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With the Le Forban Sécurité Mer Rochelaise, the brand from France reinvents itself, but still remains true to its proven tradition. It’s an exciting mix, where super compressor technology meets retro design. Will this be a recipe for success?
Le Forban Sécurité Mer – everything you need to know about the brand!
Spring 2023 for me is all about the return. A few weeks ago, I held a watch from Stella Watch Company in my hands for the first time in a good three years. So I could get an idea of what has happened since the founding including the debut model.
Now it’s time to pay the long-established French brand Le Forban Sécurité Mer another visit. My first contact with the manufacturer, revived in 2019 by Jean Sebastien Coste, was quite similar. It all started with a wristwatch, the Malouine. A short time later, I also wore its dissimilar sister, the Brestoise on my wrist. Both divers delighted me with their charming retro design in the tool watch style of the 60s. The original brand dates back to that time, even equipping the French Navy. Fittingly, the two watches of the brand awakened from its slumber are named after the French port cities of Saint-Malo and Brest.
Incidentally, watches by Le Forban Sécurité Mer are assembled by a watchmaker located in Rennes, Brittany. Really excellent is also the price-performance ratio. For a mid-three-figure sum, you can hardly get comparable quality elsewhere. The perfect entry, right?
The new in the model range
2023: It’s taken four years for Le Forban to introduce a completely new model. Good things take time. And that time has been taken. But not to present a slightly modified upgrade of the old timepieces. No, this watch is radically new. It dares to do something but remains true to the style of Le Forban Sécurité Mer at first glance.
Rochelaise is the sonorous name, which – how could it be otherwise – was naturally inspired by a port city. La Rochelle is located on the Bay of Biscay, about 190 kilometers north of Bordeaux. The city is shaped by the Atlantic Ocean. Not far away is the Royal Rope Factory in the Rochefort Naval Arsenal, which was taken up again in the design of the watch.
Which brings us to the point, because good, classic and typically French design is one of the central elements of a wristwatch from the house of Le Forban. As with the established models, they have been inspired by the design of the 60s and 70s and have revisited technical solutions of the time.
The super compressor principle explained
Let me get straight to the point at this point: With the Rochelaise, Le Forban Sécurité Mer has constructed a compressor diving watch for the first time. This makes them one of the brands to revive super compressor technology for the first time in about 50 years. In the early years of recreational diving, watches with double compressor crowns and compressor clasps were particularly in demand. This was also because no other means of effectively sealing cases were known at the time. Legendary case manufacturer Ervin Piquerez elegantly solved the problem by incorporating a spring-loaded case back. The spring meant that the diver’s watch was sealed even when the case back was not yet pressing against the O-ring. This only happened at high compression levels. The deeper you dove, the tighter the watch became.
You can recognize super compressor dive watches from a distance by their double crown. While one serves the normal purpose of a standard crown, turning the other crown at 2 o’clock operates the internal bi-directional bezel, the second signature feature. You can find both features in the design of the Rochelaise.
The Le Forban Sécurité Mer Rochelaise on the wrist
Nowadays, super compressor diving watches do not have any significant advantages over conventional solutions. It’s all a matter of taste. The fact that you often fail at the beginning to want to turn the bezel under the watch glass directly, always reminds you of the special nature of the watch. Using the crown also reduces the risk of accidentally adjusting the bezel.
In fact, the super compressor design exudes a sense of tradition. On the wrist, the watch also exudes the lifestyle of the 1960s and 70s. The Rochelaise could come out of a time capsule. Its twist is achieved by the unusual, but very thoughtfully chosen colors. When buying a Rochelaise, you have the choice between a dial in sand gray or sea green. For this watch review, I wore both versions.
I was particularly impressed by the compact diameter. This is also familiar from Le Forban Sécurité Mer: smaller cases, as they were common 50 years ago. This means that the Rochelaise also fits narrower wrists and, in my eyes, easily passes for unisex. Always sporty and chic, you can wear the timepiece with a clear conscience on any occasion.
Case and movement in detail
Well, not any occasion. On paper (and in reality), the retro watch withstands water down to 150 meters. For those who really want to go diving, however, I recommend at least 200 meters. But let’s be honest: the Le Forban Sécurité Mer Rochelaise does not fit into the category of high-end diving watches anyway. It’s more something for lovers of the good old days – and that’s okay.
To be precise, the compact case measures 39 millimeters in diameter with a height of 11.40 millimeters. I particularly like the turtle-shape of the case, which is also often described as cushion-shaped. It is also reminiscent of the era in which the roots of the French brand lie.
However, my secret highlight of the watch is in the area of the inner bezel. Not only the position under the watch glass is a distinguishing feature. Unlike other watches that have applied and printed indices, these have been pressed into the metal here, which looks extremely high-quality and conveys a sense of depth and plasticity. Here, too, they have used the aesthetics of the 60s.
Behind the caseback
Qualitatively, Le Forban Sécurité Mer does not have to hide from premium brands. The cushion-shaped case is made of 316L stainless steel, which is particularly durable. Alternating polished and satin-finished surfaces determine the image. The dial is well protected by a sapphire crystal, the hardest watch crystal. For outdoor use (which the Rochelaise is quite capable of), it was provided with an anti-reflective coating. This allows the dial to be easily read even in bright sunlight. A nice detail of the screwed case back is the intricately designed center. Instead of a glass back, Le Forban relies on an engraving that pays tribute to the Royal Rope Factory in Rochefort – I really like that!
Behind the case back works a Miyota 9039 automatic movement. With a frequency of 28800 vibrations per hour, it has a power reserve of 42 hours.
Why the dial is so ingenious
Set in the black bezel, the respective color of the dial comes into its own especially well. Once again, it strikes me how difficult it must be to realize a seemingly very simple design with excellent functionality and high recognition value. Le Forban Sécurité Mer has succeeded in this with the Rochelaise. Here, functionality and a sense of style mesh like two cogwheels. Easily legible applied indices, the SuperLuminova luminous coating and the red highlighted second hand give the dial an extremely high utility value. On the other hand, the sunray finish gives it class.
At the end of the day, the agony of choice lies with the bracelet. Typical Le Forban would be the Tropic silicone strap (available in either sea green or anthracite. It’s incredibly soft on the skin and stands up to sun, sweat or sea water in everyday wear. A bit more upscale is the seven-link stainless steel strap, which I wore the sand gray version on. The choice of bracelet ultimately also determines the price difference.
My final conclusion on the Le Forban Sécurité Mer Rochelaise
It is priced at 740.00 euros with a silicone strap and at 790.00 euros with a steel strap. Compared to the 2019 models, Le Forban Sécurité Mer has thus raised the price level noticeably. However, after the end of this review, the price premium is justified in my opinion. The Rochelaise is clearly more elaborately designed than Malouine or Brestoise. Exemplary of the brand’s increased sophistication is the compressor technology that has now made its way in, setting the Rochelaise apart from the cluttered dive watch market.
Unique has always been Le Forban Sécurité Mer. Thankfully, however, the Rochelaise is not a copy of its predecessors, but brave enough to forge its own path. Nevertheless, you can immediately recognize the brand’s signature. In addition to the beautiful design, the quality has not been ignored, which is definitely on a premium level. The price-performance ratio is still right!
As always, you can find all the important links to the watch and brand below.