Wittnauer Super Compressor
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Wittnauer Super Compressor

The late 1950s and early 1960s saw the rise of the tool watch, with brands falling over themselves to produce watches meant for a particular purpose--whether driving or diving, yachting, or mountain climbing, there was a watch for every sport. 

But the 1950s are perhaps best-known for the emergence of the dive watch. The development of readily-available SCUBA equipment made it possible for "civilians" to dive recreationally. While heavy-hitters like RolexBlancpain and Seiko produced watches for professional divers (and the world's militaries), the market was absolutely saturated with examples from brands as varied as Enicar and Bulova.

Many of these watches (such as this one for the Arabic market) used contract cases, and perhaps the best-known of these were notable for their distinctive twin crowns. 

Eager to get into the burgeoning dive watch market, many of the best Swiss brands turned to Ervin Piquerez, S.A. or EPSA, the leading manufacturer of compressor cases at the time, for cases to build their divers around.

The Super Compressor name refers to the innovative case design, which utilizes a "compressor" system that was designed to become more watertight the deeper the watch went under water. As the atmospheric pressure increases along with depth, the case back compressed, pushing on the gaskets and creating a tighter seal. The compressor case wasn’t any better at preventing water intrusion than a screw-down crown (in fact, it was probably worse), but due to their good looks, compressor cases proved to be popular during the 1960s.

Super Compressor diving watches are a category unto themselves, with the best Swiss brands (from Longines to Jaeger-LeCoultre to no-name, defunct brands like Enicar, Clebar, and Delvina) producing versions of this attractive dive watch. Due to the inner rotating bezel (activated by the upper crown) and the unobtrusive size (36mm in many variations), the SuperCompressor appears to be less of a "tool watch" than some of the other divers with their bulky cases and external rotating bezels. They could almost be called dress watches, with their oftentimes elegant black glossy dials.

But make no mistake, these watches were meant to dive, and dive deep.

This particular version was produced by Wittnauer. Its dial features bold hour markers at 6:00, 9:00 and 12:00 (with the date at 3), large sword hands. The SuperCompressor case has thick, beefy, faceted lugs, making it wear larger than the 36mm would suggest.

With so many SuperCompressors on the market, it can be bewildering. Fortunately our friends at Worn&Wound have given us a comprehensive breakdown. But for our money, this Wittnauer SuperCompressor is a good place to start. 

Details

SKU: TT01149

Stainless steel Super Compressor case is approximately 36mm (excluding crowns). Wittnauer Caliber C11KAS Self-Winding Movement. Circa mid-1960s.

Overall Condition: Stainless steel Super Compressor case is in very good condition with thick bevels on the lugs and no signs of over-polishing. Crystal is a service replacement. Case has only minor signs of use and wear in keeping with its age, including light scratches on the lugs and the sides of the case. Dial is in very good condition with a fine even patina to the luminescent elements. Wittnauer signed crowns with EPSA cross-hatch. Case back has some light scratches and tool marks but is in otherwise very good condition.

Includes one 18mm tan two-piece NATO strap.

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