‘A shark col­lided with me and tore off the watch strap’

The Daily Telegraph - Your Money - - FRONT PAGE - Blanc­pain X Fath­oms, £29,670; 020 7529 0910; blanc­pain.com

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.”

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