Blancpain Is Making Time For The Reef

The Swiss manufacture’s history with the ocean runs deep — and includes concerted efforts to aid the plight of The Great Barrier Reef.

By Robb Report Staff 22/03/2023

A swirling, kaleidoscopic tableau of colour and coral. Underwater visions of angular, flamboyant, even famous fish (looking at you, Nemo), and the muffled sounds that cocoon the exploration of warm tropical waters. It’s other-worldly, this section of Far North Queensland. Wondrous and transportive.

At least that’s what one still envisions of the Great Barrier Reef. The reality is sadly opposed and devoid of such splendour—reefs are arguably decimated due to the increased frequency of coral bleaching, a loss of marine life due to warming waters and the volume of plastics infiltrating already fragile habitats.

Ever since the first documented mass-bleaching event in 1998, weve heard repeated warnings about the perils facing Australia’s most famous crop of coral—a 348,700-square-kilometre living structure (the largest on earth) that hugs the northeast coastline.

“My concern is that my kids growing up won’t know the reef like I know,” says Dr. Adam Barnett, director of the Biopixel Oceans Foundation. “I don’t want to take my kids snorkelling in 10 years and them be excited about just seeing one coral—that’s what I’m scared of.”

Despite such words, Barnett also breathes some hope into the conversation.

“When all that stuff came out about the reef being dead, it was a little bit of miscommunication by the media. There was a lot of coral bleaching and die-offs in the Far North Queensland waters, but the reef is too big to die completely. And bleaching doesn’t mean death—it can recover.”

The Biopixel Oceans Foundation is the first Australian organisation to receive support from esteemed Swiss watch manufacture Blancpain—the move informing the horologer’s Ocean Commitment initiative, a near 20-year-old program that has seen more than $70 million donated in support of research and conservation efforts.

“The traditional funding model for research organisations like us is long gone,” adds Barnett. “First off, you need a government in place that actually believes in the effects of climate change, but it’s fortunate there are companies out there, like Blancpain, who want to help us do the research and try to conserve the reef.”

Blancpain’s history with the ocean runs deep, developing the first ever dive watch, Fifty Fathoms, in 1953. The famous timepiece was the brainchild of then Blancpain CEO Jean-Jacques Fiechter, an avid diver who sought a timepiece with which to properly explore the waters below.

Current CEO Marc A. Hayek—also a keen diver—has continued Blancpains aquatic alignments and conservation efforts, while also reintroducing the Fifty Fathoms in 2007. Today, it represents around 35 percent of Blancpain’s sales.

“The Blancpain Ocean Commitment has grown in importance over the years,” Hayek tells Robb Report. “Whereas in the past we had to focus on raising awareness, today we can more often take part in field activities. Because after awareness, comes action.”

As for his company’s push into Australian waters: “The Great Barrier Reef is a gigantic lung which can positively or negatively influence other regions, depending on how it is protected. Part of the Great Barrier Reef has already disappeared. We have to limit the damage in order to save it.

“I mean, Australia is a jewel of the ocean and of nature in general. Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia, and so many other places are teeming with wildlife whose health is crucial to the rest of the world. So its not just Australia were trying to give something back to, but the entire world.”

The money committed to the Biopixel Oceans Foundation has seen the group—with links to the Emmy award-winning underwater film crew Biopixel, as headed by marine biologist and self-confessed “fish nerd” Richard Fitzpatrick—create a series of documentaries with Blancpain, highlighting the environmental work underway on the reef and the personalities behind driving such efforts.

Biopixel was formed in 2013 by Fitzpatrick and Australian IT entrepreneur Bevan Slattery, and holds what is the largest marine natural history archive of the South Pacific, creating high-definition visuals for the likes of the BBC, National Geographic and, now, the Blancpain-aligned series, based on their various aquatic expeditions.

The impressive “Megafauna” projects in 2019 and 2021 enabled the team to discover an aggregation of whale sharks off the coast of Far North Queensland— a previously undocumented gathering, which also led to the possible discovery of a new shark species.

While documenting whale sharks—two of which have been affectionately named Blancpain and Fifty Fathoms—is exciting and important work, tracking the animals is central to the research, as scientists look to analyse the movements of marine animals between protected areas and endangered zones. “What we’re trying to do is get people invested in the reef beyond the coral. We all know about what’s happening with the coral, but we need people interested in the wildlife that is so central to the reef and that without the reef wouldn’t exist,” offers Fitzpatrick. “The documentaries allow us to showcase what’s here in an interesting, engaging way, and this expedition that we filmed wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Blancpain.”

