Hands On With The All New Christopher Ward C65 Super Compressor

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The Christopher Ward C65 family gets a little bigger today with the introduction of the new C65 Super Compressor. The newest addition revives a long dormant dive watch construction method and brings a healthy dose of retro styling cues to the table to create a watch that does more than just look the part. The C65 Super Compressor is, well, actually a super compressor, and it’s the first such example to feature a compression spring mounted in the caseback to be manufactured in decades. 

The Super Compressor captures the iconic look you’re undoubtedly familiar with, placing two crowns on the right side of the case, an internal bezel ring, and a brushed cushion case. That look alone has been associated with super compressor watches, but while many watches utilize this case and dial layout, very few actually house the necessary components required to be a super compressor. This is where the C65 sets itself apart from its modern counterparts, as Christopher Ward went through the trouble of recreating the technology pioneered in 1956 by a company called Ervin Piquerez SA (EPSA). The resulting watch represents the first appearance of a spring compression mechanism in decades, and we went hands on with the C65 to see how it stacks up in a crowded field, including the Farer Aqua Compressor, which uses a different form of compression case (reviewed by Zach W here and here).

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$1025

Hands On With The All New Christopher Ward C65 Super Compressor

Case
41mm
Movement
Sellita SW200
Dial
Ocean Blue and Black Sand
Lume
Super-LumiNova® Grade X1 GL C1
Lens
Glass box sapphire crystal
Strap
Bracelet, tropic, or leather
Water Resistance
150m
Dimensions
41×47.12mm
Thickness
13mm
Lug Width
22mm
Crown
Screw Down
Warranty
Yes
Price
$1025

Historical Context

The need for a super compressor case arose in the late ‘50s as recreational diving saw a boom in popularity. Along with it came a slew of dive watches from the likes of Rolex, Blancpain, and DOXA, not to mention more affordable skin divers from brands such as Elgin, Baylor, and Bulova. Materials of the era weren’t quite up to the specs we enjoy (and take for granted) these days, and error rates on watches experiencing high volumes of pressure were much higher than modern watches. In 1956, Ervin Piquerez SA presented a case with a built in compression spring, which would compress the watch under high pressure, creating a tighter seal in the process to minimize the risk of water intrusion to the case. Check out our full guide to Super Compressor watches right here.

COUNTER-CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: HAMILTON, WITTNAUER, BULOVA, BENRUS, ENICAR

As production methods and material sciences improved, the need for such a case has diminished. Much like the helium escape valve, its potential use cases are so small as to be insignificant to the needs of today’s consumer. But, we still see helium escape valves taking up prominent real estate along the cases of modern dive watches, much to our chagrin. Conversely, the true super compressor case is nowhere to be seen within the wide field of dive watches we are spoiled with today. It’s arguably less intrusive than an HEV, and provides just as interesting a conversation starter. So where are they?

Turns out, producing one isn’t as easy as it may seem. Pair that with the fact that their usefulness isn’t exactly mandatory for buyers, and it’s not hard to see why they haven’t been produced in decades. Christopher Ward had to reverse engineer an original case from E Piquerez and create their own case with a modern version of the device. As a result, they developed a 300-micron thick compression spring which is seated into the caseback (and visible through the exhibition back). Original E Piquerez cases featured a signature divers helmet to signify their origin, and Christopher Ward has replicated this mark on the frame of the spring itself to pay homage.

The C65 Super Compressor

The fact that the C65 brings a true super compressor case to the equation is indeed interesting and will make for a great story when grabbing drinks with your watch buddies, but it’s not something you’ll notice, let alone need in day to day wear (we hope). Setting aside the trick case, the C65 SC has a lot going for it as a dive watch. One thing you will notice in daily wear is the great footprint its case has on the wrist. The case measures 41mm in diameter, 13mm in thickness, and 47.1mm from lug to lug. These dimensions are describing the cushion shaped case so there’s some visual heft unaccounted for, but overall this is a very pleasant watch on the wrist. 

The C65 SC is offered with 2 dial colors, Ocean Blue and Black Sand. We spent time with Black Sand and it is easily the strongest visual component of the watch. The tone can appear as soft brown or neutral black depending on the lighting, with a light center and dark gradation to the edge of the bezel. There is a sandy visual texture to the dial which adds a fair bit of visual friction to the dial. 

