How did your first meeting go?

LB: I thought about which brand could be my sponsor and I thought Blancpain would be perfect. I was nervous for this appointment and three minutes after I met Marc, we agreed to work together.

I thought most of the brands wanted one shot and I wanted something more long term. I knew Blancpain would be the best one, as they were focused on true projects and they want to partner with true people. Other brands buy a cinema star to be an ambassador and, for me, that is fake. I saw what Blancpain did and their ambassadors were not well-known, like me, so I thought we could create something authentic. I was confident and I knew my project was authentic and true. My way to work is that I try to contribute to science and contribute to diving and underwater fine art. All my projects, my adventures, have these three challenges. That’s the perfect fit, because when Blancpain makes a watch, they want the content inside, and outside is a piece of art.

MH: I am very passionate about diving and underwater photography, so when I met Laurent, it was very quick to see that we had something here that was exceptional. When I saw his photos, I knew it was perfect. I always have the philosophy for Blancpain that if we work with someone, that person has to be authentic.

Did you know that Mr. Hayek was a diver?

LB: I didn’t know Marc was a diver. Sometimes the CEO of a brand is not involved with diving, even though the brand might be associated with it, so I didn’t know that he was passionate about diving. When I started my presentation, I was nervous. On the second picture, he asked me what camera I was using and other technical questions. I was surprised and impressed.

Mr. Hayek, what attracts you about diving?

MH: I love the feeling when I am diving. I never feel the negative side; for me, it is so euphoric. It’s not like I have to have that feeling all the time—if I can have a two-week dive trip every so often, I want to go deep and have that feeling, as it is so positive for me.

How did the new breathing equipment revolutionize your work?

LB: Fifteen years ago, there was a revolution in diving: equipment to recycle your breathing was introduced (rebreathers). Imagine if you could only go into the forest for 30 minutes a day and you pretend to be a botanist? I couldn’t just spend 30 minutes in the water. Now, you can spend almost as long as you want; the only limit is our limits for cold or fatigue. It means the potential for more accidents, though, because before the limit was the equipment; now it is your own limits. You can reach your own limits quickly and therefore you have to be very careful about knowing our equipment, and the conditions that suit you best.

MH: With Laurent, I had my first rebreather dive. Since then, I have continued to use the rebreather. We have the same sensation as on land, as time can shrink or expand. Underwater, time is more present and I realize that it can compress. You have a one- hour dive, for example, but you see that time is more important. Diving can cost your life, so you have to keep time in mind. This is much more present and concentrated underwater. I live this much more consciously, and I am more aware of it.

 

LB: I still don’t know if time is longer or shorter underwater and it’s been my job for over 20 years. When I come out of the water, and some friends are waiting, time for sure was so different for them. Sometimes it is much longer for them, because the dive was exciting for us. Sometimes for them, five hours is like five months. But sometimes in the water, time is very long.

How are things going for your project?

LB: Working with Blancpain, it is a dream come true. When I was a student diver, I didn’t know if I was first a diver, a photographer or a biologist; I just knew that I was focused on working underwater. Now, I can propose projects for the rest of my life, no problem. For me, everything is focused around something never done before, never seen before. Once you have defined something like that you can do science, diving and fine art. There are mythic animals, never seen before, which are on my radar.

Laurent, you recently did a 24-hour dive. What was that like?

LB: The world was not the same when I came out. We were in the south of Polynesia, just my team and I. I was stressed before I went in, and when I resurfaced there were 100 people. All the Blancpain people were there, including Marc!

It was a fantastic challenge. I was so stressed and nervous, my average dive is four hours, but during the first hours, I had the feeling that I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t a natural feeling. After one hour, I had pain everywhere, which was all in my mind. Then, the current changed, the water cleared up, and I started to look outside of me instead of inside and it became easier.

During the 12 nighttime hours, I didn’t even realize the time passage. I was bumped by the sharks all night long, and I had bruises from the sharks. I couldn’t be bored. I did not sleep underwater. It was not boring and didn’t feel long, but the two last hours were the longest.

I went in the water at 3:00 p.m. and came up 24 hours later. We prepared a year for that. It was in the open water, more than 20 meters down. If you spend 24 hours at 20 meters, normally you have to decompress for 20 hours to come out. I didn’t want to do that; I had the feeling that there would be a different solution. We reduced that time to two hours with a new mixture of gas.

I didn’t do anything special; it was really just finding a solution. Now, with this protocol, any professional diver can do the same. That’s why I am proud, it is a contribution to diving, and what we did, now everyone can do.

MH: Blancpain is a brand that is discreet and understated and the approach Laurent has matches our approach to the protection of the oceans—anyone can and should do it.

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