It was the Biopixel Oceans Foundations commitment to the reef that recently drew the Swiss manufacture from its Le Brassus headquarters to the balmy, tropical climes of Cairns. “We’ve been completely persuaded by the Biopixel Oceans Foundation,” says Hayek. “First, because it acts on multiple fronts: scientific research, awareness—through images of exceptional quality—and restoration. Also because it shows a great seriousness and commitment which mirrors its deep will to make a difference.”

Like the environment that surrounds them, the small community of scientists, researchers and videographers in Cairns are all connected, forming their own ecosystem of shared data, projects and researchers, something that Robb Report witnessed on a recent reef expedition.

As part of the journey, we headed to a newly built pontoon and research centre at Moore Reef, a two-hour boat ride across the Coral Sea from Cairns. Wedged into an unflatteringly tight wetsuit and among a group that included Andy Ridley, the founding CEO of Earth Hour and founder of Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, Alicia McArdle, manager of the Mars Assisted Reef Restoration System (yes, the famed chocolate brand also wants a healthy reef) and Professor Matt Dunbabin, creator of an artificial intelligence robot to help regenerate the reef, we indulged in a magical underwater experience, far removed from those fatalistic media reports.

“It’s definitely helping, but we need the tools,” says Dunbabin when quizzed about the impact of these and other initiatives designed to assist the reef. “The reef’s too big to die completely, but until we do something about climate change, we need to give it the tools to adapt and evolve.”

Fitzpatrick views the reef as the canary in the coal mine, and also highlights the most important of words in relation to the Great Barrier Reef—recovery. “We need to get carbon neutral. It’s the only way we’re going to save the planet … Yes, the reef is bleached in parts, but bleached coral can recover. It doesn’t mean it’s dead.”

A refocus on the reefs resilience should be better vocalised, too. “There needs to be a greater focus on that,” says Eric Fisher, biology manager and master reef guide with GBR Biology. “After every major bleaching event and tropical cyclone, the reef has a great ability to recover and come back, and we need more stories like that.”

These are small wins when compared to the numerous challenges confronting the Great Barrier Reef. But they offer tangible hope—for the future of the reef and for future generations.

“The notion of ‘generations’ is dominant in the watchmaking universe—we create our pieces with the future in mind. And to ensure the future, that of the next generations, we must protect the environment,” says Hayek. “Any positive action makes a difference. Even the smallest actions count. We must all, as human beings—and not just as an industry— play our part and act for our planet.”;


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First Drive: The Porsche 911 S/T Is a Feral Beast That Handles the Road Like an Olympic Bobsledder

The commemorative model borrows underpinnings from the GT3 RS and includes a 518 hp engine.

By Basem Wasef 23/10/2023

The soul of any sports car comes down to the alchemy of its tuning—how the engine, suspension, and chassis blend into a chorus of sensations. The secret sauce of the new Porsche 911 S/T, developed as a tribute to the 60th anniversary of the brand’s flagship model, is more potent than most; in fact, it makes a serious case for being the most driver-focused 911 of all time.

Sharing the S/T designation with the homologation special from the 1960s, the (mostly) innocuously styled commemorative model borrows underpinnings from the more visually extroverted GT3 RS. Yet what the S/T, starting at $290,000, lacks in fender cutouts and massive spoilers it makes up for in directness: a flat-six power plant that revs to 9,000 rpm, a motorsport-derived double-wishbone suspension, and a manual gearbox. It’s a delightfully feral combination.

Rossen Gargolov

Whereas the automatic-transmission GT3 RS is ruthlessly configured for maximum downforce and minimum lap times, the S/T is dialed in for the road—particularly the Southern Italian ones on which we’re testing the car, which happen to be the very same used by product manager Uwe Braun, Andreas Preuninger, head of Porsche’s GT line, and racing legend Walter Röhrl to finalize its calibration. The car reacts to throttle pressure with eerie deftness, spinning its 518 hp engine with thrilling immediacy, thanks to shorter gear ratios.

The steering response is similarly transparent, as direct as an unfiltered Marlboro, and the body follows with the agility of an Olympic bobsledder. Some of that purity of feeling is the result of addition through subtraction: Power-sapping elements including a hydraulic clutch and rear-axle steering were ditched, which also enabled the battery to be downsized for even more weight savings. The final result, with its carbon-fiber body panels, thinner glass, magnesium wheels, and reduced sound deadening, is the lightest 992-series variant on record, with roughly the same mass as the esteemed 911 R from 2016.

