THE WATCHMAKER "MADE IN MARSEILLE"
In Marseilles, the second largest city in France, there is the Vieux Port (the Old Harbor), Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, the OM soccer club, the creeks, the singing accent, the petanque, the sea, the belote card games, the sun beating down, the mistral wind blowing, the Cité Radieuse of Le Corbusier, the horizon line that goes from L'Estaque to Les Goudes, the vertical pride of the Planier lighthouse, the legend of the Château d'If, the Mucem (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations), the masterpieces of the novelist Marcel Pagnol... and Jacques Bianchi.
The world of diving
Solid as a rock, with a gentle gaze and a confident voice, this master craftsman is a monument to Marseilles heritage, the incarnation of a fantasized craft that almost no longer exists. At 80 years old, he continues to repair and revise watches and clocks in his workshop; a divine mess where everything is tidied up, labeled, sacralized. The place is hidden in a discreet building, facing the Old Port. Every day, Jacques Bianchi wears a smock, as white as his beard. He likes to sit at his workbench until late at night to check the functioning of a stopwatch cam or the good working of a tired mechanism. He also likes to talk, to exchange, to discuss the patina of a dial, the beauty of a Valjoux 72 movement, the surprising design of a seconds-hand, his passion for the sea and his rowing trips. He also likes to pass on his unquenchable passion for watchmaking and the calculation of time. Jacques Bianchi has known Jacques Mayol and Captain Cousteau and his second-in-command Albert Falco, known as "Bébert", repaired most of the Rolex watches of the Comex divers (Maritime Expertise Company), created his own brand and discovered dozens of watchmaking water resistance processes throughout his career. All this because diving watches have always been the favorite of this experienced biker.
The crazy love of diving
"Although I have always been snorkeling, I have never been a diver. On the other hand, I have always been passionate about the mysteries of the deep sea and the beauty of the underwater world," he explains. "Marseilles is a mythical diving spot for natural reasons. The underwater world here is deep and exceptional. Marseilles is also a diving capital for economic reasons thanks to the existence of many companies specialized in this sector. "
50 years of expertise in water resistance
It is no coincidence that Comex has been based in Marseilles since its creation in 1962 by Henri Delauze, well known to Jacques Bianchi. It is not a coincidence either that the French Federation of Underwater Studies and Sports (FFESSM) is also based in the Phocaean City. Even less a coincidence if Beuchat Diving, world specialist of underwater equipment, was born here. Even if Marseilles inhabitants have a paradoxical relationship with the sea - the city having always been a port open to the outside world, the sea has long been synonymous with remoteness and incessant travels - diving remains a popular activity, anchored in the traditions... if only to go and collect a dozen sea urchins and catch rock fish to prepare a bouillabaisse! When he was a student at the Marseilles Watchmaking School, Jacques Bianchi very early on felt this attraction to the ancestral culture of the maritime cult, and by extension, became almost mechanically interested in waterproof watches.
MODÈLE DE 1982
MODÈLE DE 1993
Prototypes for the hero of the deep sea
With his watchmaker's diploma in hand, he first began working locally in jewelry repair departments in the back of stores. "At the time, watchmakers were less in the spotlight," he says with a smile. Independent by nature, he then sets up his own business. We are at the turn of the 1970s and everything goes very quickly. Recognized for his expertise, Jacques Bianchi headed the regional after-sales service for LIP - an extremely powerful company at the time - in the Aix-Marseilles region. "This represented up to 600 watches per month," he recalls. The Atelier Jacques Bianchi then obtained the necessary approvals to repair and overhaul - among others - Jaeger-LeCoultre, Breitling, Longines, Eterna, Certina, Citizen, Seiko and became an approved Rolex watchmaker in 1974. The workshop expanded, opening other branches in Marseilles and the surrounding area. The business explodes. At the same time, Jacques Bianchi distributes the Swiss brand Aquastar, creates links with the Comex divers who knock on his door to have their Submariner and Sea Dweller repaired. Close to Jacques Mayol, he designs unique prototypes for the apneist on the basis of Lemania regatta chronographs, inventing processes for sealing the pushers.
For the divers of the French Navy and Army
President and regular member of the Rowing Club of Marseilles, one of the most successful rowing clubs in France, he was also interested in underwater exploration and spent hours talking with Jean-Baptiste Esclapez (international champion in underwater fishing) and Patrick Mouton (journalist and writer specializing in the sea), who inoculated him with the nautical iconography virus. Ingenious and modest, Jacques Bianchi contributes to maritime exploration by developing watertight boxes to test the waterproofness of watches in the open sea. He also created his eponymous brand, two models of which were favored by the French Army: the JB 200 Quartz, which was used by the French Navy in the late 1980s, and the JB 300, which was used by Army divers in the mid-1990s. President of the National Federation of Crafts and Creations of Jewelry and Watchmaking (FNAMAC), he is always on the front lines to defend his colleagues. For nearly fifty years, he has worked alongside a team of talented watchmakers who accompany him in his countless passions.
He also works as a technical advisor to the French Ministry of Education for the teaching and evolution of the content of diplomas dedicated to watchmaking in France. The rebirth of the JB 200 watch that Jacques Bianchi created in the 1980s is a fitting return to its roots. It bears his name and that of his city forever.
"My employees are in solidarity with this project to relaunch the JB 200 watch. Without them, nothing would be possible. Life is a team effort! "
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