Dive Watch Wednesday: Hands-on with ZRC Grands Fonds 300


First, the bad news: it doesn’t look like French brand ZRC is planning to sell its recently introduced re-edition of the Grands Fonds 300 outside of France, which might result in your having to find a retailer willing to contact ZRC directly, or planning a trip to France, if you are interested in getting one. The good news (I guess) is that this might save you quite a bit of money, since the more desirable W510013 model, with the large set of hands, retails for 3,390 euros.

However, if you’re still determined to lay out the cash and jump through the logistical hoops to acquire this timepiece, which is understandable considering the final product, here is — as promised in last week’s Dive Watch Wednesday — what you need to know about this rather unique looking diver from the past with the crown positioned a 6 o’clock:

ZRC_Grands_Fonds_300_Marine_Nationale_2_WatchTime_2015

First of all, the new Grand Fonds is extremely close in its design to the original, which was introduced in the 1960s and served as a watch for the French Marine Nationale. So, except for the significantly better-overall build-quality, the slightly changed bezel, and the increased diameter of 40.5 mm (from 36 mm), you are essentially getting a watch that looks like it came directly out of a Cousteau movie.

ZRC_Grands_Fonds_300_Marine_Nationale_Crown_Open_WatchTime_2015

The reason for placing the crown at 6 o’clock is quite easy to explain: it is, in theory, a much safer location for diving and also makes the watch more comfortable to wear. If you add the massive bracelet that only folds over the crown when fully screwed in, you get even more safety. But you also get a bit of a hassle if you tend to flip watches and/or have to change the time often (fortunately, this version doesn’t come with a date). Add to that a nontraditional, reversed order in which to unscrew and wind the crown (indicated by a black or red arrow), plus a much thicker bracelet, and you suddenly begin to understand why ZRC packages this watch in a winder instead of a standard box.

ZRC_Grands_Fonds_300_Marine_Nationale_Packaging_WatchTime_2015

Another specialty of the Grands Fonds 300 is the flexible strap: the large, spring-loaded elements on both sides of the case each offer around 5 mm of additional length (which might be interesting for people with hairy wrists). In theory, this means you can wear the watch tightly on land and also benefit from an auto-adjusting bracelet when you wear it over a dive suit.

ZRC_Grands_Fonds_300_Marine_Nationale_WatchTime_Expander_2015

Since there is no micro-adjustment available for the mostly brushed bracelet (and no half links), it’s possible you won’t find a “just-right” configuration and will have to wear the watch a bit more loosely during those times when there is no dry suit between your wrist and your watch.

ZRC_Grands_Fonds_300_Marine_Nationale_Bracelet_WatchTime_2015

 

You can, of course, also opt for the less expensive version fitted with a strap, but given the company’s heritage as a bracelet specialist and the Grands Fonds’ history itself, we think it just wouldn’t feel the same.

ZRC_Grands_Fonds_300_Sport_Chic_Strap_Front_WatchTime_2015

Also, the rather basic clasp (very similar to the one used on the original) performs well but doesn’t match the rest of the watch, quality-wise.

ZRC_Grands_Fonds_300_Marine_Nationale_Bracelet_Clasp_WatchTime_2015

Luminosity and readability are great, even though the numbers are, somewhat surprisingly, not filled with Super-LumiNova. And you’ll get used to the unusual bezel markings quite easily.

ZRC_Grands_Fonds_300_Marine_Nationale_Lume_WatchTime_2015

As explained in the last week’s article, the unidirectional bezel comes with an additional opening (Easy Clean System, or ECS) to make it easier to clean after a dive. Let’s hope it doesn’t let dust enter too easily.

ZRC_Grands_Fonds_300_Marine_Nationale_ECS_WatchTime_2015

We were told that there are (for the time being) 500 pieces per version. Since it isn’t sold as a limited edition, we don’t know how this number will evolve over time. We do know, however, that a 2,490.00 to 3,390.00 Euro list price for an ETA 2824-2 based diver is a lot, even though there are no other off-the-shelf parts, the quality is great and the historical legitimacy of this model is there, as well: it’s made by the same brand, and the same family, as it was more than 100 years ago.

Plus, this might be one of the rare occasions when wearing the re-edition actually is more satisfying than finding its vintage predecessor.

ZRC_Grands_Fonds_300_Marine_Nationale_Front_WatchTime_2015

What we would have changed:

  • Although very close to the original, the clasp used for the bracelet could be better, given the list price of the watch
  • Adding a matching screwdriver and strap adaptor (as with the Ref. W511015) would increase the otherwise limited strap-changing options
  • Additional half links or fine adjustment possibilities for the clasp

What we liked very much:

  • Very close to the original
  • Well-built quality
  • Balanced weight ratio
  • Comfortable to wear if fitted correctly

What we absolutely loved:

  • A unique look
  • An understated and dedicated dive watch from the past

 ZRC_Grands_Fonds_300_Marine_Nationale_WatchTime_2015

SPECS:

Brand: Zuccolo Rochet France, Chavanod (ZRC)
Model: Grands Fonds 300 “Marine Nationale” (Ref. W510013)
Year of Introduction: 2015
Case: 13,85-mm height, 40,50-mm diameter; stainless steel case, screw-down crown at 6 o‘clock, massive case back, unidirectional bezel (60 clicks), 300 meter water-resistance
Bracelet: 24-mm lug size, stainless steel with integrated dive extensions on both sides and crown-protecting adaptor at 6 o’clock,
Movement: ETA 2824-2
Weight: 210 g
Price: EUR 3,390
Versions: “Sport Chic” with date window, red accents and less dominant set of hands; available with bracelet (W511013, EUR 2,890.00) or leather strap (W511015, EUR 2,490.00).

Scroll down for more pictures…

ZRC_Grands_Fonds_300_Marine_Nationale_Bracelet_Dial_WatchTime_2015  ZRC_Grands_Fonds_300_Marine_Nationale_Caseback_WatchTime_2015       ZRC_Grands_Fonds_300_Sport_Chic_Leather_Crown_Open_WatchTime_2015 ZRC_Grands_Fonds_300_Marine_Nationale_WatchTime_Expander_3_2015

Save

Save

Save

Leave a Reply