Friday, June 15, 2012

Sébastien Murat Q&A

As 'blogged previously, Sébastien Murat is planning a seies of dives below 703 feet, using an extremely unusual "empty lung" technique. His venture (the French Job) is being sponsored by Maurice Lacroix, and he'll be wearing a Pontos S chrono diver during the dive (as well as other equipment discussed below). Through the English Blogger on French Job, Denéa Buckingham, I was given the opportunity to ask him a few questions. Apologies for my lack of interviewing prowess:

Séb, what you are attempting might be considered to be pretty extreme by some people: why do you want to take a sled to 703feet on a single breath of air?

I don't entertain such abstract and circular ideas. The answer is in the question.

With each metre of depth, the technical, as much as physical / mental, challenges of NLD seem to increase: what special technology is assisting you in this dive?

The special technology involves a means to lower metabolic rate below what are otherwise considered basal rates; a lowered metabolic rate = reduced inert gas absorption, enhanced inert gas dissolution, increased hypoxia tolerance, amongst other things.

I see that you are wearing an ML Pontos S watch: have you always been interested in watches? Do you remember the first watch you had?

No. No.

You have spent many years exploring the MDR (mammalian diving reflex or response): how does your diving technique differ from the more classical forms?

My approach is modelled on a universal strategy employed by animal divers.

You appear to have a very strong group of people working with you on the French Job: how important is teamwork - especially given the inherently solo nature of Freediving?

You have to have good group dynamics and it has to be completely egaliterian, otherwise its not really a team. Above all you need to penetrate to the soul of your team mates and speak frankly and candidly without fear of ridicule or negative criticism.

What dive computer will you be wearing? What functionality would your ultimate Freediving watch / computer have?

UWATEC. I suggested to Uwatec many years ago they make something for freediving. I offered some suggestions and they came up with the Galileo Apnea [now made by ScubaPro and marketed as the Galileo Sol, with Apnea Upgrade].

The mental / spiritual side of apnea is often emphasised: how do you think your Freediving has helped in your life above the water?

I'm able to strip people and things of their excesses and penetrate to their essential nature.

What do you think about on a deep dive? Do you have time to look around / enjoy the experience?

It's enjoyable on the way up as i've nothing to do but hang around. On the way down its absolute focus on equalization: over-pressuraization, mouth-fill, and switch to water equalization.

Freediving needn't be about depth / records: what advice would you give to someone who is considering Freediving as a hobby?

Don't fixate on time and depth...easier said than done of course.

What would you consider to be the most important piece of equipment for a Freediver?

To not forget his brain on the shore.

Please could you explain the basic approach to the actual record-breaking dive? How long, how deep, what safety protocols, etc?

No warm-up, don't think too much, release the 120kg, focus on equalization, +3', release the weights, relax and look around on the way up, release the float near the surface, surface, don't forget to breathe, go and have breakfast

There are other attempts taking place at the same time - indeed one has ended with the Freediver needing recompression treatment. Does this concern you?

No. The comparison is apples and oranges.

Many thanks to Séb, Denéa and all at the French Job. Best of luck!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Schofield: Rising Star

When the #watchnerd first saw Schofield Watch Company's Signalman models last year, we warned you that you might be hearing a lot more from the East Sussex-based newcomer. Subsequent months have seen a very successful premiere at SalonQP, a great deal of discussion on Twitter and watch forums, some lovely video from Giles about the ACME "Titanic" Whistle, a piece in QP Magazine and even a Talking Hands episode on The Prodigal Guide.

Schofield Strap Kit (C) Schofield Watch Company
Now comes an award from WatchPro, the B2B online watch magazine, which has annointed Schofield their Rising Star of the Year. I would hope that this reflects not only the watches, but also the wonderful accessories that Schofield have been working on, such as their straps and Moon Mills Tweed strap kit, in collaboration with Cro' Jack (see right).

The Signalman GMT PR and the DLC are both available at a 20% discount until July 20th, 2012. Each time I visit the Schofiled 'site, or indeed Giles Ellis' wonderful Tumblr - Peilican Fossa - I am tempted to put down a deposit. With only five weeks to go until the discount expires, I'd better make up my mind soon.

the #watchnerd

Saturday, June 09, 2012

The French Job

The French Job is the name of the Maurice Lacroix-sponsored world record attempt by Swiss-born Australian freediver, Sébastien Murat, to dive beyond 703 feet on a single breath. The record attempt is scheduled to take place later on this month, in a discipline known as No Limits - where, according to the World governing body AIDA "the freediver descends with the help of a ballast weight and ascends via a method of his choice. No limit is the absolute depth discipline. Going down with a sled, and going back up with a balloon, a diving suit or a vest with inflatable compartments, or whatever other means."

Sébastien, like the current record-holder (and Breitling wearer) Herbert Nitsch, appears to be practising a method of freediving called "empty lung", where the contents of the lungs are more or less expelled prior to (or during the early part of) the dive. Rather than blast through the record like Herbert (who's currently recovering in a recompression chamber after his 800ft dive three days ago), Séb (the "sub") appears to be taking it a bit easier and attempting to better the current record (by an undisclosed degree). I've sent some questions over to Séb's team in France to get more info on this technique and also to find out more about his approach to diving (thank you Dénea!).

In the meantime, let's focus on the watch he'll be wearing: the Maurice Lacroix Pontos S. It's a  good-looking 200m dive chrono, with an ML movement based on the Valjoux 7750. Available on a rather natty NATO-style strap or bracelet, the 43mm watch records elapsed time up to 12 hours (using a 30 minute chrono), has constant seconds and a date window at six o'clock. The pushers are well-designed, with an integrated internal bezel for timing dives, and nicely colour-coordinated accents. 

I like the bold markers and easy-to-read dials, while the internal bezel is a nice touch. I still don't understand why so many dive watches continue to highlight the first fifteen minutes of the dive (rather than the latter part of a dive, for example) but I do like the splash of colour it adds to the watch. The contrasting use of polished / matte finishes is eye-catching and reminds me of the Seiko Sumo / Ananta / Grand Seiko watches. 

Available in a variety of colours, this watch is a very stylish addition to the ML range, which has launched a number of interesting pieces over the past few years (remember the Roue Carré?). In fact, ML has quietly established itself as a decent choice in the luxury market, with prices to suit most wallets. 

The Pontos S is c.£2995 and available online through Jura.

Many thanks to Dénea and all at The French Job - and best of luck to Séb for his dive.