These diving watches all have a particularity

Baltic

Everyone knows the typical dive watch look: a functional design, bold markers and, above all, a prominent rotating bezel. Characterized by watches like the Rolex Submariner, this formula comes in myriad variations and is so ubiquitous that you’d be forgiven for thinking any other design wouldn’t even qualify as a diver’s watch. You would be wrong though.

In the 1960s an interesting type of watch case was developed called a super compressor. The idea was that the pressure of the water itself – the very thing that diver’s watches are designed to resist – would serve to tighten the joints of the watch: the spring-loaded case back would compress as the underwater atmospheres would increase.

A range of watch brands have made this type of watch using the same cases. In addition to the clever compression case, these watches also had another very specific feature: a ring around the dial (an “inner bezel”) lived under the crystal and could be turned via a crown at 2 o’clock. Like the (outer) bezel of a typical diver’s watch, it was used by divers to time all sorts of important safety precautions while diving.

The result was a unique look, with two crowns: one at 2 o’clock and another functioning like a normal crown (for winding and setting the time) at 4 o’clock. Watches made in this style today are sometimes called “super compressors”, even though they use the same method of water-resistance as other modern diver’s watches (rather than the spring-loaded compression case, which did not proved to be the most effective solution).

Today, the super compressor style watch offers the same appeal as more traditional dive watches, but often with a sleeker look. Above all, it’s a diver’s watch with a neat history, and it’s unlike any other diver’s watch. (However, keep in mind that if you’re actually diving with your diver’s watch, using an inner rotating crown underwater can be a hassle.) Here are some of the best modern examples that you can buy.

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Dan Henry 1970 Auto Diver

Collector Dan Henry launched his own watch brand with the aim of offering vintage watch styles and tributes at very accessible prices. The 1970 Automatic Diver has the classic compressor diver look of the era for which it is named and is powered by a basic Seiko automatic movement. Available in several different color combinations, it comes appropriately on a Tropic-style rubber dive strap.

Diameter: 40mm or 44mm
Movement: Seiko NH35 automatic
Water resistance: 200m

Marnaut Seascape

Marnaut is a Kickstarter-funded, Croatia-based start-up watch company that focuses on diving watches. Their second product is the Super Compressor-inspired Seascape, and it not only features the solid specs expected of this type of watch, but a reasonable price and the brand’s signature dial: the radial dots are said to be based on a sea urchin.

Diameter: 40mm
Movement: Miyota 9015 automatic
Water resistance: 200m

Baltic Aquascaphe Twin Crown Compressor

Baltic did a very good job with their rendering of the super compressor concept. Design enthusiasts will appreciate its streamlined sophistication, and others will appreciate its handsome tool-watch appeal and perfect proportions. It is available in three variants: blue or black dial in steel or black dial in a black PVD-treated case.

Diameter: 39mm
Movement: Automatique
Water resistance: 200m

Christopher Ward C65 Super Compressor

A steel bracelet and shimmering blue dial with sporty orange highlights give this diver’s watch a contemporary feel. The real standout feature of the C65 Super Compressor, however, is that it actually offers compression box technology, which is almost unheard of today.

Diameter: 41mm
Movement: Sellita SW200 automatic
Water resistance: 150m

Alphina Seastrong

A bronze case is a popular alternative metal to traditional watch case materials, and its tendency to patina over time is actually considered part of its appeal. Here, in the form of a super compressor and matched with a dark brown dial, the effect is striking and unique. It is powered by a Swiss automatic movement and Alpina will deliver a high level of fit and finish.

Diameter: 42mm
Movement: Sellita SW200 automatic
Water resistance: 300m

Longines Legend Diver

The Legend Diver resurrects a Longines watch from the brand’s archives, but it now comes in many variations, including bronze and black PVD cases, gradient dials, as well as a 36mm version. The blue gradient dial here is cool, but worth checking out the whole range.

Diameter: 42mm
Movement: ETA A31.L01 automatic
Water resistance: 300m

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Automatic

JLC made super superchargers in the late 1960s. By including an in-house movement on their Polaris Automatic (visible through the back), the brand was able to keep the case nice and thin at 11.2mm. Other versions of the collection are offered not only with other colors and bracelet options, but with complications such as a chronograph, world time, date or alarm.

Diameter: 41mm
Movement: Jaeger-LeCoultre 898/1 automatic
Water resistance: 100m

The history of the super compressor

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

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