After granting its official approval to the first Grands Fonds 300 in 1960, the French Navy explained to the designers that the crown at 3 o’clock posed a problem as it was too vulnerable during underwater manipulations. It asked ZRC to “find a solution” to protect the crown without impeding wrist movement, and above all, to ensure it could not open under water. The team set to work and developed the famous crown at 6 o’clock, connected to the case using an exclusive system consisting of a canon cut from a single block, making the Grands Fonds 300 the first and only watch to be equipped with a 100% monobloc case. Furthermore, the case is machined in a particular type of steel reinforced with molybdenum that is completely antimagnetic (an absolute necessity for Mine Clearance Divers’ Group).
OFFICIAL FRENCH NAVY APPROVAL
Reporting directly to the French naval commissariat central command (DCCM) in Paris, the French naval commissariat technical department (STCM), was the department at central command level responsible for carrying out preliminary studies and approving new equipment. This was the “Marine Nationale” branch of the French National Codification Bureau (NCB) under NATO. The Toulon arsenal fleet procurement department, which had requested the new equipment, had to complete, in accordance with procedure, an identification form concerning the new ZRC watch they wanted to procure (trade name of the article, brief technical description, retail price of the article, manufacturer’s name, address and code, reason for procurement, the intended use of the equipment within the Navy, etc.) This completed identification form was then sent to the STCM in Paris for examination, along with a request for approval for the watch, in preparation for the attribution of a “Numéro de Gestion Marine” (Navy Management Number – NGM), which would then enable it to be processed.
ZRC developed an exclusive retractable lug specific to the inter-horn space, which only allows the crown to pass through or the bracelet to rotate in the closed position, making submerging the watch impossible if the crown is not fully screwed down. The bracelet is also original by virtue of its two extendable links, allowing the watch to be worn over a diving suit with no further adjustments. The ultra-luminescent Magnum hands ensure perfect legibility underwater. A revolutionary watch in many ways, the ZRC Grands Fonds was issued to the Paris fire service and the French waterskiing team. But it was above all the watch of the French Navy (Toulon diving school, third division of Toulon Mine Clearance Divers’ Group, the Commando Hubert) as well as the Italian Navy. As a watch designed by divers for divers, it was also adopted by non-military units supported by the French Navy, including the famous Calypso of Commander Cousteau, which took the watch around the world and firmly established its reputation.
ADMISSION TO THE NAVY EQUIPMENT CATALOG
All the watches therefore underwent a test period, being trialed in all possible conditions of « military-related harsh use ». The STCM in Paris approved the new equipment and entered it into the general equipment catalog for the commissariat, attributing it a provisional 13-DIGIT « Numéro de Gestion Marine (MGM ». This provisional number would later be converted into a nato stock number (NSM). The watches originally classed as the 6645 family deep-sea diving watch would eventually be moved to group 63, family 6355).
THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS UNITS HAVING USED THE ZRC GRANDS FONDS 300
The diving school dates back to 1860 and was founded in order to train “mechanics, drivers and deep-sea divers”. The diving school is responsible for training all the Marine Nationale divers in four disciplines (navy diver, Mine Clearance Divers’ Group, combat diver, hyperbaric nurse). It also provides training for the divers of the Gendarmerie Maritime and the French Air Force, as well as combat diver training. As well as this, it receives several groups of foreign trainees every year.
Mine Clearance Divers
The third division of Toulon Mine Clearance Divers’ Group (GPD III) carries out operations all year round in order to neutralize historic devices (shells, mines, torpedoes, etc.), which pose a threat to shipping. It also specializes in major underwater work. The completely antimagnetic ZRC Grands Fonds watch and its bracelet (like their diving knives and even the adjustment buckles on their diving fins) were greatly appreciated by the divers, who occasionally had to deal with mines with a magnetic trigger.
Combat Divers & Hubert Commando
The Commando Hubert is a naval commando created in December 1947. It is based in Le Cannier on the Saint-Mandrier peninsula. The commando bears the name of Lieutenant Augustin Hubert, killed in action on 6 June 1944 in Ouistreham. In 1953, the commando became a combat diving unit and was renamed the Commando d’Actions Sous Marines (Underwater Operations Commando – CASM). It is a highly secretive unit. To this day, the Commando Hubert remains the only combat diving unit of the French Navy.
A STRONG PARTNERSHIP
50 years anniversary of the GPD Since 2015 ZRC strengthened its partnership with Navy. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the GPD then every year during the ceremony of the new commissioned « mine clearance divers ».
FOST The Oceanic Strategic Force (FOST) created the 1st of Marsh 1972 is the submarine component of the French nuclear forces, born with the will of General De Gaulle to detain the nuclear deterrence. In 2016-17 ZRC has produced a serie of 50 ZRC-FOST watches dedicated to the Active submariners of the French Navy. An ultimate recognition for ZRC when equipping submariners used to maneouvering the most technological & powerful machine on earth.
The Divers-in-arms In the 60s, the pioneers of the Adventure and ZRC develop a stunning watch that will become a diving icon…Designed by divers for divers it has been developed on call for tenders from the French Navy in close collaboration in the period with the 3rd Group of the Mediterranean divers. Revolutionary watch by many aspects, the ZRC Grands Fonds 300 will equip the French Navy diving school, the three Mine Clearance Groups (Manche-North Sea, Atlantic & Mediterranean) together with the Hubert Commando. Spearhead of the Special Forces, this mythical unit is deployed in the greatest secrecy on all continents. In June 2017, ZRC and a small group of Mine Clearance Divers organize a test day to evaluate the operational capacity of the ZRC. Mission carried out for the Grands Fonds. So it is 175 Mine Clearance Divers & Combat Divers that are going to receive their ZRC PLD or NC Special Edition in June 2018 ordered on a private subscription. An undisputable proof of the ZRC Grands Fonds 300 quality.
The 60’s anniversary of the SAINt-Mandrier French Navy Diving school In June 2018, the Saint-Mandrier Diving school will celebrate its 60’s anniversary (1958-2018). Founded at the initiative of the « Mousquemer » Jacques Yves Cousteau, Philippe Taillez & Frederic Dumas it emphasizes the need of the French Navy to develop underwater operational units.