluca Genoni sponsored by Blancpain.

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Growing up at the coast, with a huge love for everything marine related, possessing a diving license and being a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms owner, I was pleased to accept their invitation.

We were expected at 10 o’clock in the prestigious Hotel La Réserve in Knokke, located on the banks of the Zegemeer and within walking distance of the beach. I couldn’t imagine a better location for this experience. Well, honestly I could, if Belgium wasn’t a rainy country… Think Maldives…

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La Réserve has a luxury wellness and spa facility on the 6th floor, a tranquil retreat with a view over Knokke and it’s Zegemeer. Diving on an upper level, this was a first timer for me.

Before we were able to take part in the experience we were spoiled with a small breakfast followed by a presentation by Gianluca Genoni, sharing his passion and experience with us, watchlovers. Static apnea is a discipline in which one holds their breath underwater for as long as possible, without needing to swim any distance. Gianluca Genoni is able to do that for a “breathtaking” 18:03 minutes, and since we’re watch aficionados, those 3 seconds are important. You don’t need to think about it, it is CRAZY, with capital letters.

Good thing I didn’t have too much breakfast, according to Gianluca it’s important not to eat much before a dive. Going through some basic skills, as well as Blancpain’s commitment to the Ocean and the history of the Fifty Fathoms we left for the 6th floor with our gear supplied by Blancpain.

The first round was a test round, going through the exercises again, repeating the basics. I was quite thrilled to try it. We were off, 30 seconds and stop, well, that went fluently. After 3 rounds Blancpain decided to give away an exclusive book to the person that was able to set a record in our group. My friend Aäron Boucke was determined to win the competition.

It’s important to set your mind free during this exercise, but it seemed to be the hardest part for me. All you needed to do was empty your head and let your whole body go loose. Not an easy thing to do, so it seems. The 6th and last run I was able to set a personal record of 2:48min. After coming out of the water I noticed Aaron was still holding his breath, it was a close call but he got his book! An amazing time of about 4:10minutes!

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After the static apnea experience we were treated by Blancpain to a gastronomic lunch followed by something we’re passionate about, watches. The whole Fifty Fathoms collection was spread out for us and Colman presented the pieces to all of their guests. The sun came out and it continued to be a fun afternoon, talking about our experience with Gianluca and of course, watches.

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While having lunch I spent time chatting to Arnaud Blandin, brand manager for Blancpain. Expressing my love for the whole Fifty Fathoms line up. Although one thing came up. The size. Having owned a fifty fathoms the size never bothered me but I always had a preference for the 50th Anniversary with the 40mm case size. Due to their rarity the price point was out of reach for me.

I had to mention my hope for a 40mm release of the Fifty Fathoms.

A few weeks later we hit Baselworld and Blancpain was able to amaze me with their new release, a 40mm Fifty Fathoms, tribute to the Mil-Spec watch. Amazing! The original military issued piece was designed with a humidity indicator on the dial, informing the diver if the watch was still waterproof.

These vintage pieces are extremely rare and desired amongst collectors. With the whole vintage craze it makes sense for Blancpain to release this tribute piece.

Blancpain took this tribute seriously by adding a working moisture indicator on the dial, just like the vintage piece. The upper white part will change from white to orange when moisture enters the watch. It used to be a handy barometer for displaying the condition of the rubber seals. While the indicator might be out of place in the current form of watchmaking and quality control, it’s still nice to see Blancpain staying true to a main feature of the original piece.

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Just like the vintage version, in the event of moisture ingress, the upper half-circle of the indicator changes from white to orange, thereby matching the lower half and letting the wearer know the watch had been compromised. Granted, dive watches used to be much more susceptible to fogging or outright flooding – and even though the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms was considered a leader in watertightness at the time, the indicator was still a handy barometer for displaying the overall health of the watch’s seals. Now, the odds of this indicator ever seeing action on a fully modern, 300-meter resistant dive watch seems pretty unlikely, but it’s still great to see Blancpain staying true to a key feature on the original.

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The “Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC” is fitted with Blancpain’s in-house automatic winding caliber 1151, comprising 210 components including two series-coupled mainspring barrels and offering a four-day power reserve.

This timepiece is water resistant to 30 bar, which is equivalent to 300 meters. It is limited to 500 examples and is offered with a NATO strap, sail cloth strap, or steel bracelet with a secure buckle.

Price: CHF 13,400

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