When I first read that Christopher Ward was releasing a real Super Compressor, the first thing that came to mind was Iggy Azalea’s timeless lyric, “First things first, I’m the realest.” And while I may be joking about the song “Fancy,” what is true is that the Super Compressor has been a timeless design that has seen a resurgence as of late with watches like the Dan Henry 1970, the new Lorier Hydra, and one of the utilizers of the technology itself, the Longines Legend Diver. All of these watches, however, use modern gaskets and seals to guarantee their water resistance and are basically Super Compressors in name only. Christopher Ward decided to up the ante in the Super Compressor game by actually bringing back a technology that ensured water resistance back when our parents hadn’t even dreamed that their “blessing” would grow up to read articles about watches of all things.
If you don’t know what a Super Compressor is, I’ll sum it up. It’s a system in which the case back and the casework in tandem via a spring to shut the case watertight as the water pressure mounts. It also came from a time when engineers were trying different things to see which worked best. The Super Compressor system ultimately lost the war and went the way of the dodo nearly 50 years ago. But now it’s back to show off the watchmaking ability of one of the big little brands while being totally redundant.
This, being the first C65 watch I’ve held in my hand, is just stunning. The sheer quality in the brushed surfaces and polished edges is everything you look for in a watch. As part of the Retro Dive collection, the watch comes in at 41mm wide and 13mm thick thanks to the domed sapphire crystal, but the slight curve of the case along with the aforementioned polished chamfers keeps the watch looking much thinner than it actually is. Coupled with the bezel around the glass, this watch will literally catch the light and colors in any direction. Speaking of the bezel, since the actual dive bezel is underneath the glass instead of around it, you can actually appreciate the case shape as it wraps around to the lugs. Keeping in line with the Retro Dive look, the lugs on this C65 differ in that the strap landing is cut straight across instead of following the shape of the case. This gives straps made in leather or rubber an almost integrated look just like the bracelet.
Just like all other Super Compressors, the C65 comes with a dual crown setup. A first for the C65 case, the bottom crown is a screw-down and has a nice pop when released. The upper crown doesn’t screw down but CW states that a triple gasket system will ensure its water resistance. Bezel operation is smooth with defined clicks along the way, and while I’ve seen some people complain of a little backward slack in it, it’s not really that bad if you understand the mechanics of a crown operated bezel. It’s also unidirectional, something you won’t find in some cheaper alternatives and won’t allow you to ruin the egg you’re timing with it. Personally, I found the crown to be somewhat hard to turn with the watch on, but most people who don’t have Jaba the Hutt’s fingers shouldn’t have any issue. Both crowns are extremely well finished with the CW logo on the main crown and a knurled end on the other.
Christopher Ward is so proud that they’ve brought back the Super Compressor that they want you to see it. You can see it through the see-through case back, something that CW doesn’t usually do. It sits within the orange ring that surrounds the movement. You won’t be able to watch its operation in any way. But there it is. We’ll take your word for it. I’m not downplaying what they’ve done. I think it’s actually really neat and I enjoy some of the old ways of doing things. But seeing the ring, the only thing I could think of was the TikTok clip, “Well, this is what it looks like.” It’s a conversation piece for sure and just maybe may impress that young lass at the bar who is eyeballing the old guy’s new Accutron, but it might have been a missed opportunity for a beautifully engraved case back of a man diving, an octopus, or even a Kraken.
CW went the extra mile on this dial. At least to me, it’s gorgeous. The example I received had the Ocean Blue sunburst dial, and what beauty. Although hard to capture, the dial would range from a deep navy to a light blue and a gradient of the two. All the indices are nicely finished and applied with extremely legible marks at every minute making time reading and setting easy. They also splashed the dial with splashes of 70’s color. The minute hand is orange, matching the tip of the Trident second hand, and the lume pips at 12 to 3 are yellow rather than white. While it may clash for some, I found it to be fun and whimsical and it definitely drew the attention of a lot of non-watch people. Everyone is well aware of the ever-changing Christopher Ward logo and its ever-changing placement, and believe me, I’ve been a critic of it as well, but the new type logo is back at 12 and on this dial, it looks right at home. I had no qualms with it and didn’t feel that it took anything away from it. A final note on the dial, slack member gtsderek pointed out to me that the numbers on the bezel look like the speedometer of an old car, and they really do. I don’t know if that was intentional, given CW’s love of old cars, but it’s actually really cool and gives the dial a persona of its own rather than copying something old. Overall, CW has done stellar work here as they always do.
