Q&A: Guillaume Néry (Panerai)

Freediving champion Guillaume Néry has explored the depth of the unknown, and in it found the limits of humanity.

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How did you get into freediving? What attracted you to the sport?

I discovered freediving by chance, doing a challenge with a friend on the bus to school. We were just trying to hold our breath the longest. I was 14 years old, and this was an experiment to [find] the limits of my body. That was fascinating to me. Because I was living in Nice, by the Mediterranean Sea, I decided I should try [doing it] underwater. It was much more interesting than just holding my breath on the bus! I fell in love with this feeling of going down deeper and deeper, like I was discovering an unknown planet. Today, the quest of the unknown, the exploration of human limits—these are still my passions. But lately I’ve [used] freediving for reconnecting with my own body, getting this harmony between the body, the mind, and the water. I don’t need to compete or break a record to experience it. Every time I go underwater, it feels like a moment of peace and happiness, whatever the time or the depth. Of course, as an athlete, I like world record attempts or world championship dives. I have prepared for so many hours, days, weeks, months, and you just have one chance to make it perfect. That’s the most challenging part. Freediving is all about relaxation, letting go, but it’s very hard to relax when you know you are about to attempt the deepest dive ever. In the end, the most enjoyable thing is when you can forget about all that, and just focus on the great feeling of gliding in the water.

What benefits does a good diving watch provide while you are underwater?

The watch is the only thing from my life on land that I bring with me into the deep. The watch becomes a link between my aquatic and outside life. The watch is a kind of symbol of the time passing, and when I am underwater on a single breath of air, life is time! I have to trust my body and the watch that [measures] the time I spend underwater. A good diving watch should be big enough so that you can easily read the time, but also not to heavy so that it feels like a part of your body. On top of that, I try to share the passion of the underwater world with the larger world, so aesthetics plays a huge role when people film me or take pictures of my dive. I try to be very careful in my movement underwater, to be graceful as I truly believe it helps the efficiency, and I want to wear the best outfit. The watch needs to have the best design and look that will combine my quest of aestheticism and performance. Today, I have found the watch that meets my expectations.

Do you ever get frightened before, or during, a deep dive?

Freediving is known to be a dangerous sport, but in reality we are doing a very safe activity. The main rule is: never freedive alone. I am always surrounded by my team when I am training or taking part in a competition. But, of course, sometimes you can experience the unexpected, and you have to be trained to deal with unpredictable situations. In 2015, I was trying to break my fifth world record, attempting a dive at -129 meters. The organization made a mistake on the rope measurement, and I dove at -139. It was of course too deep, and I lost consciousness a few meters from the surface [during the ascent]. It could have been very serious. I recovered after few days, because I was in a very good shape. But the deepest dives are not always the most dangerous. The main danger is overconfidence. It’s very important to stay humble and remember that we, as humans, are very vulnerable and small in this world, especially when we are deep down, like a small drop of water lost in the middle of the ocean.

Q&A: Géraldine Fasnacht (TAG Heuer)

Some get their thrill by climbing mountains.

Snowboarder, BASE jumper, and wingsuit pilot Géraldine Fasnacht gets hers by jumping off of them.

When was your first wingsuit flight?

In 2001. I prepared so much for it. Practicing my way out of the plane, my position to fly, my movement to safely open my parachute. But I could not imagine this magic feeling, to fly like a bird. It was so incredible that I just flew straight away from the airport and forgot completely to fly back. It took me two hours to walk back there, but I was the happiest girl on earth.

You’ve participated in many adventure sports, including BASE jumping, speed riding, and snowboarding. What’s the common thread in all of these?

It is like being a painter in front of a white canvas. I am an artist, I am drawing lines on the mountains, trying to follow the shape of the ridges, the light of the sun, to compose my flight or my [snowboard] ride, to be part of the elements. It is like a dance, a communion.

These sports can be dangerous, and you’ve experienced the tragedy firsthand. [Fasnacht’s husband was killing in a high-speed skiing accident in 2006.] What keeps you coming back? Would you ever retire?

