INSIGHT: Blancpain Ocean Commitment – the stories behind the pictures

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Editor’s Note: Since 2008 Blancpain has been publishing the world’s best underwater photography in Edition Fifty Fathoms, each year showcasing 12 pictures from four leading photographers as part of the Blancpain Ocean Commitment project. Dietmar Fuchs is the editor of this annual publication, and today he shares the chance encounters, fateful moments and poignant stories from the photographers behind twelve of these beautiful pictures. Blue in Profile — Anacapa Passage, California, 1981 Ernest H. Brooks II — Edition Fifty Fathoms 2008 “It was in early 1981 when I was going out nearly every day to take pictures of seals that I realised, that on all my dives with the seals, a lonely blue shark was circling us far in the distance. In the following days he came closer and closer until one day he was close enough for me to start using him as a photo model. It didn’t scare him and he stayed with me during the whole dive, so we became friends – in my mind at least. I named him Blue and he was with me the whole summer. This shot was taken at the end of a dive while I was ascending to the surface, and Blue… Read More

HOLIDAY BUYING GUIDE: The Blancpain Ocean Commitment Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph

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Ocean Commitment is Blancpain’s signature program that aims to raise awareness and help preserve the marine environment, through exhibitions, scientific expeditions and special watches like this Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph. This watch doesn’t just look good, it does good, too. When it was announced back in 2014, we thought a mistake had been made on the press release. This handsome blue chronograph couldn’t genuinely be cased in ceramic, could it? Surely it was brushed titanium or steel? It wasn’t until we held the watch in our hands at Baselworld this year that we appreciated just how amazing this case is. It’s what we’ve since started referring to as ‘stealth ceramic’ – the grey gives it a metallic look, and the brushed finish completes the illusion. But get in close and the similarity to metal disappears. The bezel and the angles on the lugs look like Oscar Niemeyer-esque monumental architecture. The crown and chronograph pushers are also in ceramic – but don’t go thinking this is purely for desk divers. The chronograph is a functional diving tool, safely operable at up to 300 metres, with no fiddly unscrewing of pushers required. What we like most about the watch is how well the… Read More

INSIGHT: The History of Blancpain’s Ocean Commitment

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Editor’s Note: In the middle of last century, the exploration of the ocean’s hidden depths became possible due to two key developments: reliable underwater breathing apparatus and effectively watertight watches. In a special story, Dietmar Fuchs, Editor of Blancpain’s annual Edition Fifty Fathoms, discusses how the availability of these technologies led to a rise in popularity of the underwater world and consequently to our awareness of the need to preserve it. The predawn era Many people associate the birth of sport diving with the explorer, filmmaker and scientist Jacques Yves Cousteau and his famous AquaLung, but nine years before Costeau’s The Silent World Austrian scientist Hans Hass had already conquered the depths using modified military gear – his first film, Humans and Sharks, premiered in 1947. Through books, cinema and television Hass showed the world the beauty and importance of the oceans. 1953 An important year in the history of sport diving, 1953 saw Swiss watch manufacturer and CEO of Blancpain Jean-Jacques Fiechter develop the first modern diving watch with French combat diver Captain Robert Maloubier. Not only did they construct a watertight and pressure-resistant watch case, they also invented the dive bezel lock in the form of the the… Read More

IN-DEPTH: The Blancpain Ocean Commitment Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph

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  The story in a second: With one of the most impressive ceramic cases we’ve seen, the only problem with this Blancpain is that it’s limited to 250 pieces. Ocean Commitment is Blancpain’s signature program that aims to raise awareness and help preserve the marine environment, through exhibitions, sponsoring scientific expeditions and releasing limited edition watches like this Bathyscaphe Flyback Chronograph. Proceeds go directly to Ocean Commitment projects. So this watch doesn’t just look good, it does good, too. The case When this watch was announced back in 2014, we thought a mistake had been made on the press release. This handsome blue chronograph couldn’t genuinely be cased in ceramic, could it? Surely it was brushed titanium or steel? It wasn’t until we held the watch in our hands at Baselworld this year that we appreciated just how amazing this case is. Because this is what we’re calling ‘stealth ceramic’ – the grey gives it a metallic look, and the brushed finish completes the illusion. But get in close and the similarity to metal disappears – the bezel and the angles on the lugs look more like Oscar Niemeyer-esque monumental architecture. The crown and chronograph pushers are also in ceramic… Read More

