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Carl F. Bucherer - Patravi ScubaTec: Elemantaray, My Dear Watson

Carl F. Bucherer Patravi ScubaTec: Elemantaray, My Dear Watson

The manta ray played a decisive role in the creation and development of Carl F. Bucherer’s dive watch — discreetly at first, then more assertively, eventually becoming a rich source of inspiration.

 In 2014, Carl F. Bucherer was in a phase of rapid growth. After years of focusing solely on Asian markets, the brand decided to expand to the rest of the world. To do so, it drew on three key assets. The first was its commercial presence: Carl F. Bucherer was and is the world leader in watch retailing, with dozens of outlets under the Bucherer name. The second asset was its genuine Manufacture movement, while the third was the ability to extend its ranges in all directions and the sport & leisure dimension of this expansion was dubbed the Patravi ScubaTec. ‘Patravi’ denoted the broad sports watch family, while ‘ScubaTec’ designated a sub-category, just as the TravelTec descriptor referenced travel. The technical aspiration encapsulated by the name has seen various incarnations by the brand. The most noteworthy of these was the use, right from the earliest iterations, of a chronometer-certified calibre, albeit a generic one. It’s still something of a puzzle why Carl F. Bucherer didn’t use one of its in-house calibres featuring a peripheral winding system and numerous little complications; doing so would undoubtedly have helped people come to terms with the timepiece’s high price positioning. The decision to go for a case that was depthrated to 500 metres, complete with helium valve, did however signify a desire to really push the envelope in technical terms — quite understandable for a brand bereft of a marine (or submarine) heritage and fuelled (at the time) by burning ambition. That much was clear right from the launch of the collection. Its goal was above all commercial, as was evident from the number of references listed: no fewer than 11, all with a steel case and a ceramic insert in the bezel, the latter available in steel or rose gold, and with the option of a black, blue, or white dial — not to mention a choice, from the outset, of either a steel bracelet or a rubber strap with contrasting etching.

Patravi ScubaTec: Elemantaray, My Dear Watson

Patravi ScubaTec © Carl F. Bucherer

This Ray or that Ray?

That said, the Patravi ScubaTecs also bore witness to another, nobler, more poetic aspiration. While some dive watches feature a shark emblem, others have military connotations and still others are linked with exploration, Carl F. Bucherer chose the stingray — and one stingray in particular. The manta ray is the largest stingray in the Myliobatidae suborder. It’s also the most beautiful, the least aggressive, the most spectacular — and the most endangered. Here, the majestic fish is discreet — most obviously present in the form of an engraving on the steel caseback depicting two rays swimming. But when you look more closely, the creature has clearly inspired more than the flip side of the watch. The first thing that strikes you about a Patravi ScubaTec is the size of everything. With a diameter of 44.6mm, the case isn’t the biggest out there. The rotating bezel is quite large, but not exceptionally so; neither is the lettering on it. As a result, it’s the rounded yet slender style of the dial’s features that really stands out. The hands and applied hour-markersare curved, their outline unlike any other before or since; all the shapes in question echo those of the manta ray. It’s a superbly hydrodynamic fish, with curves everywhere — and not just when it’s swimming through the water. Amidst all those curves, the date window’s right-angled corners stick out like a sore thumb. As time went by and the ScubaTec collection matured, the piece became more clearly associated with preservation of the species, as well as paying tribute to it. Various intermediate editions celebrated the creature and it even ended up featuring (in stylised form) on the dials of the Patravi ScubaTec Black Manta Special Edition in 2017. This piece, in black DLC titanium — and more especially, its highly elaborate caseback engraving — marked the high point of a collection that’s taken rather a long while to find its true voice. At the same time, a partnership with the UK-based Manta Trust (including development funding for the latter) has enabled Carl F. Bucherer to align inspiration with action, helping to protect its talisman. 

This year GMT Magazine and WorldTempus have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the divers watch since 2000 in The Millennium Watch Book - Divers watch, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book - Divers watch is available in both French and English here:

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