Under the hood is the ever-present Sellita SW200-1 no date, so there’s no ghost date position for the crown. This movement, as we all know, is an ETA clone with an extra jewel and powers just about everything you’ll buy at this price range. The rotor is decorated with the CW logo but doesn’t really stand out. The compression ring is the star here. While there are better movements being utilized these days, this keeps costs down and allows you to have a dependable watch for many years even if it is starting to feel like an old horse. Christopher Ward does little if no regulation here and the movement is rated for the normal +- 20 seconds that you’ll find in most Sellitas along with a paltry 38 hrs. power reserve. While it might bother a snob, many a great car, domestic and foreign, street and race were powered by the Chevy small block. Bland as it may be, the Sellita will beat for years to come.
As with most watches from Christopher Ward, you have a plethora of straps to choose from and this watch is no different. I opted for the Blue Tiber leather strap just so that the neckbeards could cringe at the idea of leather on a diver. If you didn’t know or haven’t had the experience with them, CW makes great leather straps. They’re soft and pliable with almost no break-in needed. They’re also long enough for big wristed gentlemen and have enough slows for smaller wristed gentlemen. The Tiber Blue also goes great with the Ocean Blue dial and gives a nice pop to your (my) dark and dismal wardrobe. If leather isn’t your thing, you can also get it on a tropic strap or bracelet, but expect to pay about $100 dollars more for the bracelet. If you can swing it, get both. You won’t regret it.
This watch is being called a “Labor of Love” by Christopher Ward. It’s truly a great addition to their vastly growing collection of watches. In my opinion, it’s one of the more fun watches they’ve released to date and has really been one of the only watches released in 2020 that immediately caught my eye. It looks great and has a great retro vibe that clearly has its own personality and isn’t trying to copy anything specific. And while the addition of the actual Super Compressor technology is really cool, it’s ultimately, as I said before, redundant. The water-resistance of the watch is only 150 meters, which is more than you’ll ever need in most cases but will turn the noses of some straight to the sky. I almost feel like the watch is the modern skin diver. It comes from a time when 150 – 200 was the norm. As a matter of fact, CW isn’t marketing the watch as if it’s a serious diver. Hell, the lume isn’t even as strong on this watch as the new C60. However, seeing that it’s a true Super Compressor, this is clearly the retro mod of the watch world. Old tech, with modern goodies. And while I’m sure most of these will never see the water, let alone the sink, it does show you how capable CW is. On that note, can we really consider them a microbrand anymore?
Depending on the combo you choose, the price of the watch ranges from $1025.00 to $1145.00 for the bracelet, and even though the lack of anything “in house” or the lack of serious water resistance may make some feel it’s overpriced, I can assure you it isn’t. It always has been my opinion that CW makes one of the best watches in terms of overall quality at this price point. Hands down. And believe me, if you just wait it out, the price will fall as CWs tend to have a tough time on the used market. This watch will check all your 70s retro boxes and then some and it’s a watch in which the build and quality is something you can be proud of. It’s also a killer combo with anything in the summer. AND, while that guy who paid double for his Longines Legend may be able to dive deeper and leave it sitting on the table for longer, you can sleep easy that you’ll have the street cred as “the realest.”
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Baird is an avid motoring enthusiast and a self taught hobbyist watchmaker from Bristol, TN. He has a love for all things mechanical and has an affinity for the style late 60s and 70s Chronographs and Dive watches. Baird views watches as engineering marvels and tools for everyday life rather than just jewelry. His writing style is inspired by certain “British automotive journalists” and his own experiences growing up and living in a blue-collar society.