I love being in the mountains. They are my inspirations and my way of life. It is my place and I feel lucky that I have found my passion where I can totally express myself and be part of the evolution of the sports. I will continue so long as my body is feeling good, and I [can maintain] the high level of training [needed] to realize my projects and objectives. If one day I cannot do these things anymore, then I will feel too unsafe, and I will retire, yes.

Can you explain the differences between wingsuit flying from an airplane and wingsuit flying from a mountaintop? Is the sensation different? Is one more exciting than the other?

It is totally different. From a mountain, just the way up makes it already special, climbing or walking to the top, being aware of the weather conditions, the shape of the mountain for the exit and the line I would like to fly, getting geared up at the summit and enjoying the view. Then I am analyzing the conditions again to decide my way down, visualizing and memorizing my line. There is just me at this present moment, composing with the shape of the nature. I know that my movements have to be perfect from the take-off to the landing. No mistakes.

From the plane, you are flying in the middle of the sky, starting from 4,000 meters high. When I am doing my last checks before my flight, like, when I prepare my plane before taking off, I am very focused. Then I walk to the edge of the cliff and I do my countdown—3-2-1 BASE!—and draw my line along the mountain.

In YouTube videos, you sometimes see wingsuit pilots throw a stone off the mountain before taking off. What is this ritual, and where did it come from?

It was our way to calculate how many meters vertical drop we had to jump off the cliff. One second equals five meters. Two seconds equals 20 meters, three seconds equals 45 meters, four seconds equals 80 meters, five seconds equals 122 meters, six seconds equals 176 meters, seven seconds equals 240 meters, and so on. Now I use a laser. It is much more precise and more convenient, as I can also know the exact [grade] of the slope below, to know if it is steep enough to fly over. This is very important for the technical jumps, like the top of Mont Rose, which is 4,634 [high] and [has a] 60-meter vertical drop, as I have a very short drop to take off.

You grew up in Switzerland, near Verbier. What do the mountains symbolize to you? What do you love about them?

I feel lucky that my parents always let me do what made me happy. Being outside in nature, playing with my friends, snowboarding, skateboarding, building huts in the forest. Not so much “girl” activities. The mountains are my inspiration, and growing up here made me imagine more possibilities. Not only the way up, but also enjoying the way down. I was born at the perfect time to live an incredible evolution of snowboard free-riding and wingsuit flying. I could explore and open a lot of different lines that were not possible before. Enjoying the mountains in winter make me imagine lines for summer, and knowing the fields in summer made me able to realize lines with my snowboard in winter. My first flight was from the top [of the Matterhorn] in 2014, which I imagined after snowboarding down the east face in 2009. I just had to wait to have a wingsuit high-performance enough to do it!

Q&A: Alain Hubert (Rolex)

Alain Hubert is a certified mountaineer, polar guide, civil engineer, and entrepreneur. But more than anything, he is an explorer. 

When did you realize that you wanted to live a life of adventure?

Probably when I first reached the summit of a mountain, in Austria. The sun was setting and I had below me a sea of clouds stretching to the horizon. At that particular moment, I knew that my life would be one of a mountaineering. Through that, I became a polar explorer. But essentially, I’m an entrepreneur without any boundaries between all my activities.

You first ascended the East Ridge of the Amadablam in Nepal in 1983. How have exploring tools evolved since then? What is the biggest advancement you’ve seen during your career?

Definitely the lightness of all our equipment, and the synthetic fibers for clothing and all the technical materials, which gives us the possibility of pushing the limits while at the same time being closer to nature. One of the most important evolutions was the GPS and, later, satellite phones. Not for the progression of comfort, but for ultimate safety. Although now I am a little nostalgic when I think of the total isolation of my first expeditions.

What about watches?

My first Rolex was the Explorer II. I still use it on expeditions because I know it will not stop out on the ice and it is also the one I wear every single day of the year. In the middle of the Arctic Ocean, I’m surrounded by an environment that is white as far as the eye can see. You can only find your way by using the sun and the wind. But my Explorer can be used as a compass to help me keep my bearings in any conditions. I just have to look at my wristwatch to check my direction in relation to the sun. When I’m not on expedition, a quick look at my watch is enough to remind me that I made some fantastic expeditions and it makes me dream of new adventures.

