‘A shark collided with me and tore off the watch strap’
Passionate environmentalist, photographer and documentarymaker Laurent Ballesta was involved in the filming of the BBC’s Blue Planet II, and won the Earth’s Environment category at last year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards with his underwater iceberg image, The Ice Monster (far left). Ballesta wears Blancpain’s X Fathoms, the enormous flagship of the brand’s divingwatch range, which features a mechanical depth gauge.
As he says: “when diving to great depths it’s a real pleasure to see the depth needle progressing accordingly”. It has other uses – warding off sharks, for instance. “During a night dive at Fakarava [Atoll], I was keeping a close eye on grey reef sharks hunting in a pack: amid the frantic movement, one of the sharks unintentionally collided with me and the strap of my X Fathoms was torn off,” he recalls. “I have no idea what state my wrist would be in if it had not been shielded by the thick strap.” Ballesta’s life’s work is to explore, discover unknown species and contribute to the knowledge of marine life, which he does with the support of Blancpain, under its Ocean Commitment programme. He also wears the brand’s more understated 500 Fathoms. “I find it perfectly balanced and clearly identifiable as a deep diving watch, with its 1,000m water resistance,” he explains. Scientific expeditions, however, are not without their challenges. Of his dives into the rarely-explored ecosystems beneath Antarctica – where he captured his remarkable Ice Monster picture – he says that the almost incomprehensibly cold environment “froze our hands and feet in less than two hours, despite the electric heating systems in our diving suits. I’ve never taken part in such a tough expedition, but it was definitely worth it.”