The hour and minute hands are wide and easy to read, with the minute hand receiving an orange coat of paint creating a bright contrast between dial and hand. The seconds hand gets a pop of orange at its tip as well, but the counterweight steals much of the attention thanks to its trident shape. This is a brand defining feature found across the brand’s collection of retro dive watches, and since there is no date window it sight, this is a feature that will likely split buyers. It’s large enough to insert itself into the overall aesthetic in a somewhat jarring manner, but not so overt as to ruin the experience of the watch as a whole. It certainly adds a pop of character that sets it apart from other vintage inspired dive watches.

At the top of the dial we find the thoroughly modern Chistopher Ward text logo stacked into two lines, which again contrasts with the vintage vibe of the dial and case. The “Super Compressor” signage and depth rating appear at 6 o’clock. Hour bars are set deep into the dial with lume set into their bases, and an accompanying dot of lume running the perimeter, the first five of which are yellow in color. The minute markers are further divided by 1/5th second hashes for a bit of extra precision, though I’d wager their appearance here is more for visual effect than practicality. 

The dial as a whole is rather small thanks to the inclusion of an internal rotating bezel. The bezel itself is white standing in stark contrast to the dial, with tall, deco style numerals with an oversized red triangle at 12 o’clock. The small minute hashes make for large amounts of negative space between the 5 minute demarcations, serving to further compress (heh) the dial visually.

Operation of the internal bezel is handled via the crown at 2 o’clock, which also receives cross thatching texture on its top, as is tradition with super compressor watches. It is unidirectional, and has 120 clicks of action allowing for precise and confident usage. The bezel crown is not screw down and is easy to use on the fly. The crown at 4 o’clock manages winding and setting duties and features the twin cross mark on its top.

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Movement & Case

The C65 Super Compressor uses a Sellita SW200 automatic movement that is visible within the compression ring through the exhibition caseback. The automatic winding rotor features a twin flag engraving atop a Colimaçoné finish for an extra bit of pop. The compression ring is orange and really serves as the primary point of interest in the rear, without which we’d have preferred a closed caseback.

The case offers a variety of surfaces and finishing to appreciate. Keen to avoid a slab sided view from the side, the C65 Super Compressor offers a narrow case wall with a horizontal brush that gently slopes at the lugs. There is a generous polished chamfer that meets the top side of the case, and a shapely recess that meets the bottom half of the case. This creates an interesting, and frankly unexpected quality to the case that invites further exploration.

From the top view, the only point of tension occurs where the end link of the bracelet meets the case. The end link doesn’t quite match the curve of the case, and it meets the case directly at the base of the bezel ring, causing a slight distraction from the overall lovely shape of the case. The bracelet itself is well executed and comfortable, with a smooth folding clasp that punches well above its weight in this price range. The bracelet also offers quick release tabs for easy removal, a deeply appreciated feature for strap junkies. The C65 SC is also offered on black tropic, orange leather, or camel vintage oak leather, and we can say from experience that it works well on a NATO. Just keep in mind that the lug span is 22mm.  

The C65 SC has a depth rating of 150 meters which, while more than enough for the average buyer, does beg the question: how much of that is owed to the increased resistance provided by the compression spring, and what would the depth rating be without it? I spoke with Mike France of Christopher Ward and he indicated that the watch is capable of much more, and I’m inclined to think that the listed depth rating is sans compression effects. Does it matter? Not really, but if they went through the trouble of manufacturing such a device, it’d be nice to know what practical advantages it brings in a dive scenario.  

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Pricing & Conclusions

With prices starting at $1,025 on strap options, and $1,145 on the steel bracelet, the C65 Super Compressor is a compelling dive watch with some novel engineering that clearly differentiates it from competitors. Setting aside the technical achievements made here, the C65 SC is a damn handsome watch that wears appropriately enough for daily wear. Farer offers an attractive alternative to the C65 SC in their Aqua Compressor watch. That watch features a titanium case, and while it doesn’t have a compression spring, it does have a compression “O” ring and has a depth rating of 300 meters, double that of the Christopher Ward. The Aqua Compressor is only offered on a rubber strap, and provides a more trend-forward design as opposed to the vintage inspiration found in the Christopher Ward. If you’re looking for some throwback charm to your super compressor dive watch, the C65 delivers in spades. 

The C65 Super Compressor is available for order as of today directly from Christopher Ward right here.

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Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent the past decade covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seikos to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for classic cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.