EVENT: The Blancpain Ocean Commitment Event, Icebergs, Sydney

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Patina is fast becoming a meaningless word in watchmaking. This is because it has been highjacked by marketing and R&D departments. Patina is now shorthand for an off-white dial, yellowed lume or a distressed leather strap. Patina is a commodity. It sells watches. Like a ceramic bezel, a silicone escapement, a NATO strap; it’s an aesthetic trend, and a really good one, we can’t get enough and we hope it’s not over yet. But this is not what patina means. This is pretend patina. When you see genuine patina, which is wear, tear and the effects of time on a watch, it stands out. In fact it makes you recoil a little bit, because real patina is a lot less visually attractive than the artificially aged. Case in point, this image. If I could sum up the Blancpain event in one image it would be this one; of the saltwater and sweat bleached strap of Laurent Ballesta’s 500 Fathoms. Ballesta is a marine biologist and one of the world’s leading underwater photographers. He handed the watch to me to try on at a table on the rooftop of the Intercontinental in Double Bay. It was perfectly appropriate (not to mention pleasant, take that Monday)… Read More

LIST: Eight reasons Laurent Ballesta’s photography will blow your mind (and make you want a Blancpain)

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The highlight of the Blancpain Ocean Commitment event at Icebergs in Sydney was a speech from underwater photographer and marine biologist Laurent Ballesta, who, it must be said, is not unpopular with the ladies. If you like your marine biologists on the Hollywood side, you may enjoy meeting him face to face. “You had all better sit down,” he said, when he took to the lectern. Which did not bode well. There was a ripple of nervous laughter. No-one likes a long speech, even from a ridiculously good looking scientist slash artist. “Not because I will be boring, but because I am going to tell you a story, like when you were small.” The kaleidoscope of colour, creativity and mother nature’s creations that followed, both on the screen – James Cameron MUST buy the rights to Ballesta’s entire life, can somebody help arrange this? – blew the room’s mind, collectively. The barmen stopped serving drinks and turned their backs to the crowd, who were also entranced. 8 REASONS DIVING INTO LAURENT BALLESTA’S WORLD WILL BLOW YOUR DAMN MIND (AND MAKE YOU WANT A BLANCPAIN) Ballesta has played chicken with lots of sharks. As in underwater, Mexican-Stand-Off style staredowns There are more occupational hazards… Read More

EVENT: Blancpain Ocean Commitment Photographic exhibition

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  UPDATE: Stay tuned for live social media coverage of tonight’s Blancpain’s Ocean Commitment event – expect epic photography and epic watches.  In 1953 Blancpain launched the Fifty Fathoms – a timepiece that defined the modern dive watch – and ever since, the brand has had an affinity to the underwater world. Much of their efforts these days go towards raising awareness around ocean protection and preserving marine ecosystems. And, far more than just a smart marketing vehicle, the Blancpain Ocean Commitment project has shown dedication to increasing knowledge by sponsoring scientific missions all over the world. Ocean Commitment hits Sydney on Monday 19 October with an exhibition of the world’s best marine photography, highlighting the fragile beauty of the world under the waves. It will also be a chance to take a close look at the Blancpain Ocean Commitment Bathyscaphe flyback chronograph, proceeds of which will help fund marine research. The exhibition’s backdrop couldn’t be more perfect – the panoramic Tasman Sea as seen from Icebergs Dining Room at Bondi Beach. One of the world’s most iconic oceanside locations, it’s a majestic reminder of how much we love the sea and all it has to give – which is why… Read More