An icon of the great saga of the "French Skin Divers"
In the mid-1980s, Jacques Bianchi developed - under his own name - a diver's watch, water-resistant to 200 meters and powered by a French quartz movement (FE 7121) of rare robustness. Recognizable among thousands thanks to the large silhouette of a frogman appearing on its black dial, as if he were swimming in the case, this watch does not go unnoticed. With a diameter of 42 mm, its stainless-steel case is emblematic of watchmaking design. Equipped with a winding crown on the left side, this "skin diver" with a totally unique "destro" look is dressed in a flexible black rubber strap, openworked and beveled at its end to facilitate handling with the pin buckle. The JB200 collection was launched in 1982 and distributed in a trickle to fittings and dive stores in the South-East of France. Production was limited, at first, to a hundred pieces.
In the Official Register of the French Navy Watchmaker
Towards the end of the 1980s, a few batches of JB 200 watches were purchased by Marine Toulon via the Fleet Supply Service (AF), 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. According to several internal sources of the time, they were not necessarily intended to be delivered to the Weapon Divers such as the Mine Divers or the Combat Swimmers, even though several models of the JB 200 were assigned to the Clearance Divers Group (GPD) as well as to the Naval Air Base (BAN) of Saint-Mandrier, which houses the Commando Hubert. Other units - notably the Diving School, the First Section, and the Saint-Raphaël Naval Air Base, which has since been dismantled - were also equipped with Jacques Bianchi watches. An immersion in the archives of the Official Watchmaker's Register of the French Navy's Arsenal of Toulon allows us to confirm this: several references of JB 200 Quartz are mentioned in the police and repair books.
In use in several units
In detail, the Jacques Bianchi watch number 89057 is identified in March 1994 as having been in use at the naval air base of Saint-Raphaël. This watch was used by a Helicopter Diver or an On-Board Diver who was part of the armament of one of the three patrol boats available at the base, which at the time was responsible for the surveillance and maritime security of the surrounding water around the runways and landing strips. "This watch is indeed listed in the Official Police Register of the Navy Watchmaker for having undergone, at the request of the unit, an overhaul on March 29, 1994," explains a former officer of the French Navy, active in the 1980s. Other evidence: a second Jacques Bianchi JB 200, referenced 89009 and identified as being in service on the "Persée" (a mine hunter, hull number M649, now decommissioned) also underwent an overhaul in March 1994 by the Navy Watchmaker. Three other Jacques Bianchi JB 200 Quartz watches appear in the police register of the Navy Watchmaker, under reference numbers 89005 (Naval Air Base of Saint-Mandrier) as well as models No. 89003 and No. 89004 (First Section Service of Fleet Supplies), for repair or in service. Finally, two JB 200 models are officially referenced for assignment to the Clearance Divers Group (GPD).
MODÈLE DE 1982
The very confidential distribution of the JB 200
The distribution of Jacques Bianchi JB 200 Quartz watches within the French Navy has remained quite confidential, at best a few dozen pieces ordered at the end of the 1980s mainly for Helicopter Divers of the Saint-Raphaël naval air base and for divers on board certain ships, including the mine hunter "Persée". On the other hand, the proof of their endowment in the French Navy units and their military use is irrefutable.
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