Welcome to Dialed In, Esquire's weekly column bringing you horological happenings and the most essential news from the watch world since March 2020.
At best, I’m skeptical of watches launched on Kickstarter. Call me a Negative Nancy, but it feels as that the boundless enthusiasm of people for throwing their money away on unproven brands is usually in direct inverse proportion to the rightness or authenticity of the brand being shilled. Okay, that’s a sweeping statement, and I do know of some good exceptions that proved to be viable, even tasteful, watch brands. But too many, for me, are eminently resistible clommages or undisguised off-the-shelf tat given an optimistic, wafer-thin veneer of respectability by dint of being posted on the platform. A new launch this morning on that same platform, however, has me wondering. That’s probably because it’s not a new brand at all.
Jacques Bianchi is a French watchmaker with a background of fixing dive watches, who, at a spritely 80 years old, decided to get into the Kickstarter game by relaunching—in conjunction with Fabrice Pougez, founder of MAT watches—a dive watch he had produced back in the 1980s for various departments of the French navy. His home port of Marseilles lies on a stretch of the Mediterranean French coast that is considered to be the historical home of scuba diving and the spiritual home of the Marine Nationale.
The new watch offered for the first time to the public today is, in fact, pretty much the old watch, faithfully reproduced in scale (42mm) and detail down to the large outline of a scuba diver painted on the dial and the relatively rare lefty crown—a dive-world-specific move that protected the stem from unscheduled bumps and knocks underwater. There are some subtle updates amid all that authenticity. The original JB200s were driven by a quartz movement (well, it was the '80s) while the relaunch is powered by a Seiko NH35 automatic movement, a favored driver at this boutiquey price level. Enlarging the markers and making them from creamy SuperLuminova (which wasn’t around in 1983) instead of Tritium gives the otherwise dead-ringer update some modern charm.
There is something straight-up honest about this watch. Its authentic and yet upgraded, and has some '80s chicness about it. The diver logo on the dial (which would be somewhat fromage on a less bona fide brand) works here reasons I can’t, er, fathom. One hopes that Bianchi has other reissues up his sleeve from the small range of watches he created back in the day. For now, fun don’t walk. The Kickstarter pre-order price is significantly lower than the post-campaign price. This could be one to get in on early.
You Might Also Like