Driver engagement is further bolstered by the astounding crispness of the short-throw gearbox. The S/T fits hand in glove with narrow twisties and epic sweepers, or really any stretch that rewards mechanical grip and the ability to juke through hairpin corners. The cabin experience is slightly less raucous than the 911 R, but more raw than the wingless 911 GT3 Touring, with an intrusive clatter at idle due to the single-mass flywheel and featherlight clutch. Porsche cognoscenti will no doubt view the disturbance in the same way that hardcore Ducatisti revere the tambourine-like rattle of a traditional dry clutch: as an analog badge of honor.

The main bragging right, though, may just be owning one. In a nod to the year the 911 debuted, only 1,963 examples of the S/T will be built. Considering the seven-year-old 911 R started life at$295,000 and has since fetched upwards of $790,000, this new lightweight could bring proportionately heavy returns—if you can be pried from behind the wheel long enough to sell it, that is.

Images by Rossen Gargolov

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Gentlemanly Restraint 

Art and science collide in the the newly released BR03A watch collection by Bell & Ross.

By Belinda Aucott 02/11/2023

In keeping with the brand’s design salute to aviation and military equipment, the pared-back face of the Bell & Ross BR03 Automatic takes its cue from the instrumentation in cockpits. It’s unabashedly minimal and confidently masculine style is set to make it a future classic.

Faithful to the codes that underpin the brand’s identity, the new utilitarian offerings sit within a smaller 41-mm case (a slight departure from the original at 42 mm Diver, Chrono or GMT.) and has a reduced lug width and slimmer hands. The changes extend to the watch movement, which has been updated with a BR-CAL.302 calibre. The watch is waterproof to 300 metres and offers a power reserve of 54 hours.

While the new collection offers an elegant sufficiency of colourways, from a stealthy black to more decorative bronze face with a tan strap, each is a faithful rendition of the stylish “rounded square, four-screw” motif that is Bell & Ross’s calling card.



For extra slickness, the all-black Phantom and Nightlum models have a stealthy, secret-agent appeal, offering up a new take on masculine restraint.

Yet even the more decorative styles, like the black face with contrasting army-green band, feel eminently versatile and easy to wear. The 60’s simplicity and legibility of the face is what makes it so distinctive and functional.

For example, the BR 03-92 Nightlum, with its black matte case and dial, and bright green indices and hands, offers a great contrast during the day and emits useful luminosity at night.

A watch that begs to be read, the the BR03-A stands up to scrutiny, and looks just as good next to a crisp, white cuff as it does at the end of a matte, black wetsuit.

That’s a claim not many watch collections can make. 

Explore the collection.

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Timeless Glamour & Music Aboard The Venice Simplon-Orient Express

Lose yourself in a luxury journey, aboard an Art Deco train from Paris

By Belinda Aucott 03/11/2023

Watching the unseen corners of Europe unfold gently outside your train, window can be thirsty work, right? That’s why Belmond Hotels is once again staging a culinary train journey from Paris to Venice, aboard the glittering Art Deco carriages of the Venice Simplon-Orient Express.

To celebrate diversity and inclusion in the LBTQ+ community, another unforgettable train ride is slated for 2 November.

On the journey, ample servings of decadent cuisine will be served and live entertainment will play looooong into the night. Trans-DJ Honey Dijon and Dresden’s Purple Disco Machine are both part of the disco-house line-up.

Passengers are encouraged to dress in black-tie or cocktail attire, before they head to the bar and dining carriages to enjoy their night, where they are promised ‘unapologetic extravagance’,.

Negronis, martinis, spritzes and sours will all be on offer as the sunlight fades.

So-hot-right-now French chef Jean Imbert is also in the kitchen rattling the pans for guests.

Imber puts a garden-green-goodness twist on Gallic traditions. He regularly cooks for the who’s-who. Imbert recently co-created a food concept for Dior in Paris, worked with Pharrell Williams to present a dinner in Miami, and he’s even been invited to Cheval Blanc St-Barth to cater luxe LVMH-owned property.

The young chef is vowing to create no less than ‘culinary perfection’ in motion with his own passion for fresh seasonal produce. There’ll be plenty of Beluga caviar, seared scallops, and lobster vol-au-vents.

“I want to create beautiful moments which complement the train, which is the true star,” says Imbert of his hands-on approach to delectable pastries and twists on elegant Euro classics.

“Its unique legacy is something we take pride in respecting, while evolving a new sense of style and purpose that will captivate a new generation.”

