Kickstarter can be a beautiful way to launch a brand and it abounds with great and equally disappointing projects. From time to time, we see great campaigns surface and today is one of them, marked by a distinct French accent. France has a long history when it comes to watches and, specifically, dive watches. From Comex to Captain Cousteau, watches for professional divers are closely associated with the city of Marseille, on the Mediterranean Sea. Another name, less famous perhaps but no less significant has to be added to this list: Jacques Bianchi, a watchmaker whose workshop overlooks the Old Port of Marseille. In the 1980s, he created a watch specifically for these men, and today it stages a comeback. Meet the Jacques Bianchi JB200 Dive Watch Re-Edition launching now on Kickstarter.
Behind this name is a man who is now in his eighties. With his workshop next to Marseille’s port, Jacques Bianchi has known Jacques Mayol and Captain Cousteau and his second-in-command Albert Falco, and repaired most of the Rolex watches of the Comex divers. He also created his own brand and discovered dozens of water-resistance processes throughout his career. Under his name, he created a diver’s watch, water-resistant to 200 meters and powered by a French quartz movement. Recognisable among many thanks to the large silhouette of a frogman appearing on its black dial, it measured 42mm and had a so-called “destro” profile. The JB200 collection was launched in 1982 and distributed in a trickle to fittings and dive stores in the southeast of France. Towards the end of the 1980s, a few batches of JB 200 watches were purchased by Marine Toulon via the Fleet Supply Service, the French National Marine Department then in charge of purchasing equipment for divers. A few dozen Jacques Bianchi Marseille JB 200 Quartz watches, probably around 60 pieces, were ordered by the French Navy. These watches were used at the naval airbase of Saint-Raphaël, alongside Tudor, ZRC or le Forban watches.
This year, Jacques Bianchi JB200 Dive Watch is coming back in a modernised version, equipped with an automatic movement and in a relatively accessible package. Behind the resurrection of the brand is, of course, Jacques Bianchi himself, but also Fabrice Pougez, the man behind MAT Watches. And while the duo has decided to remain faithful to the style of the original watch, they’ve also updated the watch to make it more in line with the expectations of current dive enthusiasts.
As such, the new Jacques Bianchi JB200 Dive Watch retains most emblematic elements of the initial model, such as its destro-shaped case, with a screw-down crown positioned at 9 o’clock and firmly protected by square-shaped guards. The watch also retains its instrumental look and feel, with a 42mm cushion-shaped stainless steel case, a nicely polished bevel on the sides of the lugs and a very 1970s circular-brushed surface on top. Framing the sapphire crystal is a 60-click unidirectional bezel with a black insert and a complete 60-min scale engraved and then filled with beige-coloured Super-LumiNova. The watch also retains the original 200m water-resistance.
As for the dial, one of the most distinctive elements of the original watch, the new Jacques Bianchi JB200 sticks to the same combination of hands – stick for the hours, arrow for the minutes and square lollipop for the seconds – running over a matte black grained background. Painted markers are found all around and executed in beige-coloured Super-LumiNova for a vintage touch. Finally, the iconic silhouette of the diver, with his eye riveted on his watch, occupies the centre of the dial.
Some updates have been made for the new JB200 Dive Watch. For instance, the size of the indexes has been slightly increased for better readability. The diver has also been slightly redesigned to look more contemporary and the date window at 6 o’clock has been removed. The indication “Jacques Bianchi Marseille” appears at 6 o’clock.
One of the most important modifications made to the watch, compared to the 1980s edition, is the presence of an automatic movement in lieu of the quartz calibre. Certainly great for divers back in the day, the decision to have an automatic calibre is more relevant in today’s market. Inside is the tried-and-tested Seiko NH35, a 3Hz movement with a 41h power reserve and proven reliability.
The JB200 Re-Edition is worn on a black Tropic-type rubber strap, characteristic of the era of its birth, and closed by a steel pin buckle.
The Jacques Bianchi JB200 Dive Watch Re-Edition will be available from 15 June 2021, at 3 PM, Europe time – on Kickstarter with a launch price of EUR 595. For more details and pre-order, please visit jacquesbianchi.com and the Kickstarter page here.