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Basic gear from mid-twentieth-century France

Discussion in 'Vintage Equipment Diving' started by David Wilson, Dec 5, 2018.

  1. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    Thanks, Pete. Your collection of Jetfins is superb and anticipates the subject of my posting today. Forgive me if I just copy over here some text and images from another thread to save a little time.

    I'm old enough to have been around in the early 1960s when the original Beuchat Jetfin first came out. The model was described in French as a "palme à tuyères" ("fin with jets" or "jetted fin" in English) and given the product name "Jetfin" as a single word. Here is an early flyer in French about the fin's mechanics:
    jetfin_1_1-jpg.487420.jpg
    jetfin_1_2-jpg.487421.jpg
    Note how the fin was first conceived in the early 1960s as a full-foot fin because "palmes chaussantes" were considered to be the design of choice at the time for serious divers in Europe. Closed-heel fins back then were much more expensive than open-heel ones. As you have discovered, however, Beuchat did produce an open-heel version of the Jetfin to fit bigger foot sizes and Scubapro stuck to open-heels when the American company sold Jet Fins (two-word spelling) States-side.

    Beuchat produced an open-toe version of the Jetfin in the late 1960s and early to mid 1970s. This version appeared in Beuchat's French (Dispositif d'accélération de poussée pour palme de natation) and British (Improvements in or relating to swim-fins) patents of 1971. The British patent drawings below:
    gb1223664a-jpg.488790.jpg
    And here is a picture of a pair of closed-heel and open-toed Jetfins:
    t2ec16d-yue9s6nfmwrbsf4hs2lkw-60_58-jpg.488792.jpg
    However, the story doesn't finish there. Here's a 1969 Jetfin ad from the wonderful bibliotecadiunapneista.it site:
    beuchat_69-10_2-jpg.488799.jpg
    Note how this version has two jets instead of the usual three through the blade.

    And there's more still. Here's a version with a closed heel, an open toe and the buckle points for a heel strap:
    s-l16002-jpg.488795.jpg
    And here's another closed-heel with heelstrap version with a closed toe. Note the different blades:
    s-l1601a-jpg.488801.jpg
    It would appear that Beuchat developed many full-foot Jetfin designs, realising perhaps that Scubapro had no intention of releasing a closed-heel version of Scubapro Jet Fins and that Beuchat could therefore continue making and selling their own Jetfins in a variety of versions for the European market.

    And to avoid disappointing the fans of open-heel Jetfins, here's a couple of pictures:
    s-l1600a.jpg
    s-l1600b.jpg
    I read somewhere that the largest size Jetfins were open-heel because a closed-heel version would have cost too much. During the 1960s and 1970s, the full-foot fin was king in continental Europe.
     
  2. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    One more Beuchat fin to go:
    20171331.jpg
    The above courtesy once again of the Musée Dumas. Compare the "Cormoran" from the 1974 Pirelli catalogue:
    Cormoran.jpg
    A coincidence, or perhapos Beuchat manufactured fins for other companies, which was a common enough practice in its time. Nowadays fins with identical designs but different logos are commonplace because they are made in the Far East on behalf of western company brands.
     
  3. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    I'll finish today with another Beuchat invention related to basic underwater swimming equipment, namely fix grips, fin keepers, fin retainers, used to maintain full-foot fins on the feet in choppy waters. Beuchat called them "Fixe-palmes":
    Fixe-palmes.jpg
    These three-way straps fit over the ankle, heel and instep and were invented some time during the late 1950s. They are embossed withe word "patented", but I have not yet managed to ,locate the patent in question. Perhaps somebody can help?

    That's it for Beuchat. I'm minded to move on to Champion Cavalero next time.
     
  4. Popgun Pete

    Popgun Pete Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Melbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
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    Scubapro was a more upmarket dive gear maker originally conceived of by Healthways for a product line to be only sold through dive stores. The name was sold for a nominal sum (one dollar) and the Scubapro we know today was founded in the United States in 1963 by Gustav Dalla Valle and Dick Bonin to manufacture scuba gear. The company acquired the licence to make the Beuchat Jetfin in the USA and for economic reasons it was decided to make an open heel version as there were fewer molds required than in making a range of full foot fin sizes. The French Jetfin continued to be made and sold in Europe and other countries such as Australia, while Scubapro had the US market to supply, probably the world's largest diving market. In 1977 responding to the growing trend in long bladed rubber full foot fins Beuchat produced the “Super Jetfin” which had a very long blade with only a nominal set of vents as there was next to no blade overlap where the vents were situated. I bought a pair of these at the time (1978) they appeared here and will photograph them when the sun comes out as right now our weather has turned gloomy. I did not like those fins much as while they certainly produced thrust, they threw the entire concept of the Jetfin out of the window as the original aim was to produce a fin that gave considerable performance without undue lengthening of the blade, yet that is exactly what Beuchat did with the “Super Jetfin”.

    The French Jetfin was nearly killed off when a Chinese company made a complete rip-off CDC open heel Jetfin (China Dive Company) and undercut Beuchat’s business in many markets, plus the plastic blade fins were appearing spearheaded by the “Plana” and “Super Plana” fins from Mares and rubber fins lost their allure, although not for those who considered the only color for dive gear was, and is, black (with maybe thin yellow striping on their wetsuits).
     