Check the timetable for the itinerary of lush inclusions here.

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From Electric Surfboards to Biodegradable Golf Balls: 8 Eco-Conscious Yacht Toys for Green and Clean Fun

Just add water and forget the eco-guilt.

By Gemma Harris 18/10/2023

Without toys, yachts would be kind of sedentary. There’s nothing wrong with an alfresco meal, sunsets on the flybridge and daily massages. But toys add zest to life on board, while creating a deeper connection with the water. These days, there are a growing number of options for eco-friendly gadgets and equipment that deliver a greener way to play. These eight toys range from do-it-yourself-propulsion (waterborne fitness bikes) to electric foiling boards, from kayaks made of 100 percent recycled plastics to non-toxic, biodegradable golf balls with fish food inside. Your on-water adrenaline rushes don’t always have to be about noise and gas fumes. They can be fun, silent, and eco-conscious.

A game of golf isn’t just for land. Guests can play their best handicap from the deck with Albus Golf’s eco-friendly golf balls. The ecological and biodegradable golf balls are 100 percent safe for marine flora and fauna, and manufactured with non-contaminating materials. The balls will biodegrade within 48 hours after hitting the ocean and release the fish food contained in their core. For a complete golfing experience, add a floating FunAir green. From $3100 (FunAir Yacht Golf) and $315 a box (golf balls).

Fliteboard Series 2.0

The future of surf is electric, and Fliteboard offers an emissions-free and environmentally friendly electric hydrofoil. Flying over the water has never been as efficient and low impact, using new technologies with less than 750 watts of electric power. This second series boasts various performance factors for all riding styles. It also features an increased trigger range from 20 to 40 degrees for more precision and control. Fliteboard designed this series for every possible foiling ability, from newbies to wave-carvers. From $22,000.

Manta 5 Hydrofoiler XE-1

Hailing from New Zealand and using America’s Cup technology, Manta 5 offers the first hydrofoil bike. The Hydrofoiler XE-1 replicates the cycling experience on the water. Powered by fitness-level pedaling and assisted by the onboard battery, top speeds can reach up to 19 km per hour. The two hydrofoils are carbon fibre, and the frame is aircraft-grade aluminium. The onboard Garmin computer will relay all the stats. The effortless gliding sensation will accompany you through a workout, exploration or just circling the boat. From $950.

Mo-Jet’s Jet Board

Imagine five toys in one: The Mo Jet delivers just that. From jet surfing, bodyboarding, and e-foiling to scooter diving. This versatile, German-built toy is perfect for those who cannot decide. The Mo-jet uses a cool modular system allowing you to switch between activities. Whether you want to stand, be dragged around or dive, you can have it all. It even has a life-saving module and a 2.8m rescue electric surfboard. Made from environmentally friendly and recyclable polyethene, it also ticks the eco-conscious boxes. Complete with an 11kW electric water jet, it charges in 75 mins, offering up to 30 mins of fun. Adrenaline junkies will also not be disappointed, since speed surges from 0 to 27 knots in 3 seconds. From $18,000.

Silent Yachts Tender ST400

Driven by innovation and solar energy, Silent Yachts recently launched its first electric tender, the ST400. The 13-footer has clean-cut lines and is built with either an electric jet drive or a conventional electric outboard engine. The ST400 reaches speeds above 20 knots. From $110,000.

Osiris Outdoor ‘Reprisal’ Kayak

Kayaks are ideal for preserving and protecting nature, but they’re usually manufactured with materials that will last decades longer than we will and therefore not too eco-friendly. Founded by US outdoor enthusiasts, Osiris Outdoor has created a new type of personal boat. “The Reprisal” kayak is manufactured in the US entirely from recycled plastics (around 27 kgs) that are purchased from recycling facilities. The sustainable manufacturing process isn’t its only selling point; the lightweight Reprisals have spacious storage compartments, rod holders and a watertight hatch for gadgets. Complete with a matte-black finish for a stylish look. From $1100.

The Fanatic Ray Eco SUP Paddleboard

Declared as the most sustainable SUP, the Ray Eco is the brainchild of the Zero Emissions Project and BoardLab, supported by Fanatic. Glass and carbon fibre have been replaced with sustainable Kiri tree wood. And you can forget toxic varnishes and resins; organic linseed oil has been used to seal the board and maintain its durability. This fast, light, and stable board is truly one of a kind, not available off the rack. This craftsman’s love for detail and preservation is another first-class quality of the board. From $10,000

Northern Light Composite X Clean Sailors EcoOptimist

One of the most popular, single-handed dinghies in sailing’s history, the tiny Optimist has undergone a sustainable revival. Northern Light Composites and not-for-profit Clean Sailors have teamed up to launch the first sustainable and recyclable Optimist. Using natural fibres and eco-sustainable resins, The EcoOptimist supports a new circular economy in yachting. OneSail also produces the sail with a low-carbon-footprint manufacturing process. From $6000.

