The Geneva-based brand, ZRC, has recently launched a revamped version of its iconic Grands Fonds 300. The update seems a more modern evolution of the design language, a titanium case and a huge bump in its water resistance rating. The naming nomenclature is a big giveaway here, as eagle-eyed readers will see the 300 turned into a 3000. That is indeed referring to the water resistance rating and is a rather significant ten times bigger than before!
ZRC have developed a somewhat cult-like following over the last few years with their strong, heritage-inspired 1964 reissues and interpretations of the vintage design. As a brand with a rich and colourful history as well as ties with the godfather of SCUBA diving, Jacques Cousteau and the crew of his famous vessel, the Calypso, as well as the French Navy divers, it’s easy to understand why.
The Grands Fonds was originally released back in 1958 and was duly adopted by the French Navy in 1964 as their watch of choice and subsequently issued to their divers. Even then, the Grands Fonds was somewhat of a rule-breaker in terms of watch design. I won’t go into too much detail here, but you can read more on the history of ZRC here and here.
In this latest iteration though ZRC have maintained the basic silhouette of the Grands Fonds 300 and, at the same time, evolved the design language in a way which brings it more into the modern-day and away from its mid-20th century beginnings. Featuring a very on-trend blue-black fade on the dial, it is matched with a blue bezel. The bezel is the first from ZRC to feature numbers at the 15, 30, and 45-minute marker positions. An orange minute hand completed the influx of colour onto what was originally a monochromatic design.
The Grands Fonds 3000 boasts a rather impressive feat of being the first wristwatch capable of maintaining a water resistance of 3000 metres without relying on the assistance of a helium escape valve. The precision of the machining on the 42mm diameter, grade 2 titanium case enables the interior components to compress together and as such prevent any water or gases from penetrating the case. Furthermore, the steel caseback is equipped with a titanium double seal and clamp ring to further shore up its impenetrable claims. Of course, there is always a price to pay for such impressive feats, in this case, it is a thickness of 19.65mm. This is not a watch that you’ll be casually tucking into your sleeve. Then again, it’s not a watch you’d want to hide. This watch demands to be seen.
The bezel features ZRC’s trademark and patent-pending ECS (Easy Clean System). This rather clever feature helps combat a common issue facing dive watches. When used in saltwater, the salt can crystallize in the gaps between the bezel and case, impeding its use. The ECS cleans the inside of the bezel by circulating fresh water that dilutes and clears the sea salt.
One of my favourite features of the Grand Fonds 3000 (although this is true of all ZRC watches to date) is the failsafe offered by the combination of the crown and flexible lug design. I have seen and heard countless stories of watches ruined and destroyed by their submersion in water with the crown unscrewed or not fully tightened. With the ZRC this is nigh-on impossible. If the crown is not screwed down properly, the strap cannot be correctly worn and positioned. Simple, but genius.
The Grands Fonds 3000 is available in three different versions: a satin case with blue rubber strap, a sandblasted case with blue rubber strap or a ‘stealth’ blacked out version with a sandblasted DLC case and black rubber strap. Prices start from 3,990 CHF and delivery is from 25/07/2020. For more information, view the collection on their website.
Dave Sergeant is a long-time, yet ‘accidental’ watch fan. He received a watch as a gift from his wife, and wanted to learn what made them tick. Countless hours of research and devouring forum content soon followed and the journey into the watch world had begun.
He is the founder of UK-based Microbrand LPW Watch Co and a co-founder of the RedBar Manchester Chapter.
In his spare time he is a keen ice-hockey fan (Edmonton Oilers – represent!) and an amateur chilli-growing enthusiast. Born and raised in the south, he now lives with his wife and dog in the north, in Manchester.
Instagram: @davesergeant @lpwwatchco