I love flying. Reaching new heights and destinations, the G-force at take off is enough to get me excited. You won’t, however, find me plummeting from a plane but I will dive to the extreme depths of the ocean. That is, as deep as my PADI license will allow me. It’s been a while since my last dive and I miss the quiet, the inquisitive stares from fish and the wild blue yonder-ness of it all.
Having grown up in East London, there wasn’t a term that went by without a primary school visit to the local museum with its dusty dioramas of the natural and cultural sort. I was continuously reminded of the mysteries of the deep by its most famous resident, the type specimen of the coelacanth. Discovered in a fisherman’s catch and brought to the attention of the world by local museum official Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer in 1938, this fish was previously believed to have been extinct for 65-million years.
Blancpain has been the main partner of Laurent Ballesta and his Gombessa Project since 2013 in their quest to document the living coelacanths after an encounter with one in 2010 in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of South Africa. (Gombessa is the local name for this most endangered of creatures in the world). Ballesta is the recipient of this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year ‘Earth's Environments’ category run by the Natural History Museum in London. His dramatic winning image was created by merging 147 pictures shot during the Gombessa III Antarctica expedition and shows for the first time the entire submerged part of an iceberg. We normally only get to see the tip of an iceberg, constituting only 10% above water of its entire floating mass. In this case its 10m-high peak sits atop an incredible ‘ice monster’ suspended approximately 45m below the surface in this sub-zero, dreamy landscape.
The magic is in the ocean’s unpredictability and its ever-changing landscape. Alas the change in more recent years has been brought about by humans through global warming, pollution and over fishing to devastating effect. I remember my first open water dive off the coast of Mozambique. It was a swelteringly hot day and the sea was crystal clear and calm. Visibility was at its best, which meant that every sea creature great and small could be seen clearly from at least 20m. I was so overwhelmed that I forgot to breath. With few bubbles coming out of my regulator mouthpiece my instructor had to tap me on the shoulder a couple of times to bring me out of my trance. In my case the instructor was my most useful bit of equipment but there can be no messing around when it comes to the right gear. A reliable dive watch with bold, clear markers is essential to make sure you are not left in the deep taking your last breath.
The Blancpain Tribute Fifty Fathoms MIL-SPEC is a reinterpretation of the first ‘real’ diver’s watch from 1953 with its uni-directional rotating bezel. Its double-sealed crown system, paired with the ‘O’ ring channel for the screw-down case back at the time ensured water resistance to an incredible fifty fathoms (91.44m below the surface to be precise). Its large diameter and bold contrast of white luminescent indexes and hands set against a black background guaranteed legibility at extreme depths where visibility isn’t always perfect. The automatic movement also reduces wear of the crown against its seals.
The 2017 version of this vintage piece has a 40mm stainless steel case and is fitted with an in-house automatic winding caliber 1151, featuring two series-coupled mainspring barrels and offers a four-day power reserve. The black dial has indexes in Super-LuminNova® and a water-tightness indicator reminiscent of the original. This watch is water resistant to 30 bar (300m) and limited to 500 pieces on a choice of NATO strap, sail cloth strap, or steel bracelet.
Swatch Group +27119111200