It is with great sorrow that Manufacture Blancpain and its President & CEO, Marc A. Hayek, learned of the passing of Captain Robert “Bob” Maloubier at the age of 92. A secret agent of the British Special Operations Executive during the Second World War, Bob Maloubier parachuted into France and, subsequently into Asia. In the 1950’s he was the founder and commander, together with Lieutenant Claude Riffaud, of the French military’s combat diving corps. It was in this capacity that he became a part of the history of replica Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms watches.
For his missions, beyond his diving tanks, regulators, masks, fins and wetsuits, Maloubier and Riffaud understood the importance of having a robust and reliable diving watch. After having thoroughly tested watches which were available on the market, they came to the conclusion that none of them were suitable for the task. It was following this experience that contact was made with Jean-Jacques Fiechter, then CEO of Blancpain, who was himself a diver and passionate about the underwater world. Maloubier and Blancpain shared a common vision on the attributes of a timepiece that would be adapted to the needs of divers. Robert Maloubier describes his dealings with Blancpain thus: “Finally there was a small watch company, Blancpain, which agreed to develop our project which imagined a cheap replica watches with a black dial, large numerals and clear indications using triangles, circles and squares, as well as an exterior rotating bezel mirroring the markers of the dial. We wanted at the beginning of a dive to position the bezel opposite the minute hand so as to be able to read the elapsed time. We wanted in effect that each of the markers be as clear as a guiding star for a shepherd.” Fully embodying this shared vision was the first modern diving watch, named by Blancpain the “Fifty Fathoms”, which debuted in 1953.
From this point on, came enduring ties between Bob Maloubier and Blancpain. In his later years, the veteran combat diver took part in many events around the world organized by Blancpain and assisted in the recent publication recounting this shared history in the reference book “Fifty Fathoms, The dive and men’s replica watches history 1953-2013”.
Member of the Legion of Honor and three times cited for the War Cross between 1939-1945, Bob Maloubier was one of the two last surviving recipients of prestigious Distinguished Service Order bestowed in 1945. In early June, the day before the ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings, he was recognized as a Member of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in a ceremony held in Paris.
We extend our condolences and deepest sympathy to his family and to other combat divers.