Now 80 years old, Jacques Bianchi lived his life in the French port city of Marseille, which happens to be the home of COMEX, the deep-sea engineering outfit famous for having helped develop the Rolex Sea-Dweller, and a short drive from the French Navy’s primary port at Toulon.
Over his career he’s worked with oceanographer Jacques Cousteau and repaired the dive watches Rolex supplied to COMEX. And now he’s returning for a final act with a remake of the JB200. Originally a no-frills diver supplied to the French Navy in the late 1980s – company records put the figure at around 60 watches – the JB200 is being revived with a mechanical movement.
Lie its peers, Jacques Bianchi is making a comeback with a faithful reproduction. Although vintage-inspired dive watches are dime a dozen now, the JB200 manages to stand out due to its design that evoke affordable dive watches of the 1970s and 1980s. While it looks familiar, but it fortunately doesn’t come across as derivative.
The original was essentially a generic but robust 200 m dive watch sold by a variety of brands, including CWC, Heuer, Monnin, Scubapro, Sinn, and Zodiac – the total number must be in the dozens – and supplied to several navies around the world.
But the JB200 was set apart by its left-hand crown and conspicuous frogman emblem on the dial, which are reproduced on the new remake, and is a dead ringer for the original.
The vintage JB200 was unsurprisingly powered by a quartz movement, but new JB200 is powered by an automatic Seiko NH35, a welcome upgrade.
With a pre-order pricing of US$599, the relaunched JB200 is relatively little money for an automatic dive watch with an interesting history, and represents good value for someone looking for a fun and unusual retro-style diver.
A faithful reproduction
Like the original, the dial has a granular texture and identical details: a sword-like hour hand, an arrow-shaped minute hand, and a “square-lollipop” seconds. And although the dial doesn’t use tritium (which is no longer legal), it has ivory Super-Luminova that manages to look similar. And the dial does away with the date found on the original, an improvement despite departing from the design of its inspiration.
Inside is a cal. NH35, essentially a variant of the cal. 4R35 that Seiko sells to third party brands. Although unremarkable, it is a reliable, low-cost movement that is easy to service, and is thus a popular choice in affordable mechanical watches like the JB200.
Finally, Jacques Bianchi is restarting his namesake brand with the help of MAT Watches, a French brand specialising in military-style watches, which imply there’s more in store. Subsequent to the dive watches supplied to the navy, Jacques Bianchi also supplied dive watches to the Armee de Terre, France’s land forces, which might be the basis of the next remake.
Key facts and price
Jacques Bianchi JB200
Diameter: 42 mm
Height: 13.3 mm
Water resistance: 200 m
Movement: Seiko NH35
Features: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 42 hours
Strap: “Tropic” rubber strap
Availability: Pre-order on Kickstarter from 15th June
For more, visit jacquesbianchi.com
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