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It is safe to say that since humans first took to the water they have longed for a way to breathe beneath the surface. In the 18th century, English inventor John Lethbridge devised a “diving dress,” essentially the first enclosed diving suit, which consisted of a an airtight oak barrel. Later attempts by Frenchman Sieur Touboulic resulted in the patent of the first oxygen rebreather.
However, due to the primitive nature of these apparatuses, they were never mass-produced.
In 1864, two French engineers, Auguste Denayrouze and Benoît Rouquayrol, created the first diving suit to supply air through a pressure regulator. Though the air was supplied from a tank on the surface, the regulator allowed the diver to adjust the flow of air. The Rouquayrol-Denayrouze regulator was the first to be mass-produced and was used from 1865 to 1965.
It wasn’t until the 1930s that sustained breathing was made possible without surface air supply. French diver Yves Le Prieur created a diving suit that consisted of a cylinder of compressed air carried on the diver’s back, and regulated by a pressure regulator. A hose ran from the cylinder to a mouthpiece that supplied air to the diver continuously.
Of course, Le Prieur’s invention would be eclipsed by the creation of the Aqualung in 1942. Developed by Jacques Cousteau and Émile Gagnan, the Aqualung was the ancestor of modern SCUBA equipment as we know it. The first commercially-available apparatus, the Aqualung made recreational diving a possibility for the masses.
With the popularization of SCUBA diving in the 1950s and 1960s, watch brands saw the need for specialized watches that could enable divers to gauge how much air was left in their tanks. Rolex and Blancpain were among the first to produce specialized dive watches—the Submariner and the Fifty Fathoms—that have now entered into the canon of historic dive watch designs. Many other brands followed, each attempting to perfect and improve upon Rolex and Blancpain’s designs.
One company was Ervin Piquerez SA (or EPSA), who in the 1950s created a twin-crown case they called the “Super Compressor.” The SuperCompressor cases came in two sizes, 36mm (the Super Divette, featured here) and 41mm. SuperCompressor cases are notable for their spring-loaded case backs, which actually tighten when exposed to higher pressures underwater. The dual crowns at 2 and 4 o'clock (one to set the time and the other to control the inner diver's rotating bezel) feature a distinctive cross-hatch finishing, over which many brands placed their logo. Along with the typical cross-hatch finishing on the crown, the case backs of SuperCompressor divers often bore EPSA's dive helmet logo. The case design was used by many brands, including Enicar, Benrus, and Clebar, featured here.
Though founded in the 1920s, Clebar struggled to jive with consumers until the 1940s, when the brand offered a range of high-grade stopwatches and rally timers for racing and sporting events. When they turned their attention to wristwatches, they specialized in beautiful chronographs which they produced and distributed in conjunction with more well known brands. Clebar's watches were distributed in the U.S. by Trauner and Son, the same company that distributed Zodiac, and they collaborated with Leonidas, which was acquired by Heuer in the early 60s.
While these compressor case designs ranged in size, we have found that many enthusiasts (including those here at Analog/Shift) prefer the smaller, 36mm variants as they accommodate the dual crowns and allow for a diverse wearability.
Stainless steel Super Compressor Case is approximately 36mm (excluding crown). Self-winding movement. Circa 1960s.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel Super Compressor case is in very good condition with sharp lugs and no signs of over-polishing. Case does have minimal signs of use and wear throughout, particularly on the sides of the case. Dial is in very good condition with signs of age throughout. Luminescent elements on the hour markers have gained a fine even patina over time. Cross-hatch crowns. Case back has some signs of use and wear.
Includes one 18mm black leather strap and two 18mm nylon straps from Crown & Buckle