September 16, 2020
by Kenny Yeo
Is there another genre of watch that’s more overdone than vintage-inspired dive watches? Even so, there’s something about Christopher Ward’s new C65 Super Compressor that is worth a closer look and, consequently, this review. Besides, can you believe the brand finally moved the logo to 12 o’clock?
The story of the Super Compressor case has been told numerous times, but it’s worth revisiting since this style of case is not common. The Super Compressor watch case was patented in 1956 by a now-defunct Swiss firm called Ervin Piquerez SA. It’s a rather inventive piece of case design. Designed for diving, its seal became tighter the deeper it went. External pressure increases with depth and this caused the Super Compressor’s spring-loaded caseback to press more firmly against the O-ring.
Mention Super Compressor and most people think of a watch with two crowns and an internal rotating bezel. This design became popular in the 1960s if only for the reason that it was different. But from a design standpoint, an internal bezel meant that watchmakers could do away with bulky rotating bezels that usually broke up the lines of a watch. This led to sleeker dive watches and many watch brands took advantage of it. There are numerous vintage Super Compressor dive watches from brands like Longines, Vulcain, and, most famously, Jaeger-LeCoultre. And it is this iconic case design that Christopher Ward decided it would use for the C65 Super Compressor.
Measuring 41mm in diameter, 13.05mm-thick, and 47mm from lug to lug, the Christopher Ward C65 Super Compressor has very contemporary dimensions. It has wrist presence, but it isn’t so large that it feels like you are wearing a dish on y our wrist. Much of the height comes from the caseback, which protrudes slightly because of the Super Compressor design and also because it has a sapphire caseback. Bevels on the case flank help disguise much of the watch’s height and make it look thinner than it actually is. The case has a nice mix of brushed and polished surfaces. Water-resistance is a very adequate and fitting 150 meters.
There are two sizable crowns at 2 and 4 o’clock. The first controls the inner unidirectional rotating bezel and the second is used for winding and adjusting the time. To help owners differentiate them, the crown at 2 o’clock features a bright orange ring whereas the crown at 4 o’clock is embossed with the Christopher Ward logo.
Curiously, the crown at 2 o’clock that controls the inner rotating bezel isn’t screw-down, so it’s easy to turn it by accident. And even though it clicks into its 120 positions with precision, there’s a surprising amount of play when the crown is at rest. Perhaps it’s just the piece that I have but it bears mentioning. Thankfully, the crown at 4 o’clock is screw-down; it’s buttery smooth to wind and clicks into the time-adjusting position with exactness.
In keeping with its vintage-inspired origins, the C65 Super Compressor features a heavily domed sapphire crystal under which sits a handsome dial. Personally, I would have preferred a more period-accurate acrylic crystal but I completely understand the masses’ preference for a sapphire crystal.
The C65 Super Compressor is available in two dial variants, Ocean Blue and Black Sand. I chose to review the former because I think it’s an interesting color choice on Christopher Ward’s part. In person, it looks like a shade that is halfway between aquamarine and teal. It has a sunburst finish that makes it look especially radiant under the right light. There’s no date window.
However, the highlight of the dial must be the position of the logo. Since its rebrand in 2016, Christopher Ward has placed its logo on the 9 o’clock position of the dial. While it is certainly unusual, it’s not a dealbreaker for me. It’s bold and I applaud the brand for it. Unfortunately, a good number of people have expressed their consternation at this decision. I’m also pretty sure it has driven some potential owners away. No matter, the logo is finally at 12 o’clock. I’m not sure if this is going to be the case for future releases but it gives the dial of the C65 Super Compressor a sense of symmetry that has been missing from the brand’s watches for a long time.
Legibility is good thanks to the substantial hour and minute hands and large applied indices. Furthermore, the minute hand extends all the way to the rotating bezel, which makes it easy to read and set the time accurately. Super-LumiNova Grade X1 GL C1 isn’t the brightest luminescent material around but at least general application on the hands means they are still visible in the dark. The indices, however, only have a small plot at their ends and the inner rotating bezel isn’t lumed. This makes telling the exact time in the dark challenging but not impossible.
The attention to color coordination is remarkable. For example, the minute hand is orange and so is the 12 o’clock marker on the inner rotating bezel. Additionally, the first five indices are anointed with small orange plots to mark out the first 20 minutes that are usually highlighted on dive watch bezels.
My only gripe with the dial has to do with the inner rotating bezel, specifically the choice of typeface. It’s confusing because it reminds me of the instrument panels of vintage muscle cars. I think they made a mistake here. It looks more fitting on an automotive-inspired watch.
There are three strap options for the Ocean Blue model that I picked out. You can get it with a stainless steel bracelet, a brown vintage strap, or a matching blue strap. The blue strap makes for a striking but matching combination. Unlike some leathers which are stiff and require a break-in period, this leather strap is super soft and pliable right out of the box. It also has a quick-release system for easy strap changing. Lug width is 22mm.
Inside the C65 Super Compressor beats the Sellita SW-200. This is a reliable alternative to the ETA-2824, and many other brands use it. There’s not much to say about it other than it beats at 4Hz and has a power reserve of 38 hours. Christopher Ward says it will run to within +/- 20 seconds a day. I found mine to run within these parameters. It’s good to see that Christopher Ward is using a no-date version of the movement, so there’s no phantom date position. Once you unscrew the crown and pull it into the first position, you are ready to set the time.
The Sellita SW-200 is visible through a sapphire display caseback. Some people will probably question the benefits of a see-through caseback at this price point but I always find it more interesting if I can see the movement at work even if it isn’t elaborately decorated. Furthermore, the highlight here isn’t the movement. Instead, it’s the anodized orange aluminium compression ring that gives this type of case its name. The movement has very basic decoration. There’s a custom rotor with what Christopher Ward calls a “Colimaçoné” finish.
Yes, vintage-inspired dive watches are done to death, but the C65 Super Compressor is a worthy, interesting addition to the genre. Modern Super Compressor watches are still relatively uncommon, and Christopher Ward’s take on this type of watch is thoughtful and refined. The choice of colors is gutsy and refreshing, and the quality is fairly high. Oh, and the brand’s logo is finally at 12 o’clock. The Christopher Ward C65 Super Compressor as tested with a leather strap is $1,025. The price on bracelet is $1,145. Learn more at the Christopher Ward website here.
>Brand: Christopher Ward
>Model: C65 Super Compressor
>Price: $1,025 on strap, $1,145 on bracelet
>Size: 41mm-wide, 13.05mm-tall, 47.12mm lug-to-lug distance
>When reviewer would personally wear it: Weekends and casual events.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Anyone who is looking for an affordable, striking, and different dive watch.
>Best characteristic of watch: The design and finishing of the case is outstanding and the dial is captivating.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Choice of font for the inner rotating bezel is more suited to automotive-inspired watches.