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These Dive Watches All Have a Special Feature

The Super Compressor was developed to increase water resistance. The design may have been superseded, but the look endures.

baltic aquascaphe dual crown compressor

Everybody knows the typical dive watch look: a functional design, bold markers and, most of all, a prominent rotating bezel. Typified by watches like the Rolex Submariner, this formula comes in myriad variations and is so ubiquitous that you'd be forgiven for thinking that any other design wouldn't even qualify as a dive watch. You'd be mistaken, though.

In the 1960s, an interesting type of watch case was developed called a super compressor. The idea was that water pressure itself — the very thing that dive watches are built to withstand — would serve to tighten the watch's seals: the spring-loaded case back would compress as the underwater atmospheres increased.

A range of watch brands made this type of watch using the same cases. In addition to the nifty compressing case, these watches also had another very specific feature: a ring around the dial (an "inner bezel") lived under the crystal and could be rotated via a crown at 2 o'clock. Like the (outer) bezel of a typical dive watch, this was used by divers to time all sorts of important safety measures while diving.

The result was a unique look, with two crowns: one at 2 o'clock and another functioning as a normal crown (for winding and time setting) at 4 o'clock. The watches made in this style today are sometimes called "super compressor" even though they use the same method of achieving water resistance as other modern dive watches (rather than the spring-loaded, compressing case, which didn't turn out to be the most efficient solution).

Today, the super compressor-style watch offers some of the same appeal as more traditional dive watches, but often with a sleeker look. Most of all, it's a dive watch with some neat history, and it doesn't look like every other dive watch. (Though keep in mind that if you actually dive with your dive watch, operating an inner rotating crown underwater can prove a headache.) Here are some of the best modern examples you can buy.

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Dan Henry 1970 Automatic Diver
Marnaut Seascape
Baltic Aquascaphe Dual-Crown Compressor
Christopher Ward C65 Super Compressor
Alphina Seastrong
Longines Legend Diver
Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic
The History of the Super Compressor
super compressor lead

A quest for increased water resistance in the late 1960s led to an icon of the dive watch world.


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