A diver’s watch that looks sporty, is waterproof up to 180 m and becomes better sealed the deeper you dive? That sounded utopian a good 70 years ago! But such watches actually existed back then. We are talking about so-called super-compressor watches, which were very popular from the 50s to 70s and are still very popular with collectors today.

In the 1950s, diving became more and more popular and diving watches were therefore not only a chic accessory, but essential because these watches marked the diving time, and the divers could see how long the breathing gas in their diving bottle would last.

The problem with diving watches, however, was that the case back had to be tightened very tightly in order to be waterproof. The rubber seals used at the time only withstood this pressure in connection with the water pressure for one or two dives and then had to be replaced. Since the seals were not that developed at the time, another way had to be found to ensure that diving watches were water-resistant even in deeper waters.

What is a Super-Compressor-Watch?

Thanks to a revolutionary case technology, which was developed and patented in the mid to late 1950s by the Swiss case manufacturer Ervin Piquerez S.A. (EPSA), the sealing problem was solved in an elegant way: The so-called super-compressor watches have a spring-loaded case back, which means that the deeper you go with the watch, the better it seals. This new case technology quickly conquered the market. Up until the 1970s, EPSA manufactured super-compressor cases and also sold them as catalog components to well-known watch manufacturers.

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Super Compressor watches are visually characterized by an internal diving bezel and two large crowns at two and four o’clock. The time is set with the crown at four o’clock. The crown at two o’clock is connected to a small star wheel, with which the inner diver’s bezel can be moved.

How does a super-compressor-watch work?

In normal diving watches, the case back sits very tight on the case. As the water pressure increases, the case back is pressed even tighter against the O-ring seal, which means that it wears out more quickly than with watches that are not used for diving. For this reason, modern diving watches should also be regularly checked for leaks.

In contrast to other watches, the case back of a super-compressor-watch is spring-loaded. Due to this wave-shaped spring, which is located on the edge of the case back, the case back base is already sealed before the O-ring seal is completely compressed. As the water pressure increases, the case back can move inward slightly, which increases the compression pressure on the O-ring and at the same time seals the watch even better. At lower compression levels, the O-ring is not fully loaded – this only happens at deeper depths when the water pressure becomes so strong that full compression is required and the spring presses completely on the O-ring.

Because the case back is not permanently pressed against the O-ring thanks to the spring when the water pressure is low, it does not wear out as quickly.

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Super-Compressor Watches Today

From the 1970s on, the technology of the spring-loaded case back was not used anymore, due to the advancement of plastics for the sealing rings, since a robust sealing ring is much easier to manufacture than the spring-loaded watch case. The still existing and very robust original super-compressor cases are however extremely popular with collectors.

Today, many watch manufacturers have models in their range in the super-compressor-style, i.e. with the optical features of a double crown and an inner rotating bezel – but these usually do not have a spring-loaded watch case in the sense of the original super-compressor principle.

The Circula SuperSport: A super-compressor watch with a real compression function

A technically sophisticated watch that has its origins in the 50s and is noticeable for its sporty retro design is of course made for a new Circula collection!

But that’s not enough: You can influence the development of the new SuperSport with your own ideas and regularly take part in surveys on details.

All further information can be found on the SuperSport website. Delivery is planned for autumn 2021, and pre-orders will begin in July.

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