Followers of British watchmaker Christopher Ward may recall two watches from recent years. The first was the brand’s 2020 Super Compressor, a watch true in style and function to its name. The second came one year later, the C65 Divetimer, a limited edition that presented colorful decompression scales on the dial. Both watches shared the brand’s signature Light-catcher case, and both offered dive functionality and a blue and orange color palette. Both seemed to be received rather well. So, why not mash them up into a new production model? Why not, indeed. Thus arrives the Christopher Ward C65 Super Compressor Elite, a true super compressor that brings the Divetimer’s scales to the dial for a busier, peppier look and a rather enjoyable experience on the wrist.

Like many quirky watch things, the obsolescence of the super compressor case has not kept brands from revisiting the design. When the super compressor was introduced in the late 1950s, there was simply no way to get the kind of depth rating it afforded. Most super compressors were rated to 600m, which was unheard of in a wristwatch at the time. The mechanism worked by using an O-ring in the caseback and a spring that was compressed as the water pressure increased; the deeper you went, the tighter the seal, providing theoretically limitless water resistance. Modern manufacturing has made the additional componentry entirely extraneous, and we now have our abyss divers that pat super compressors on the head and tell them to run along and have fun on the playground. The Christopher Ward C65 Super Compressor Elite revisits this design feature and brings modern improvements to the case, as well.

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The Super Compressor Elite measures 41mm in diameter, 47.12mm lug-to-lug, and 13.75mm thick. The thickness surprised me, not least because on the wrist, this watch wears so well. Especially when I had it on a number of different (non-CW) straps, the near perfection of the Light-catcher case design seemed to hug my wrist. I believe part of this is due to the slight tonneau form of the Super Compressor compared to the more traditional cases of other Light-catcher models. One thing that should be noted is that, on bracelet, can seem a bit larger than its 41mm spec. While most timing bezels create separation and make a watch face seem smaller, this one is almost on the same plane as the dial and is only slightly sloped; when eyeballing the size, this creates the illusion that they are one and the same. With only a slim polish rim around the crystal, the dial takes up most of the watch’s footprint. The watch is rated to 150m, though I’ve heard that is meant to indicate how deep it can go without the super compressor activating, and that the brand has not specifically tested how deep it can go before failing. I’d guess a few hundred extra meters, but I’d also never put it to the test.

Grant me a moment of true griping about the bracelet. I don’t care that it’s 22mm, which works well enough on the case. The quick-release tabs are easy to operate and seem sturdy, and the quick-adjust sizing mechanism in the clasp has that same quality. Plus, the squared-off lug box means that you can basically put any 22mm strap in there without having to worry about an awkward gap. But two things stood out to me that I couldn’t ignore. One is admittedly nitpicky, but perhaps something that once I mention, you won’t be able to unsee (and I’m truly sorry for that). It’s always been a pet peeve of mine when the finishing on end links doesn’t match or complement the lug finishing. Here, you’ve got circular brushing on the lugs while the end links are straight brushed. It disrupts the flow of an otherwise fluid transition and is the main reason I’d recommend you get this watch on the bi-color Tropic strap; there’s also a light blue ridged FKM rubber strap that’s $10 more expensive and $50 less attractive.

My other issue is with the screws used. I had been under the impression that the Bader bracelet used screw links, which are by far the easiest and are certainly secure enough (I rejoiced about this in my review of the most recent iteration of the Trident Pro). Instead, what I encountered when I went to size the bracelet on the C65 Super Compressor Elite was a pin and collar system, my old nemesis. These are doubtless the most secure option for links, but they are also a severe pain in the ass, and one I think simply isn’t worth it. So, I went digging: why did CW change back? It turns out it didn’t. The reality is far more horrifying: Christopher Ward, on the same bracelet, across three materials and two sizes, uses three different methods of securing the links. The brand utilizes pin and collar, screw pins, and dual screw pins. And there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason. Some divers have screw pins while others use pin and collar, and the bracelet for the 36mm C63 Sealander uses dual screw pins! I beg for some consistency, Christopher!

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The star of the show here is obviously the dial. If you thought any different, you may be beyond help. You may recall the original Super Compressor that the brand made and the text debacle from its first run. While undeniably attractive, the “Super Compressor” text at 6 o’clock was off-center on many of the first units. Fortunately, the busier dial here prevents any such mishaps.  The base of the dial has a sunray finish with a top-to-bottom blue gradient that does a beautiful job of recalling a deepening sea. Except in the very center, though, it’s mostly obscured.

Working from the outside in, you’ve got a unidirectional internal timing bezel, operated with the 2 o’clock crown (which has the tell-tale super compressor hatch pattern), which has an orange ring around it to help differentiate. Both crowns are easy to grip and operate — CW has never let me down when it comes to crowns. I also applaud the use of a unidirectional, 120-click bezel. Most internal bezels lock and unlock with a crown, but few are unidirectional, and even fewer have actual clicks. All brands take note: this is the way it should be. Stepping, in you get a narrow minute track with applied hour markers with Super-LumiNova pips. This is matched in the hands, which feature a blocky sword design and generous real estate for the lume, plus the signature trident counterbalance on the lollipop seconds (I guess it’s more of a square than a lollipop, but you get the idea).

The rest of the dial is taken up almost entirely by the decompression scales. Decompression scales on watches have been obviated by dive computers but were first seen in 1962, and both Mido and Vulcain have harkened back to them with modern releases (though it also reminds me of the B&R Multimeter). Because I can’t do any better, I’ll simply quote the brand: “The diver simply identifies their dive depth (in meters or feet at 12 o’clock) and follows the corresponding ring around the dial, clockwise, to first read the maximum dive time where no decompression is required, and then if the dive extends beyond this point, how long is required to decompress before resurfacing.” The entire point is to avoid decompression sickness, or “the bends.” Seems simple enough, but I never even bothered (I’m getting the bends the natural way: by maintaining a sedentary lifestyle as I approach 40). I like the color scheme and the scales bring a bit of joy to the already beautiful dial. Initially, I thought the orange scales beneath the orang minute hand may cause legibility issues, but I found in regular use that I was easily able to discern the minute hand at a glance.

While I know neophyte watch consumers are dazzled by the “spinny thing,” I’ve become a bit jaded. Unless a movement is beautifully finished, I don’t think it should be on display. While CW usually has a signature colimaçoné design on its rotors, its movements are otherwise unembellished. Instead, the C65 Super Compressor Elite features a sapphire caseback crystal with a dive helmet medallion adorned with the original EPSA logo. I approve, and I also like being able to see the top of the compression ring that makes the watch a super compressor.  Under it all, Christopher Ward has given the Super Compressor an upgraded movement with the chronometer-certified Sellita SW300-1, with 56 hours of power at 28,800 vph and the -4/+6 seconds per day accuracy that comes with the chronometer grade.

Putting aside the admittedly unimportant bracelet issues, this new mash-up is a fun, easy-wearing dive option that isn’t too serious, but still provides the functionality most modern enthusiasts actually want from a watch (for what it’s worth, while I didn’t hear anything about the wide variety of pins used, I was informed that an updated bracelet featuring a shorter clasp, steeper taper, and screws will be available later in the year). I stand by my recommendation to get it on the bi-color Tropic, which punches everything up a notch and will no doubt make the watch even more enjoyable to wear. The Christopher Ward C65 Super Compressor Elite is priced at $1,685 USD on blue rubber, $1,675 USD on bi-color Tropic, and $1,840USD on the Bader bracelet seen here. For more information, please visit the Christopher Ward website

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