Hands-On With The Christopher Ward Super Compressor
The team at Christopher Ward knows how to surprise us. The brand’s latest model, the C65 Super Compressor has a lot of attention traps that you can fall into. A bit of sentiment for cult dive watch fans, re-discovered innovation, an unusual shape, or cheeky youthful colors. Oh, and all for under €1,000.
British company Christopher Ward has been my favorite “horology vigilante“ since 2014 when it introduced the SH21 movement regulated to COSC accuracy. Bold moves make history. While the industry stood frozen with its eyes wide open due to COVID-19, CW jumped on TV promoting their sapphire dial watch. I’ve started keeping a bag of popcorn on-hand 24/7 in case another embargo email from CW hits my inbox and blows up my evening plans.
And then the email came. The announcement of a new Super Compressor model was music to my ears. It was created based on an idea from customer Marc Schulteis. As it turns out, more people should listen to Marc…
The Super Compressor explained
I doubt there are any vintage divers watch fans that don’t know the Super Compressor watch case. The Super Compressor was one of the best inventions from case manufacturer Ervin Piquerez S.A. (EPSA). The internal bezel operated by a separate fat cross-hatched crown and 600ft water resistance depth became cult signatures. The dive helmet with the Super-Compressor and Brevet 317537 Brevet #337462 inscriptions were always visible on the inner side of the case back.
The idea explained
More than 50 manufactures used this case, including the recently reviewed Alpina 10 Seastrong and Hamilton. The functional design was equally impressive as the technical innovation Piquerez introduced. The case back compresses as the watch goes deeper, engaging the compression spring which sits within the compression ring. This applies counter pressure to the case back, which in turn improves the seal of the gasket, thereby increasing water resistance the deeper the watch travels (until it surpasses its limit).
A two-year-long prototyping phase suggests that the Super Compressor case wasn’t the easiest nut to crack. “Many more prototypes than usual were needed, but the reward of cracking the problems gave us both huge satisfaction as well as enormous respect for Ervin Piquerez’s original engineers,“ says Mike France, co-founder of Christopher Ward.
The CW C65 Super Compressor works in principle exactly like the vintage role-model. “First of all, as nobody had produced one for nearly 50 years, there was no design or production knowledge available. This meant we had to reverse engineer from a deconstructed original super compressor watch.” Getting the tolerances correct was very difficult. As was constructing a ring to securely hold a spring just 300 microns thick but without too much pressure so that it would work perfectly.
It’s a predator
I would compare the C65 Super Compressor to Singer 911 Porsche Cars. They preserve the best classics that Porsche offers, they build more upon it and the customer gets something so unique that it makes their jaws drop. The C65 Super Compressor is not just a copy. If you turn the watch around, you will understand why I wanted to wear it one day with the case back facing out.
It looks quite “techie“, mostly thanks to the oval apertures that give visibility of the 300-micron thick (0.3mm) compression spring.
The most significant difference is that the C65 is the first-ever Super Compressor to have an exhibition case back. The outer case ring is orange and features the Super Compressor name, helmet stamp, and a lot of convergent arrows. I have to say it looks quite “techie“, mostly thanks to the oval apertures that show-off the 300-micron thick (0.3mm) compression spring.
In comparison to Piquerez, the new CW C65 has a screw-down crown that wasn’t featured on the original models. The upper crown that operates the inner bezel is not a screw-down type, but design-wise it’s a pure charmer. It has typical CW proportions, but it comes with a scalpel-thin cross-hatched pattern.
While most vintage Super Compressors come with perfectly round cases, only a few like Jaeger-Lecoultre Deep Sea Master Mariner break from tradition. Interestingly enough, Christopher Ward opted for this unusual case design that might remind you of 1970s watches. What pictures won’t tell you, is that this case design looks much slimmer in the flesh. I was afraid that the Super Compressor wouldn’t be a friend to my shirt sleeves due to the 41mm diameter, but I was wrong. The orange leather strap is a great fit that matches perfectly to the minute and second hand. The only comment I have is the leather’s sturdiness. It’s probably strong and resistant, but I would replace it for something smoother.
The internal rotating bezel clicks 120 times on the full spin. I am no diver, but for my faster kitchen operations and soft-boiled eggs timing, I would be happier to see it rotating in both directions. And I loved the subtle sound of the clicks when it rotates. The lume dots on the outer edge of the dial are another nice detail. If you look closer, you might notice that the first 6 dots (up to 20 minutes) are lemon yellow, while the rest are white.
With 500ft the CW C65 Super Compressor doesn’t surpass the depth rating of its vintage master. But you won’t take the vintage ones for a swim anyway. And 150m with the C65 is enough for the vast majority of potential buyers. A demanding audience might also object that the CW C65 Super Compressor comes with a standard movement option Sellita SW200. At least it’s decorated with the twin-flag engraving. The truth is there isn’t a huge amount of innovation and creativity in entry-level mechanical dive watches. And Christopher Ward decided to stir up the water with a fresh take on the legendary twin-crown case and re-engineered the Super Compressor story for a new age. Not bad for an £895 price tag. Not bad at all…