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The 50 Best Cocktail Bars in the World, According to a New Ranking

The World’s 50 Best organisation gave the Spanish bar Sips top honours during an awards ceremony in Singapore.

By Tori Latham 18/10/2023

If you’re looking for the best bar in the world, you better head to Barcelona.
Sips, from the industry luminaries Simone Caporale and Marc Álvarez, was named the No. 1 bar on the planet in the latest World’s 50 Best Bars ranking. The organisation held its annual awards ceremony on Tuesday in Singapore, the first time it hosted the gathering in Asia. Sips, which only opened two years ago, moved up to the top spot from No. 3 last year.
“Sips was destined for greatness even before it rocketed into the list at No. 37 just a few short months after opening in 2021,” William Drew, the director of content for 50 Best, said in a statement.
“The bar seamlessly translates contemporary innovation and technical precision into a playful cocktail programme, accompanied by the warmest hospitality, making it a worthy winner of The World’s Best Bar 2023 title.”
Coming in second was North America’s best bar: New York City’s Double Chicken Please. The top five was rounded out by Mexico City’s Handshake Speakeasy, Barcelona’s Paradiso (last year’s No. 1), and London’s Connaught Bar. The highest new entry was Seoul’s Zest at No. 18, while the highest climber was Oslo’s Himkok, which moved up to No. 10 from No. 43 last year.
Barcelona may be home to two of the top five bars, but London has cemented its status as the cocktail capital of the world: The English city had five bars make the list, more than any other town represented. Along with Connaught Bar in the top five, Tayēr + Elementary came in at No. 8, and Satan’s Whiskers (No. 28), A Bar With Shapes for a Name (No. 35), and Scarfes Bar (No. 41) all made the grade too.
The United States similarly had a good showing this year. New York City, in particular, is home to a number of the best bars: Overstory (No. 17) and Katana Kitten (No. 27) joined Double Chicken Please on the list.
Elsewhere, Miami’s Café La Trova hit No. 24 and New Orleans’s Jewel of the South snuck in at No. 49, bringing the Big Easy back to the ranking for the first time since 2014.
To celebrate their accomplishments, all of this year’s winners deserve a drink—made by somebody else at least just this once.
Check out the full list of the 50 best bars in the world below.
1. Sips, Barcelona
2. Double Chicken Please, New York
3. Handshake Speakeasy, Mexico City
4. Paradiso, Barcelona
5. Connaught Bar, London
6. Little Red Door, Paris
7. Licorería Limantour, Mexico City
8. Tayēr + Elementary, London
9. Alquímico, Cartagena
10. Himkok, Oslo
11. Tres Monos, Buenos Aires
12. Line, Athens
13. BKK Social Club, Bangkok
14. Jigger & Pony, Singapore
15. Maybe Sammy, Sydney
16. Salmon Guru, Madrid
17. Overstory, New York
18. Zest, Seoul
19. Mahaniyom Cocktail Bar, Bangkok
20. Coa, Hong Kong
21. Drink Kong, Rome
22. Hanky Panky, Mexico City
23. Caretaker’s Cottage, Melbourne
24. Café La Trova, Miami
25. Baba au Rum, Athens
26. CoChinChina, Buenos Aires
27. Katana Kitten, New York
28. Satan’s Whiskers, London
29. Wax On, Berlin
30. Florería Atlántico, Buenos Aires
31. Röda Huset, Stockholm
32. Sago House, Singapore
33. Freni e Frizioni, Rome
34. Argo, Hong Kong
35. A Bar With Shapes for a Name, London
36. The SG Club, Tokyo
37. Bar Benfiddich, Tokyo
38. The Cambridge Public House, Paris
39. Panda & Sons, Edinburgh
40. Mimi Kakushi, Dubai
41. Scarfes Bar, London
42. 1930, Milan
43. Carnaval, Lima
44. L’Antiquario, Naples
45. Baltra Bar, Mexico City
46. Locale Firenze, Florence
47. The Clumsies, Athens
48. Atlas, Singapore
49. Jewel of the South, New Orleans
50. Galaxy Bar, Dubai

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