Jacques Bianchi: the JB 200 is coming back (up)
"Droit au but!" as the motto of the Olympique Marseille (the city's football team) says. Meaning "straight to the goal" in French, it is quite fitting for the reissuing of this famous dive watch, born precisely in Marseille, as its pre-order campaign is coming to an end.
Usually, beautiful stories start off with “Once upon a time”. For the JB 200, it would be more right to say “Once upon two times”. Indeed, in a way, this watch was born twice. The first birth occurred almost 40 years ago. Back then, Jacques Bianchi was a watchmaker in Marseille. He took care of after-sale services for some great manufactures – including the renowned house Rolex! – and he also specialized in working on cases’ water resistance. Then again, he did know divers such as Jacques Mayol (the Dolphin man who inspired The Big Blue), Captain Cousteau and his second-in-command Albert Falco. Together, they discussed at length the watches’ features needed for underwater adventures.
A rare piece
In 1982, Jacques Bianchi decided to take the plunge – In every sense of the word – by founding his own brand and his very first watch. This was made possible by the request for proposals by the French Navy which ordered a few dozen models named JB 200. The instruments were mainly intended for helicopter divers from the Saint-Raphaël Naval Air Base or divers on board certain ships. Later on, during the 1990s, Bianchi also released a thousand pieces of the JB 300.
The watchmaker from Marseille put a frogman on the dial to make his models stand out. And the crown was placed on the left for comfort reasons: as a motorcyclist, traditional watches with their crown on the right hurt the back of his hand when he was holding the handlebars. About a hundred pieces were released – a limited number which makes this JB 200 a very rare as well as historic watch. Still, diving enthusiasts never forgot this very special watch which conjures up the South of France.
A collective dream and project
Though he has been thinking about reissuing his first creation for a long time, Jacques Bianchi – who is still working despite is 80 years of age – was finally able to seriously consider it in June 2020 thanks to a convergence of enthusiasm. Indeed, he met Fabrice Pougez, the founder of the brand MAT Watches, who took part in the project.
The “second generation” JB 200 looks almost exactly like its predecessor. The 42 mm diameter is left unchanged, just like the diver on the dial, the Jacques Bianchi-Marseille signature, the crown located on the left and the 200 m water resistance.
A few pieces are still available
Still, there is one significant change: unlike the original quartz model, the new JB 200 is now powered by an automatic movement (the ever-reliable Seiko NH35). Fabrice Pougez explains that the brand wanted to be up to the expectations of today’s collectors with a high-performance automatic watch, while still marketing it at a very affordable price. The pre-order campaign launched on Kickstarter on the 15th of June will end in a few days, on the 15th of July. Though the launch was extremely successful – thus proving the legitimacy of reissuing a thousand watches – there are still a few pieces available at preferential rates: €594 for now, while the public price will be €990.
Last but not least: the different parts of the JB 200 are assembled in France, in Franche-Comté, and Jacques Bianchi himself takes care of the final check in Marseille.