How has the brand impacted the field of exploration, not only for you directly, but overall?

Rolex has such a long tradition of supporting exploration that the name has become intrinsically linked with it. It’s a connection with all the explorers who have experienced firsthand the fragility and exponential speed of change in the environment. This partnership with explorers and scientists has put Rolex in a privileged position. It has become a form of recognition of achievement.

What’s the most dangerous situation you’ve experienced during a climb or expedition? Is there a time you remember being scared?

Certainly my first encounter with polar bears in the Arctic. One huge male surprised me from the top of a block of ice. I had just been pushed back by an extremely strong wind while trying to cross an open lead in the middle of a big storm. I thought it was the end. And yet, at the same time, I was fascinated by the majesty of this animal, rightly called Lord of the Arctic.

In 1998, you set a world record crossing the Antarctic continent in 99 days, the longest crossing ever made on foot and ski. What other record would you like to attempt?

Nowadays breaking a record is no longer the most important goal in my life. When looking at the huge challenge of building a future—to be able to survive and live together on planet Earth as a human family—I have to do all I can. [I want to] share this new human adventure.

So how can we build a more sustainable world overall? You come from an engineering background, and developed the solar- and wind-powered Princess Elisabeth Station in Antarctica. What lessons did you learn?

The Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Research Station was designed and built with the International Polar Foundation. It is a zero-emissions station, with a micro-smart grid that produces all the energy needed for our activities. Having to adapt the rhythm of our activities to the availability of the energy, which depends on the sun and the wind, we realized that it wasn’t that difficult to change our habits—and that it didn’t imply suffering or reducing our standard of living. Building a more sustainable world will only be possible if we reconsider our relationship with energy. This is absolutely feasible. But the question is: Are we able to adapt?

Raptures of the Deep

Photographs by Junichi Ito
Styling by Stephen Watson & Jared Lawton

Doctors call it nitrogen narcosis. Diving’s old guard call it Martini’s Law. Both mean the same thing: For every 15 meters of depth, the physical effect is equivalent to one drink. Euphoria? Hallucinations? All that and more. But you don’t need an underwater trip to see that modern sports watches are reaching higher levels of dry-land appeal. Slowly surface. It’s time to decompress.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph, $26,600; audemarspiguet.com
Cartier Calibre de Cartier Carbon Diver Watch, $8,950; cartier.com
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date 70s, $12,700; blancpain.com
Hublot King Power Titanium Oceanographic 4000, $20,600; hublot.com
LEFT: Rado Tradition Captain Cook MK III, $2,550; rado.com RIGHT: TAG Heuer Aquaracer Calibre 5, $2,400; tagheuer.com
Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Oro Rosso, $26,700; panerai.com
Rolex Sea-Dweller, $11,350; rolex.com
LEFT: Vacheron Constantin Overseas, $20,900; vacheron-constantin.com RIGHT: Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Diver, $3,700; bellross.com

Supper Club

Surveying the heroes of the Brooklyn food scene with a selection of fine chronographs.

Photographs by Doug Young

It’s almost as easy to lampoon the great awakening of American eating (“The chicken’s name was Colin. Here are his papers.”) as it is easy to lampoon modern-day Brooklyn (“Nah man, Martha’s, that new artisanal mayonnaise spot.”) But the fedora foodies are moving to Ohio, and the half-cocked concept joints closing down, leaving behind only the smartest, realest, most passionate culinary characters. The kind of characters that made Brooklyn’s food scene so remarkable to begin with. The kind of characters that make modern dining feel like a privilege.

In recognition, we spent two days touring the borough, catching up with its most exciting and influential local chefs. We talked about food and progress and the city. Then we dressed them in exciting and influential chronographs, newcomers and mainstays, and photographed them inside the kitchen.

Each chef had a different way of thinking about food. But they all agreed on one thing: It’s a damn good time to be cooking (and dining) in Brooklyn.


