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Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bronze Milspecs. 14 years of investigation on case numbers

amanico
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14 years since now. In fact, it took me 5 years to fully understand the Fifty Fathoms Bronze Milspec case. From 2008 to 2013... In 2008, I discovered two Bronze Milspec, an US NAVY and a " Civilian ".

Since then, I started to investigate on them, contacted all my friends collecting vintage Fifty Fathoms, sellers, and made some researches on the net to cross all the informations I could gather here and there. 

In 2012, I had enough certitudes to jump on a Bronze Milspec which was offered to me, the Number 3221: 

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Indeed, I could find some interesting coincidences about case numbers.Especially in the Serial Number range from 3163 to 3248...
 
There is a difference of 85 numbers, only, and there are two things I pointed out:
 
1/ The Serial Numbers 3163 and 3248 are both Civilian Milspecs, no Bronze case, with a 2 piece case back, which is not rare for a Milspec, BUT, more interesting, both come with drilled lugs....
 
Alain's marvellous specimen ( 3163 )
 
 
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My " Ex " ( 3248 ) 
 
 
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2/  More curious, the " Bronze case "...
 
" Bronze " is the color, not the material, to be clear. 
 
It is certainly due to the treatment made on the sandblasted case, as pointed out by some of us ( BDLJ ) in previous posts.
 
I observed several of them during these 14 years of investigation, the numbers 3201, 3205, 3208, 3215, 3217, 3221, 3223, 3224, 3225, 3226, 3227, 3229, 3232, 3233,3234, 3237 and 3239. I am aware of other Bronze Milspec, the 3246, the number 3220 and the 3230
 
Among these twenty, five of them are US NAVY, which were part of two prestigious collections ( Nr 3226 and 3233 ),  the third one ( Lot 231, Nr 3227 none has attended the Fifty Fathoms Exhibition, and the last one, the 3217, has been auctioned by Phillips at the end of the year 2015, as well as the 3237, in December 2021.
 
Both of them come with the small crown, sometimes with a triangular index on the bezel, at 12 o'clock, sometimes with a losange index.
 
Here are the pics of a few of them:

- Nr 3201 ( Credit picture: Phillips ), with a dial which belongs to another Milspec, not to a Bronze Milspec, definitely...

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- Nr 3217 ( Credit picture: Phillips ) :

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- Nr 3221, my Bronze Milspec, which is strictly identical to the Nrs 3205 and 3208, as show, below.

The 3221:
 
 
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The 3208: 

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- Nr 3226 ( The Nr 3233, the Nr 3217 and 3237 are in all points identical, at the exception of the losange at 12 o clock, on the 3226, while the others have a triangle ) :
 
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3237 ( Credit: Phillips ) :

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- Nr 3223: ( The dial and the bezel are not correct, as the dial should of course be a Milspec, not a 3 / 6 / 9 / 12, the bezel should be bronze as well, not stainless steel ). The Nr 3234 and 3225 have the same incorrect dial, but with a correct triangle bezel.
 
 
3225 ( Credit Hodinkee )

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A detailed view on the small crown, the long thick lugs and case back of the 3323:
 
 
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- Nr 3224, seen in Konrad Knirim's reference book: A " curious " dial, while the rest of the watch is perfect.
 
 
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- The Nr 3239 has been seen at the Fifty Fathoms Exhibition, too ( Lot Nr 237 ) and has a 6 / 9 / 12 + Date dial, signed " Technisub ", which cannot be the good one, for the same reason than Alain's " Bronze ". ( On the extreme right )
 
 
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We compared the  lugs on the no Bronze and Bronze Milspecs, to see if the cases were different or not.
 
The answer comes with these pictures.
 
No difference between a " normal " Milspec and the Bronze Milspec:
 
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The US Navy Bronze cases came all with an AS 1361 HACKING movement, while the others  housed an AS 1700 ( 1701 with date, but I already mentioned my reserve on any other dial than a Milspec, on these watches ).

The Cal AS 1700: 

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The only exception to this rule is the 3215, which seems to have a " normal " microbillé case, a bronze outer part of the case back, a Cal 1361, and an early Milspec dial. Curious one...
 
From all these observations, raises a question, or a speculation...
 
Were all these Bronze cases supposed to be US NAVY Milspecs?
 
I have a theory, here, which seemed to be confirmed by someone who knows a watchmaker who worked at Blancpain.
 
This may well be a small batch of watches submitted to the US Navy, after the TR 900, but which didn't pass the tests. Why, I don't know...
 
Maybe because they were too expensive, maybe because the US Navy had other plans, maybe because they just didn't pass the tests...
 
Were they? We saw that it was not the truth. We can also guess that a few of them were coming with the US Navy Dial and the AS 1361, and that, after that the US Navy passed on them, Blancpain decided to put a " civilian " dial  and use an AS 1700, as it was the case for the Civilian Milspecs from this era...
 
This is something we'll still have to dig out, with time, luck and help from the Fifty Fathoms Community!

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Best,
 
Nicolas.

Comments:
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Mary Anny October 11th, 2022-06:55
What an interesting review to start the day with, Nicolas! Thanks for sharing it! ... 
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amanico October 12th, 2022-08:55
Nice modern contender, mon ami. The spirit is here. 
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Mary Anny October 12th, 2022-15:06
No comparison here, Just an amateur!
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amanico October 12th, 2022-15:07
Not at all, the BB is very well made! 
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Mary Anny October 12th, 2022-15:19
It is, but those are historical pieces... In a couple of decades, maybe!
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198042 October 14th, 2022-16:01
Many thanks for the superb overview Cheers from CH Richard
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amanico October 14th, 2022-22:01
My pleasure, Richard. See you soon! 
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J K October 11th, 2022-06:57
Thanks for informative post, Nicolas. By the way, pics are superb! 
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amanico October 12th, 2022-08:55
Thank you so much for your kind words, J K. 
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LFPTK October 11th, 2022-06:57
300 K posts ! Congratulations !!! And what a post ! 🤩🤩🤩🤩 ! Thank you so much for all your work for us ! 
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Watches and Wonders 2022: Jaeger Lecoultre Master Hybris Artistica Cal 945 Galaxia ( Rose Gold ) or Atomium ( White Gold ).

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