  5. Popgun Pete

    Popgun Pete Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Melbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
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    Super Jetfin 7R.jpg Super Jetfin vents.jpg Better weather today, so here are the Super Jetfins which have been stored in their original polyethylene bag sprinkled liberally with talc for a number of decades. I used them for about 2 years and then in 1980 switched to Farallon Farafins as they added the weight I needed for my new 7 mm wetsuit, having found the 5 mm rather chilly in the autumn months and also a strong preference for my Moray boots for walking over anything hard and sharp. I used the Super Jetfins with thin neoprene socks, hence one size up in foot size to thwart the wrasse always nibbling my toes at what must in hindsight have been a cleaning station (which I never cleaned out).
    Super Jetfin 2R.jpg Super Jetfin 4R.jpg
    Super Jetfin 5R.jpg
    Super Jetfin 6R.jpg
    Super Jetfin 8R.jpg
     
  6. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    Thanks, Pete. I've never come across Beuchat's Super Jetfins before now. Thank you for providing so much interesting background to their manufacture and your own impressions of them. I had assumed, wrongly as it seems, that Beuchat's Jetfins faded away after Scubapro negotiated the supply of vented fins to the US market.

    It's certainly remarkable how the Jetfin or Jet Fin became such an iconic product and was so endlessly cloned with token combinations and permutations. A Farallon Jet fin clone has also appeared in the repertoire of a Taiwan company, China Diving Equipment (CDE):
    farallon-c-d-e-jpg.409833.jpg
    farallon-cde-jpg2-2-jpg.409834.jpg
    Coincidentally, the same SB thread precipitated a discussion of Farallons, which you also mentioned, because CDE also:
    farallon-cde-jpg1-jpg.409835.jpg
    The classic Fara-Fin:
    _mg_1458-jpg.410825.jpg
     
    АлександрД likes this.
  7. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    Beuchat operated from premises in the southern French Mediterranean port of Marseilles. The next diving equipment company for review, Cavalero, was also headquartered in Marseilles, altough some of its products were embossed "Made in Italy". Cavalero used the brand name "Champion".

    The company was named after René Cavalero. According to his Wikipedia article, "René Cavalero (20 November 1917 – 27 November 2008) was a French swimmer who won a silver medal in the 4 × 200 m freestyle relay at the 1938 European Aquatics Championships. He finished fourth in the same event at the 1936 Summer Olympics. He also played water polo with the team Cercle des Nageurs de Marseille. In 1941, he invented the Champion underwater speargun, which soon became popular and was produced by his company Cavalero; its U. S. Cavalero Corp. branch was registered in 1975 in California. After several decades of competition the company was absorbed by Beuchat in 1992."

    Some publicity from 1949:
    ANCIENNE-PUBLICITE-1949-PLONGEE-ACCESSOIRES-ETS.jpg

    From 1951, highlighting spearguns, fins and masks:
    Champion_1951.jpg

    From 1961:
    valbonesi_61-1_2.jpg

    From 1963:
    valbonesi_63-7_2.jpg

    From 1964:
    valbonesi_64-6_2.jpg
     
  8. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

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    I have one Cavalero-Champion catalogue from 1960. It contains a short company timeline:
    Timeline.jpg Note the export award won in 1960. Cavalero's diving equipment can be found in catalogues from America (e.g. US Divers) to Australia (e.g. Sea Bee).

    We'll begin with Champion brand diving masks.

    Champion Junior diving mask
    Junior.jpg

    So a standard diving mask for young people complete with stainless steel band, reinforced body and split headstrap.

    I'll leave it there for today and return in a few days with more Champion masks.
     
  9. Popgun Pete

    Popgun Pete Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Melbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
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    I called them CDC, but CDE was the company that I was thinking of. When Farallon wanted to expand their product range with a lower price offering they had CDE make fins for them with the Farallon logo, hence the Farallon Jetfin “look-a-likes”. As Farallon had rescued their Farafins by tossing aside the pivotal flex frames and introducing the spring heel straps on the Farafin II, which could be retrofitted to the original Farafin (I) using the long integral mounting tunnels on either side of the rubber fins for the stainless steel tubes of the pivotal flex frame, so they decided to add spring heel straps to their Jetfin clones. This was years in advance of the French Jetfin being factory fitted with spring heel straps.
     
  10. Popgun Pete

    Popgun Pete Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Melbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
    128
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    Champion 1946 pp 4 & 5.jpg
    Here is the 1946 Cavalero Champion catalogue, one of the earliest. I translated a few of the pages, retaining the style of the original, concerning the then new "Champion Arbalete" and some of the dive gear. In a single paragraph it shows that they knew as much as we know today, a bit of an eye-opener for those who thought that the forties and fifties were a time of primitive dive equipment.
    Champion 1946 cover.jpg
    Champion 1946 catalogue page 2 (499x800).jpg
    Champion 1946 catalogue page 4 & 5.jpg
    Champion 1946 catalogue page 6 & 7 (800x638).jpg
    Champion 1946 catalogue page 8.jpg
     

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