Name: Chef T.J. Steele

Known for: Spending more than a decade in Mexico, embedded with local cooks and mezcaleros, then returning to New York and blowing minds.

Wearing: Panerai Luminor 1950 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic Ceramica 44mm, $14,700; panerai.com

He says: “All the décor comes straight from my friends in Oaxaca. The bar tiles are from Francisco Toledo and Dr. Lakra. They did the murals, too. There was this famous cantina down there, and it had a mural with three pigs cooking a woman. So we kinda did our own thing with it. Three goats. Pretty great, right?”

Claro
284 3rd Avenue
(347) 721-3126


Name: Emily and Melissa Elsen

Known for: Making patisseries cool again.

Wearing: (Emily, left) Omega Speedmaster 38 Co-Axial Chronograph, $4,900; omegawatches.com + (Melissa, right) Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, $12,400; rolex.com

They say: “Old-school Brooklyn baking is very much Italian, very traditional. New Brooklyn is lot of people like us. More casual, more home-style. When we came here in 1999, it was all delis, you know? Now there’s a coffee shop on every corner.”

Four & Twenty Blackbirds
439 3rd Avenue
(718) 499-2917


Name: Chef Dale Talde

Known for: Besides finishing sixth on Top Chef? Probably the pretzeled dumplings.

Wearing: Jaquet Droz SW Chrono $17,300; jaquet-droz.com

He says: “There’s an ability to take risks out here. Maybe more so before, when rent was cheap. It was the Wild West. When we opened, I couldn’t name another restaurant on Seventh Ave. Did I think I’d still be serving that pretzel dish six years later? No. But I’m happy doing it, because that’s what the neighborhood wants. This restaurant belongs to their neighborhood. If you’re a chef, and you haven’t caught onto that yet, you’re fucking lost.”

Talde
369 Seventh Avenue
(347) 916-0031


Name: Chef Erin Shambura

Known for: Creating a buzzy, wine-focused Italian restaurant that actually lives up to the hype.

Wearing: Hermès Arceau Chrono Titane, $5,100; hermes.comShe says: “We wanted a 1950s Italy feel, but in a modern-day Brooklyn setting. I lived in the Veneto, about 30 kilometers from Venice. The traditional, hand-extruded pasta has sentimental value to me. We’ve got this Tajarin, an egg-based noodle, a play on carbonara, so instead of heavy black pepper in the sauce, the black pepper is in the actual noodle. We’re serving it with ramps, house-cured pancetta, finished with an organic egg … People have so much more knowledge about food than they ever have. They’re eating so many more things. So we can have the pastas, but also sardines and whole fish, presented on the bone. It’s beautiful.”

Fausto
348 Flatbush Avenue
(917) 909-1427


Name: Chef Vincent Fraissange & Cat Alexander

Known for: One of the borough’s smartest seasonal menus, dished up at an unpretentious bistro hidden under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

Wearing: (Vincent, right) Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Chronograph, $23,900; jaeger-lecoultre.com + (Cat, left) Throne Watches Fragment 2.0, $495; thronewatches.com

They say: “We got married three years ago, and started a catering company. We were looking for spaces, basically a commissary kitchen, and saw the ‘For Lease’ sign. We live like a block away, and this was a famous butcher shop in the neighborhood, Graham Avenue Meats, a staple for like thirty years. Once we signed the lease, we were like, ‘Man, the neighborhood really needs a restaurant.’ So we just went for it.”

Pheasant
445 Graham Avenue
(718) 675-5588


Name: Chef Justin Bazdarich

Known for: Initiating Brooklynites to gourmet-level, rustic wood-fired eats.

Wearing: Patek Philippe Ref. 5905P Chronograph with Annual Calendar, $78,250; patek.com

He says: “My other restaurants [Speedy Romeo] have wood-burning ovens. At first, New York City said we couldn’t have a wood-burning grill. We had to figure out all this stuff with permitting, but we got it done. So I’m sticking with that wood-fired theme here [at Oxomoco], but just doing Mexican cuisine.”

Oxomoco
128 Greenpoint Avenue
(646) 688-4180

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