Every two years, the watch industry gathers around a great cause, that of fighting against Duchenne muscular dystrophy, by donating unique watches to be auctioned during one of the major events of the year, Only Watch. The idea is to create special models that will never be done again, and in all fairness, all brands are certainly playing this game, with striking watches. As always, there is always a few models that will catch our attention even more, for instance, this year’s unique piece by Blancpain, an orange-coloured (this year’s theme) take on the Tribute to Fifty Fathoms No Rad.
The No Rad name is certainly important for dive watch enthusiasts, and specifically for those collecting military models. Part of the multiple suppliers of watches to special forces and frogmen, Blancpain has always been a top choice, the brand being a precursor in the field of diver’s instrument. In 1953, Blancpain and its president, Jean-Jacques Fiechter, presented a watch that will be known as one of the earliest dive watches, something that will give the brand incredible legitimacy and attract various military forces around the globe. For instance, Blancpain developed in the mid-1960s a watch for the German military – or “Bundeswehr” – the so-called Fifty Fathoms RPG 1 model, or “Bund No Rad.” This watch equipped the “Kampfschwimmer”, the elite German frogman commando unit, until the early 1970s. The distinguishing attribute of the RPG 1 model was the “no radiations” logo found at 6 o’clock on the dial.
These “No Radiations” Blancpain, with their dial indicating the absence of radium, have since become highly collectable. For this reason, the brand presented in 2010 a watch paying tribute to these “No Rad” watches, with the ref. 5015B Tribute to Fifty Fathoms.
And earlier this year, Blancpain presented another re-edition, this time in a smaller steel case with an even more instrumental look, with this very attractive edition.
Blancpain’s watch dedicated to Only Watch 2021 is based on the No Rad watch presented in March 2021, with most of the technical specifications and proportions being identical, however, with multiple elements to make this OW model unique – and rather bold yet attractive. What is retained? Well, the case of this No Rad for Only Watch 2021 is the same, meaning a rather compact polished stainless steel case of 40.30mm, with screwed crown and caseback and a 300m water-resistance. The bezel, with its discreet notching on the side is also kept identical, however, the insert is different, and so is the dial.
For each edition, Only Watch design a specific colour chart and this year’s edition of the fundraiser is based on an orange theme. While not all brands have decided to use this colour in their unique watch, Blancpain advantageously relies on this bold colour to create a uniquely designed No Rad. First, the bezel’s insert, which is still made of domed and glossy sapphire crystal, sees its fully-graduated 60-minute scale executed in orange, with luminescent material underneath.
Then, the dial of this Tribute to Fifty Fathoms No Rad for Only Watch 2021 has been slightly modified too. Obviously, orange is found on the markers and the hands. Both have a very different profile than a classic, non-limited Fifty Fathoms watch, as the markers show a combination of dots and rectangles, and are painted on the dial. In the same vein, the hands are white-painted and not polished metal. The other difference in this OW model is the No Rad logo, which now has an orange background with a yellow logo. The matte black base remains identical too, but if you look closely, you’ll see that this unique piece is a no-date watch, while the edition of March 2021 featured a date window at 3 o’clock.
Orange isn’t the easiest of colours and can sometimes result in watches that are too ostentatious. But here, I must admit that the way Blancpain has used it is just stunning. The orange colour almost makes the watch tropical, ultra-patinated and even more lively than the traditional model. Not to mention that the no-date display will certainly please more than one enthusiast. For the rest, the watch is still greatly sized and comfortable, with its tropic-like rubber strap.
Under the hood is also a slightly different movement. The standard production model is equipped with the calibre 1151. For this OW edition, Blancpain is using the calibre 1154, which shares the same technical base but is a real no-date movement (no ghost position here). Beating at 3Hz, it boasts 100 hours of power reserve and is finely decorated, with a black coated rotor in solid gold with a special “Only Watch” inscription.
This Blancpain Tribute to Fifty Fathoms No Rad for Only Watch 2021 is part of the 53 lots that will be auctioned in November. It is estimated at CHF 12,000 – 18,000, which certainly is a very pessimistic range for this obviously very cool edition of the FF.
Created in 2005, Only Watch is a biennial fundraiser for research on muscular dystrophy – Association Monégasque Contre les Myopathies (AMM). Organized under the patronage of HSH Albert II de Monaco, the watches of the 9th edition will be auctioned by Christie’s on Saturday 6 November 2021. More details at www.onlywatch.com.