Always wanted a vintage Fifty Fathoms, but didn’t have a platinum credit card? There are dozens of micro-brands that get you covered, but you should probably wait until MK II restarts the production of its Stingray Keroman collection.
Keroman was a German naval base in occupied France during World War II. Extending the operational capabilities of the Nazi submarine fleet, the base played an important role in the battle for the Atlantic. Fortunately, the Allies won so now we (or at least some of us) can enjoy life in the free world: buying fancy cars, luxury watches, and, you know, just being alive regardless of race and gender identity.
In this light, the choice of the name for this homage to the first generation of Blancpain Fifty Fathoms is a bit, uh, controversial.
If you take a closer look at the MK II Stingray Keroman, you will immediately notice that this is not a “reproduction” of the original model (or any of its subsequent iterations.) If you are interested in something closer to the real thing in its appearance, you can try a Tornek-Rayville TR-660, which is essentially the same Stingray Keroman, but in a different skin.
As its source of inspiration, the SK uses the Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC I that arrived soon after the overwhelming success of the original 1953 model.
Compared to the original, the later version used sword-shaped hands and replaced the four Arabic numerals with four larger hour markers. There are just three rectangular-shaped ones at three, six, and nine o’clock, as well as a “diamond” at 12 o’clock.
So, what is the impression? Well, I am somewhat impressed.
Like many timekeepers designed after vintage “icons”, this one, too, comes in a compact case.
The 316L-grade stainless steel body measures 40 millimeters in diameter (the notched crown adds about 3-4 mm to the overall width) and just over 48 millimeters from lug to lug.
Using a standard automatic movement and a thick double-domed sapphire crystal at the front, the watch is predictably thick measuring almost 15 millimeters from top to bottom. However, it should be at least as comfortable to wear as the vintage model thanks to its more ergonomic profile.
The bead-blasted surface gives the Stingray Keroman a deliciously “technical” look, although it would probably limit its overall versatility. Wearing this one with a formal suit will be difficult to pull off.
The 120-click unidirectional rotating bezel is notched for a better grip. It comes with an acrylic inlay that features a luminous diving scale. The inlay looks almost identical to the one on the original model. The only difference is the triangular mark at 60/00 position that replaces the original rhombus.
For those scared about the scratch-resistance properties of the acrylic bezel, there is also a version with a more common aluminum inlay. What is the trade-off, you may ask? You get only one luminous element (the dot at the 60/00 position) that will make the watch not as readable (or, at least, not as entertaining to look at) at night.
Initially, the model was available with a choice of four straps: Nytex Type I-M2 (Khaki and Black,) black rubber, as well as a black MODspec NATO made by Crown & Buckle. Not sure what they will offer when the production restarts: probably, the same.
The watch sports 20-millimeter drilled-through lugs, so, even if you are not happy with the original strap, finding a replacement (and actually replacing it at home) won’t be a problem.
The Seiko Instruments Caliber SII NE15C is a clone of the Cal. 6R15C. The Japanese brand sells the NE15C to third-party watchmakers (mostly dozens of micro-brands who can’t get their hands on ETA calibers.)
The list of functions is the same. You get a quickset date, hacking seconds, a simple date indicator, and, of course, the familiar “three-hander” layout.
Approximately 50 hours of continuous operation that comes courtesy of the relatively slow-beating (just 21,600 semi-oscillations per hour, ugh) balance wheel are more than enough for something so versatile that most of us will buy it as a daily driver.
Judging by the number of jewels, this particular iteration of the mechanism is the latest for the series: earlier iterations featured 23 rubies. Besides an extra stone for a smoother operation, the NE15C has some minor technical improvements over the earlier models that make it a bit more reliable.
Speaking of reliability, I have read many threads on Reddit regarding the problems that plague pre-6r15D versions of the movement. Some of them suddenly start to rapidly lose or gain time. Some just stop working without warning. So, keep this in mind.
The Dial & Legibility
To make the dial of the “tribute” even clearer, MKII decided to replace the hemispheric moisture indicator at six o’clock with a simple inscription. The brand’s logo replaces the “Blancpain” and “Fifty Fathoms” lines at 12 o’clock.
The rest is more or less the same.
The Pricing & Availability
At this time, the watch is sold-out but MKII is going to re-open ordering in June 2022 at (hopefully) the same price of $895.
Compared to other “homages” from numerous micro-brands, the price is on the higher side, but not too much. To put things in perspective, a Baltic Aquascaphe with a Miyota 9039 caliber costs less than $800.
Photos: MKII Watches
Build Quality: 5/5
Overall Legibility: 4.5/5
Nighttime Legibility: 5/5
Value for Money: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
MK II Stingray Keroman specification
Price: $895 (MSRP)
Winding: Automatic (manual winding option)
Movement: Seiko Instruments caliber NE15C, quickset date, hacking seconds, Made in Japan
Movement finish: Cotes de Geneve on the oscillating weight
Number of Jewels: 24
Cadence of Balance: 21,600 vph
Power Reserve: approx. 50 hours
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Case: Stainless steel, bead-blasted
Bezel: Unidirectional rotating, luminous numerals
Crown: Stainless steel, double gasket, screw-down
Bezel shape: Round
Size: 40.00 mm
Case height: 14.70 mm
Lug width: 20.00 mm
Numerals: Arabic, luminous
Hour markers: Luminous (Superluminova)
Hands: Luminous, sword-shaped, powder-coated
Water resistance: 200 meters
Strap: Leather strap or C&B Premium UK MOD strap (black)
Crystal: Double domed sapphire crystal, with anti-reflective coating on the interior surface only