As a ZRC distributor, we had the chance to meet the ambassador of the brand, Alban Michon, for the presentation of his latest book and the ZRC wristwatch he worn during his famous expedition to the North Pole “Arktic North Adventure”, in 2018. We were curious to know what his vision of watches was, as an explorer and/or adventurer.
Not many people know this, but I’ve always loved watches. My very first wristwatch was a gift for my 14th birthday: a Tag Heuer. But the first watch I bought was a Yema that I got from my first paycheck as a garbage collector, during the summer of my 16th birthday. I still have these two relics and am deeply attached to them.
As you can see, they were already diver wristwatches. Initially I considered the watch as a jewel, the jewel for men. But, for the last 10 years, I see it mainly as a working and safety too, since I started my first expeditions. Today, it would be out of the question for me to leave without a watch during one of my expeditions. In 2010, I started wearing a ROLEX and then I met Georges [editor’s note: Georges Brunet, ZRC brand director].
I dived for the first time when I was 10 years old, in a pool in Troyes. I immediately decided to make it my profession. Actually, I got my first level of diving when I was 11 years old. It may sound strange but after that, I wrote the plan of my life. Since then, I have been trying to follow the promise I made to myself. I think it’s very important to keep your commitments, especially in a world where people consider their promises with less and less importance.
Today we must distinguish two notions: the adventurer is not necessarily an explorer but on the other hand an explorer can be an adventurer. In my opinion, the notion of adventurer implies more the sporting exploit “higher, stronger”: pushing oneself to the limits. On the other hand, the explorer implies a more scientific connotation; it can be as much for mapping as for discovering new spaces. The explorer goes where the scientist cannot: it is the next step. I see myself as an explorer, where Mike Horn is more of an adventurer.
To understand the evolution of the world, you need regular information. The explorer transmits this information to the scientists. So, the explorer works in the service of science, he is the link between nature and scientists. For example, he can take samples of plankton. Bringing back this information is a way of participating in the protection of the environment. It is this scientific dimension that brings meaning to what I do.
When I created a school for diving, I aimed to bring pleasure to people, because what I want above all is to share my passion. Today I have sold all of them to devote myself to exploration. It was an extraordinary experience, with a pleasant routine, but I wanted new challenges, to learn again and to push myself over the limits.
You have to live with your time. So, I had to learn how to reconcile my quest for a meaning with social networks. They are a phenomenal way of sharing: they allow me to show the beauty of the world, to bring a certain form of happiness to people. This is very important because wonder is the first step towards respect. I have the opportunity to expose the splendor and enchantment I witness to others. On the one hand it would be selfish of me not to do so, on the other hand it is a way to convey a message: surpassing oneself and protecting the environment. It is this same message that I try to convey through my books and films. Therefore, even though I don’t master the tools of social networks to perfection, I take great pleasure in the sense of usefulness that it gives me.
I met Georges [Brunet] through a mutual friend, when he was launching the “Grand Fond” [editor’s note: in 2014]. We talked a lot and immediately I had a good feeling. I immediately found him approachable and friendly. When I was due to leave in 2013 for the South Antarctic, Georges offered to make a wristwatch adapted to my needs. Indeed, you have to take into account that, during a mission, a watch is above all a tool: it has to respect a set of specifications that goes from the flexibility of the strap (to fit on the mittens), to the water-resistance and the presence of a calendar. Everything had been respected, so I became the ambassador of the brand and went on a mission wearing the “North Adventure” on my wrist. I wore it 24 hours a day, and you could see that the watch is in perfect condition, except for a few slight scratches.
The ZRC is a solid wristwatch. In addition to the fact that I like the charm and originality of the ZRC – especially with the crown at 6 o’clock -, I still insist on the utilitarian aspect of this watch: it is a working tool, especially under the ice where, because of the cold, no electronic instrument works. So, when I dived, I only had my wristwatch and my depth gauge. It’s the only thing that connects me to the outside world, in deep water, is my watch. Seeing the luminescent indexes and hands turning is very reassuring. When I am on an expedition, entirely alone, I talk to my equipment: ski, tent, sled…. My wristwatch becomes my best friend.
When I represent a brand, what interests me is not only the quality of the material, it’s the feeling. I’m looking for true sincerity: that people believe in our adventure. A partnership is not just business or marketing. Partners have to be aware of the risks: it is possible that the money invested in the expedition will be totally lost. Hence, it is by affinity that I work with Georges, because like me, he believes in surpassing oneself and in the quest for adventure.
I have written a book and produced a film about my last expedition, so now I am in the promotion period. It will last 1 to 2 years, punctuated by conferences. I also offer lectures, in immersion in real conditions, with a limited number of people (14 in general). This pushes people out of their comfort zone and reveal themselves. Then I will prepare the next adventure.