By Shane Griffin
on 12.3.13
Photo by Blancpain, Halios

If you’re like us, you have a long list of watches you’d love to own. But reality (almost) always steps in, and your desires remain unfulfilled. Gear Patrol’s series “Want This, Get This” presents a lust-worthy timepiece along with a more affordable alternative that scratches the same itch. This week, we feature the forebear of all modern dive watches and a young upstart that still holds its own.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms

When a discussion of iconic dive watches comes about, the average watch enthusiast’s gut reaction typically leans toward the Rolex Submariner. While the story of “who began development first” can be debated all day, the fact is Blancpain commercially released the Fifty Fathoms ($12,500) in 1953, shortly ahead of the Sub. The original Fifty Fathoms used by the French military was developed with many of the hallmarks of the modern dive watch: a bold, clean, legible dial; a rotating bezel with markings matching the dial; and a water resistant case. You can name just about any modern diver and there’s a good chance that design cues can be traced back to the Fifty Fathoms.

Blancpain’s maintenance of the Fifty Fathom’s design integrity has been relentless. Placing the original reference and the current standard Fifty Fathoms side by side reveals an unmistakable relationship. The main difference is that the current reference seems to have taken steroids; the case size has grown from 41mm-42mm to a hefty 45mm.

But history, innovation, and marketing campaigns reminding you of said history and innovation come at a steep price. For the everyday man, a five-figure price tag is hard to swallow, which is why we recommend shopping around.

Halios Tropik SS

The stiff price tag of the Fifty Fathoms has created a huge market for homage and replica watches of varying levels of quality. We could tell you to go for dead-on homage pieces like the Helson Skindiver, a modded Seiko Fifty-Five Fathoms, an Ocean 7 LM-5, or the Precista PRS-50, but that’s too easy. “Want This, Get This” isn’t really about showing the copy-cat alternative. That’s why we suggest the Halios Tropik SS ($650), a quality timepiece that shares design cues with the Fifty Fathoms but still has its own personality.

Halios is a favorite of frugal watch buyers who are unwilling to sacrifice quality (that is, smart folks). Produced in limited runs, each Halios watch is a testament to originality — a rare characteristic amid the ever-growing population of boutique watch companies. Just about every reference released by Halios has been sold out, and the Tropik SS will very likely follow suit.

The SS features a domed sapphire crystal, an uncluttered and bold uni-directional rotating bezel, 300 meters of water resistance, and a clean, legible dial — all hallmarks of the current Fifty Fathoms. Some may balk at the use of the Japanese-made Miyota 9015, but it’s a movement that’s garnered much praise and popularity since ETA has begun cutting back on supplying its movements. With in-sourced design creativity and out-sourced execution, the Halios Tropik SS is a wallet savior.

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