Recently unveiled at Baselworld, the RALF TECH WRV "V" 1977 Limited Edition Automatic captures the charm of vintage diving watches with a similar retrospective character to that of the Vulcain Nautical Seventies watch and with a hint of lume patina as seen on the Jaeger-LeCoultre Deep Sea Vintage Chronograph.
If you are not familiar with the name "RALF TECH" I'm not suprised. The brand do virtually no marketing in the traditional sense, instead they rely on potential customers to seek them out, and seek them they do - the diving community is refreshingly generous when it comes to communicating about good stuff to add to your kit - and, you won't find their watches in fancy stores either, but in quirky and unexpected places. Were it not for the internet perhaps such a business model would be destined to fail, but five years on, founder Frank Huyghe is still making watches.
So often in life, a chance meeting or occasion can be fortuitous. Frank Huyghe was an avid fan of surfing but when a friend he was holidaying with suggested they try scuba diving, he agreed and became instantly hooked. The realisation that his surf wetsuit was more comfortable and in his opinion more fit for purpose than the one which was provided for his new-found diving interests led him to a new project, making and selling equipment for recreational and professional divers. That was in 1998, the manufacture of wristwatches would follow (a natural progression for a man who has been a wristwatch enthusiast since boyhood and who has reportedly up to 500 pieces in his own collection) prompted by an approach from French diver Pascal Bernabé who proposed that he used RALF TECH equipment in his attempt to break the deep-sea dive world record of 318 metres. This opportunity could not be missed but such a dive would require bespoke apparatus, including a requisite timepiece capable of surviving such depths.
A timepiece was quickly devised, sketched and manufactured in Lajoux, and more importantly, was stringently tested for water resistance by Haux laboratories in Germany who found that the piece surpassed Bernabé's requirements with resistance of up to 400m. The dive was a success, the world record was secured and Frank Huyghe had his footing into the watch industry making good use of the publicity to launch his dive watches, each model termed "WR" for world record.
The RALF TECH WRV "V" 1977, a limited edition of 77 pieces, features a clean, uncluttered matt black dial and wonderfully muted orange lume-coated indications. The case measures 43.8mm across, tapering from the unidirectional bezel with its black aluminium insert to tucked-in oval lugs.