‘The feeling is always weightlessness; it’s a place where you can fly and there’s not really anywhere else on Earth you can do that.’
It’s a sunny summer’s day on the Côte d’Azur in Nice and Julie Gautier is at home in her kitchen explaining what it’s like to freedive to the bottom of the sea.
‘When I am in the water, I am completely peaceful. It’s a place where you don’t need to think, you don’t need to talk. It’s very quiet so I just watch the beautiful surroundings. I forget about time in the water, the time passes slowly,’ the 41 year old continues enthusiastically. ‘There’s this sense of complete freedom that I love, you’re just floating in the middle of a never-ending space.’
Talk of time is appropriate as Gautier is now a friend of the TAG Heuer brand and sports the newly-launched version of its Aquaracer, a thoroughly resilient tool watch, capable of travelling with its wearer into the deep and withstanding genuinely hostile conditions. Building on the watchmaker’s legacy of robust diving timepieces, it comes equipped with underwater essentials including a unidirectional rotating bezel, screw-down crown, luminous markings and a water resistance of up to 300m. And this latest iteration performs just as well on land, its iconic design carefully re-engineered with both ergonomics and style in mind.
Though Gautier’s free-flowing stream of consciousness might make her sport sound ethereal – dreamlike even – for anyone not au fait with freediving, it’s one of the most extreme sports on offer: deep water diving minus the air tanks or breathing apparatus and void of any lifelines. Indeed, amid the beauty and serenity Gautier speaks of lies clear and present danger if things go wrong.
Gautier was ‘almost born in the water,’ she says, specifically the Indian Ocean that circumvents the French island of Réunion. The daughter of an underwater hunter and a dancer, it is perhaps little surprise she has gone on to pursue the career she’s had. Indeed, growing up, being under water quickly became second nature to the young Gautier. ‘From the beginning I had no fear and no adrenaline,’ she says, reminiscing fondly of her discovery of the ocean and its great mysteries.
TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300 from £2,500 to £3,600; tagheuer.com