Dive watches are a dime a dozen these days. You can go high-end with a Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 or Omega Seamaster, or find something more affordable like a Seiko Diver’s Automatic or Hamilton Khaki King Scuba. Whether spending USD 10,000 or USD 500, it’s not hard to find a stylish and capable dive watch from a plethora of established brands. Ever since I got my first serious mechanical watch in the 1990s, an RGM Model 107-P Pilot, I’ve gravitated toward smaller, lesser-known companies. Dive watches have often been my style of choice, so I’m excited to review a Super Compressor from a newcomer that has already generated some waves: the Farer Aqua Compressor Endeavour.
Farer Universal, a British-based company manufacturing genuine Swiss watches via Roventa-Henex, has a handful of lines that have generated a lot of interest with their original, slightly quirky retro aesthetics. Bold colors and textures, multi-layered dials and signature bronze crowns have helped them stand out in a very crowded field. Since 2015, this young company has gone from a few quartz watches to a sophisticated portfolio of ETA-driven mechanical models. You can read our overview of Farer’s Three Hand Automatics here. I recently got my hands on one of their latest designs, the Aqua Compressor Endeavour, which harkens back to Super Compressor (SC) dive watches from decades ago. Let’s take a closer look at one of Farer’s most ambitious watches to date.
Farer has three different SC models, all sharing the same case and movement, but with very different dials and character. The model I have, the Endeavour, is the most classic of the trio with a black dial and subdued presence. The other two, the Hecla and Leven, have much bolder dials with deep blue, orange and silver palettes. The Endeavour immediately reminded me of a classic Pontiac Memomatic Super Compressor from the 1970s (minus the date at 3 o’clock) and I’m a big fan of that retro look. The Hecla and Leven are a little too conspicuous for my taste, but I appreciate their careful attention to detail nonetheless. All three models are named after British Royal Navy ships, with mine named after the HMS Endeavour, Captain Cook’s research vessel from the 18th century.
Historical Point: Super Compressor Watches
Before we dive into specifics, let’s quickly look at what a Super Compressor watch is. There are many folks out there who think a dive watch with dual crowns and an internal bezel is a SC model. That’s not entirely accurate. While most SC watches have dual crowns and an internal bezel, those characteristics alone don’t equate to a SC model. Some SC watches have a single crown and external bezel. The Longines Nautilus is a good example. And some watches with dual crowns and an internal bezel aren’t SC models at all. Confused yet?
The term “Super Compressor” is actually trademarked by manufacturer Ervin Piquerez S.A., who designed cases that reacted to water pressure, forming a tighter seal on the O-ring as the watch descended into deeper water. This allowed vintage SC watches (1950 to 1970) to reach a depth of around 200 metres as the water pressure pushed on the case and quite literally sealed itself out. On land, the lack of pressure provided some relief to the O-ring as it wasn’t as tightly compressed, prolonging its life. There were generally two SC cases sizes, 36mm and 41mm. The Endeavour’s case is 41.5mm, which falls in line with the larger classics.
Case and Design
The Endeavour’s steel cushion case has a mix of brushed and polished elements. The sides are polished to a mirror shine, while the top has a satin brushed finish with a narrow polished ring surrounding a slightly domed sapphire crystal (with an anti-reflective coating on the underside). The polished ring is subtle and easy to miss and is an example of Farer’s consistent attention to detail. The case is 12.5mm thick, which I find to be a nice balance to the case’s diameter. The polished left side of the case is expansive and potentially vulnerable to scratches, but that’s just the nature of the beast. The Endeavour’s case has a light chamfer between the polished side and brushed top, with little material between that and the crystal.
The case has dual screw-down crowns on the right side, one at two o’clock and the other at four. This has been the general setup for most Super Compressors of the past. A Farer tradition is to have crowns made of solid bronze, which every one of their watches has except for the newest line. On the Endeavour, the crown at two o’clock is the bronze one and sets the time (and can also wind the movement). The crown at 4 o’clock is steel and rotates the internal, unidirectional elapsed time bezel. Because this crown is frequently used by divers, bronze was avoided.
Aesthetically speaking, I like the two-tone look and wouldn’t have preferred both in bronze or steel. The crowns taper down from the case and have a knurled, cross-hatched pattern, reminiscent of Super Compressors of yore. The pattern continues onto the ends and Farer’s logo is engraved on the bronze crown. Back in the day, if those crowns weren’t securely screwed down, the watch would certainly flood at depth. The Endeavour takes advantage of modern design and can go 100 metres down with the crowns unscrewed (but I won’t be attempting that). Screw them down and it can go a full 300 metres down. This allows divers to adjust the internal bezel while submerged.
The back of the case is polished with a sapphire crystal exhibition window. On display is the ubiquitous and well-proven elaboré grade ETA 2824-2 non-date automatic movement. I applaud Farer for using the less common non-date over a standard version of the ETA. A pet peeve of mine is a hidden date function. It shouldn’t be there, it gives the crown a phantom setting and I just know that there’s a useless function buried within my watch. The 25-jewel movement has been modified by Farer with a custom rotor with engraved waves. The ETA 2824-2 beats at 28,800 times per hour (4Hz), is adjusted in three positions (accurate to within seven seconds per day – it’s rated at +/- 12 seconds per day), has hours, minutes, seconds and stop second functions, and a 38-hour power reserve. It’s a real workhorse and, with proper maintenance, should provide a lifetime of use.
Dial and Hands
The dial is matte black with a satin black internal bezel. Steel indices and the number twelve are filled with off-white Super-LumiNova. The internal bezel’s minute markers (and 20-minute detailed scale) are engraved and filled with a whiter shade of Super-LumiNova. That difference between the off-white dial and white bezel is subtle, but again shows Farer’s attention to detail.
The dial has a mature, classic dive watch aesthetic and will only look out of place with the most formal of outfits. The steel hour and split minute hands are filled with a mint-green shade of Super-LumiNova, which contrasts nicely with the whiter lume on the dial and bezel. The steel hand for the seconds is tipped with the Farer “A” logo that’s also filled with mint-green Super-LumiNova. The Endeavour is, by far, the most subdued watch in Farer’s entire collection.
The lug width is 20mm, which I feel is the optimal size for this case. Anything wider would’ve been a little overbearing. Fitted with a black rubber strap, Farer generously includes a steel bracelet in the box. The natural Italian rubber strap is comfortable and pleasant. It has a straightforward ridged design and steel buckle. Simple and clean. If you’re frequently in the water, this is the strap for you. There’s also a tool included in the box that snags both spring bars simultaneously, allowing for quick strap change if diving. Farer’s logo appears on the bottom of the clasp or on the buckle.
Micro-brands are popping up all over Europe, North America and even Australia. Many offer nice designs but the product is jeopardised by cost-cutting sacrifices, such as Seagull movements from China and otherwise questionable components. Farer is a different breed. It designs its watches in London, but they’re entirely Swiss made with ETA movements. Its designs are bold, colourful and original, but never over-the-top or gaudy. The brand has struck a solid balance between playfulness and sophistication. Classic and understated, the Farer Aqua Compressor Endeavourproves that the brand can show restraint when necessary and has impressive range when it comes to design. Farer has definitely got my attention.
All three Aqua Compressor models are priced at GBP 1,095 and are available directly from Farer’s website. They’re not exactly cheap but are well priced for what you’re getting. They also offer a five-year warranty on all movements and 30-day return window.