Introducing the ZRC Grand Fonds 300 North Adventure, A True Explorer’s Watch Now Available on Kickstarter

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Feeling adventurous? Well, the good folks at ZRC certainly are! They are fundraising an Arctic adventure on Kickstarter right now with some killer perks (yes, one of them is a pretty cool watch) for those willing to participate. But first, a little background.

ZRC is not a name that immediately comes to mind the way Rolex or Omega do, but vintage dive watch collectors know the brand well. ZRC was founded in 1904 by Joseph Rochet and Edmond Zuccolo in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1953, ZRC created their first diver, the Grand Fonds 300.

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By the early 1960s, the design had evolved into the template that has now come to define the iconic Grand Fonds 300 line, and from 1963 to 1974 this model was used by Marine Nationale (French Navy) clearance divers, adding to its legendary status and collectability. The Grand Fonds 300 was also sold commercially from 1961 until 1978, the year it went out of production.

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In 2015, ZRC resurfaced with a largely faithful re-issue of the original classic, but like most heritage models out these days it was sized up and given modern, robust specs. Rated to 30 atm, the Grand Fonds 300 has a unique hexagonal steel case with a crown positioned at six o’clock. It also features a black bezel with large lume dots for easy reading (the original insert was acrylic; the re-issue sapphire) and a proprietary, built-in cleaning system (more on that below). Oversized, lume-filled, paddle hour and minute hands and a familiar lollipop second hand set off the black dial.

The crown at six is definitely unique, but it’s not just an aesthetic choice. The idea is that the bracelet end-piece that fits around the crown not only protects it, but also if the crown is not screwed down properly the bracelet will not be able to clear it, preventing one from accidentally swimming with an open crown. It’s actually rather clever. So, that brings us to the ZRC Kickstarter project. Georges Brunet and Alexis Meyer, ZRC’s CEO and GM, respectively, have teamed up with explorer Albon Michon to fund his solo crossing of the Northwest Passage—a nearly 1,500-kilometer expedition spanning the area that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in the Arctic and northern Canadian region, which today is threatened by global warming and increased commercial activity.

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Michon wearing his watch.

Michon will leave the Inuit village of Kugluktuk in March of 2018, and he hopes to arrive at Resolute Bay in mid-May. He will follow the path blazed by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who was the first to cross the Northwest Passage in a three-year journey that began in 1906. On this venture, Michon will be wearing a special ZRC watch, which will also be available to backers of the Kickstarter campaign.

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The North Adventure bezel is equipped with the brand’s ECS (Easy Clean System), which will allow for easy cleaning of the case and bezel after exposure to the elements.

Michon will wear a specially modified, limited edition ZRC Grand Fonds 300 North Adventure dive watch on his expedition. The ZRC North Adventure will feature several differences from the standard Grand Fonds 300. The 40.5mm steel case will be sand-blasted for a more sober look, and the 4mm thick sapphire crystal will have a special anti-condensation treatment. This treatment is needed due to the extreme changes in temperature the watch will have to endure on this trip. Also, per Michon’s request, the watch will have a date at three and the crystal will have a round date-magnifier for easy reading in adverse conditions. The crown has also been enlarged to make it easier to use with gloved hands. The bracelet has been replaced with an extra long nylon strap (equipped with special end-pieces) with a single buckle.

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In addition to these technical changes, the Northern Adventure edition will feature some special differences on the dial. There’s a new ZRC logo below 12 and a Polar Bear logo in white and “North Adventure” in red above six. The luminous paint will be changed to bright white Super-LumiNova Grade X1 for extended luminescence. The watch is powered by the ubiquitous ETA 2824-2 modified with special oils for dealing with extreme temperatures, so you won’t have to worry about timekeeping or difficult future repairs.

People who participate in the Kickstarter project can get a variety of goodies for their contributions. You can pledge a few bucks and get a hat, but as of this writing, it will take a pledge of CHF 1,390 (just about $1,390) to get one of the super cool ZRC Grand Fonds 300 North Adventure watches on a strap. For CHF 1,790 (about $1,790) you can get the watch with the aforementioned nylon strap, a steel bracelet, and a tool kit. These are the early bird prices, which are 50% off the eventual retail price. Under $1,400 for a killer LE Grand Fonds diver is a fantastic deal if you ask me, and you will be helping to fund an amazing adventure in the process. Kickstarter

Christoph (Instagram’s @vintagediver) is a long time collector and lover of all things vintage, starting with comic books when he was a kid (he still collects them). His passion for watches began in 1997 when he was gifted a family heirloom vintage Omega Genève by his step-father. That started him on the watch collecting path—buying and selling vintage watches of all sorts, with a special appreciation for vintage dive watches and Seiko.
vintagediver
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