He's the first person in the world to dive to great depths under the ice in a swimsuit without an oxygen supply. What exactly is Chronotechna brand ambassador David Vencl expecting at the beginning of March?
When he swam 81 metres under the frozen surface in one breath and without a wetsuit, thus breaking the world record two years ago, the thought of what he could do next immediately entered his mind. Try to set the record for the longest time in one breath in icy water. Okay, but what about doing something even crazier that no one has ever tried before - diving deep under the ice?
"There are a few records, but they've always been freedivers swimming in wetsuits. No one has ever attempted it without it," smiles freediver and Chronotechna ambassador David Vencl. "To do something that has never been done before is a challenge and a huge motivation. Whatever I do, I always want to improve and surpass myself. And here I am wondering if I can find the strength in myself to do it," he adds.
It's mid-January, and the best Czech freediver is in the middle of hard training for a performance that, in the eyes of mere mortals, resembles a crazy stunt. At the beginning of March, he plans to dive in one breath and without a wetsuit under the ice to a great depth in the Austrian Alps - he is still keeping the exact depth secret so as not to give the competition an unnecessary head start. Still, it will be tens of metres for sure.
And it is also sure that he will be wearing a Chronotechna watch from the new limited edition SeaQuest Dive Frozen Deep, of which the Czech-Swiss brand has produced only 15 pieces to emphasize the uniqueness of David Vencl's next project with a minimal series.
"If 20 freedivers had done it before me and just dived to a shallower depth, I would probably have taken a much more relaxed approach. But I don't know if it can be done in this case. Until I try it, I won't know if it's even humanly possible. And that's what I find interesting about it. I wouldn't say I'm scared, but I have respect for it," admits the freediver.
Unlike his freezing record last year, the combination of freezing water temperature and lack of oxygen is compounded by extreme water pressure. "Doctors tell me my heart rate could drop below 15 beats per minute at a depth of 40 to 50 metres in such conditions. Even for them, it's shrouded in mystery because no one knows what it will do to me," Vencl says.
The biggest problem, he says, is having to balance the pressure in extremely icy water. The routine task, which freedivers do automatically in warm water, is not more challenging rigid temperatures. "If you're stressed, the muscles around your shoulders and neck automatically clench, and that causes you to be unable to balance the pressure. And the extreme cold can put even an experienced freediver under so much stress that they can have trouble balancing the pressure," he explains.
That's why he's been training and toughening up for several months now and has made several dives in icy water to depths of around 15 metres, but a test dive to the final depth is yet to come. "The doctors tell me that a normal person would not survive and that they are worried about me too. If I were to dive in now, there is a chance I might not come back. At this stage of my training, I'm not capable of that yet," Vencl said.
His advantage is that he is at home in the mysterious world under the ice cap. He is also one of the few people in the world to have experienced the unique lighting conditions that prevail under the ice, which Chronotechna designer Adrian Buchmann has attempted to materialize in the form of a gradient watch face.
"The light under the ice is beautiful. In general, light loses its colour spectrum with depth, so you can still see the colours at the top near the surface, but at greater depths, it's just blue. And the ice, strangely enough, brightens all this up even more. It lights it up beautifully and makes the water under the ice seem clearer. I think the Frozen Deep watch captures this perfectly," says Vencl.