This is the first compressor-case dive watch I’ve had the opportunity to review, and though I’ve seen many compressor divers over the years (and even own one myself), I’d never taken the time to actually research the technology. It’s important to note that most compressor diver offerings these days are not true compressors, which is why most of them (including the Bradner) are usually marketed as “compressor style”, or “vintage compressor” watches.
So what exactly is a compressor-case dive watch? Well, it’s actually exactly what it says it is. As opposed to traditional divers which utilize ultra thick cases, crystals, tightly affixed case backs, and screw-down crowns in order to keep water out of the case compressor divers rely on a spring and a special gasket under the case back that compress as the water pressure outside the case increases with depth. The design was patented in the 1950s by Ervin Piqeurez S.A. (EPSA), a watch case maker who provided cases to several different manufacturers.
The original compressor design consisted of the special compressor gasket and spring, a snap-on case back, and a standard non-screw-down crown. The design was refined over the years to include the Compressor 2 with a deeper case allowing for non-round case shapes, and finally the Super Compressor which utilized a screw-down case back (or bayonet in the case of Enicar). Details are a bit thin on the actual depth ratings of the various compressor designs, but the generally accepted number is 600 meters.
Ok, enough with the history lesson. Let’s check out the Spinnaker Bradner. As mentioned above, the Bradner is designed in the tradition of the compressor-style diver, and with it’s 15 ATM (150 meter) depth rating it’s not a true compressor. That’s really not the point though. In today’s vintage-hungry watch market the end goal is to give the wearer (normally a “desk diver” anyway) the feel of a vintage compressor, and succeed in that task the Bradner does with its dual-crown setup and internal, bi-directional rotating bezel.
The very first thing you notice about the Bradner is the seriously cool distortion of the internal bezel caused by the heavily curved edges of the otherwise flat sapphire crystal. Spinnaker really nailed this aspect of the look since there’s nothing that says vintage to me personally more than a little light bending at the perimeter of a watch dial. Forget about faux vintage lume or antique-looking text. Distortion is where it’s at! The rotating bezel itself looks to be a molded plastic piece consisting of round minute markers, rectangular hashes for the odd-numbered 5-minute indices, and block Arabic numerals for the even-numbered 5-minute indices. All of the indices are raised up from the base of the bezel, with all of the 5-minute indices getting a coating of green Super-Luminova.
Moving in from the bezel – and down one level – we find a 60-minute chapter ring which is really the only negative for me with the Bradner. It’s not that I don’t like the design of the chapter ring itself, but with black printed indices on a dark grey background it’s nearly impossible to see the markers. When setting the time I find myself moving the watch around and contorting my neck to get just the right angle of light on the dial in order to line up the minute hand with the appropriate minute maker on the ring. While I had the black dial in for review, the chapter ring color is consistent across all three dial colors so it’s doubtful that the blue or green dials are any better in this respect.
Stepping down one more level we find the main dial. Square, applied indices are used at each 5-minute internal, with rectangular indices at 6, 9, and 12 and the date window with white surround at three. Dial markings are minimal. The applied and polished Spinnaker text is found at twelve, with “AUTOMATIC” in white and “500FT/150M” in orange at 6 o’clock. The baton minute hand is joined by a hammer or club-style hour hand and a running seconds hand with round, lumed pip with orange outline. All of the applied indices and hands also receive an application of Super-Luminova. Aside from the annoyingly difficult-to-read chapter ring, the dial successfully portrays the vintage diver aesthetic.
The 42mm case consists of a very thin (thereby maximizing dial real estate), 3-angle outer bezel with circular brushing. This sits atop a vertically brushed main case. The Seiko NH35 movement with bespoke black rotor sits behind a screw-down case back with sapphire exhibition window. The main time and date-setting screw-down crown at 4 o’clock is signed with the Spinnaker logo while the non-screw-down crown at 2 o’clock, used to rotate the bezel, is unsigned. The heavily curved lugs drop down below the plane of the case back allowing for a nice wrist-hugging fit.
Rounding out the Spinnaker is a thick, hand-stitched and waterproofed leather strap bearing the Spinnaker text on the underside and vintage-style stitching at the base of each end as well as at the tip of the tail piece. The watch is secured via a brushed pin-buckle. I spent a full month with the Bradner, wearing it on both the included leather strap as well as various nylon and canvas NATOs. At $285 USD, the Spinnaker Bradner represents excellent value for those looking to add a bit of vintage compressor diver spice to their collection. spinnaker-watches.com
- Brand & Model: Spinnaker Bradner
- Price: $285
- Who we think it might be for: All of you brave and adventurous desk divers out there who love the vintage compressor look.
- Would I buy one for myself based on what I’ve seen? If I didn’t already own a similar piece from another manufacturer I’d take a pretty hard look at the Bradner.
- If I could make one design suggestion, it would be: Add some contrast between the chapter ring and its markers. It’s just too darn hard to see the indices. I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more coats of lume either. The glow doesn’t last long enough in my book, although I wear my watches to bed and expect them to still be burning bright in the morning so I’m not the best benchmark. Aside from Seiko, Rolex, and Omega, I have yet to come across another brand that can pull this off.
Technical Specifications from Spinnaker
- Material: Stainless Steel
- Size: 42mm Diameter, 14mm Thickness, 50mm lug-to-lug
- Weight: 95 grams
- Crystal: Sapphire
- Case Back: Exhibition Screw-Down
- Water Resistance: 150m
- Inter-lug Width: 20mm
- MOVEMENT: Seiko NH35, 24 Jewels
- Functions: Automatic, Time & Date, Hacking, Hand-Winding
- Beats Per Hour: 21,600
- Power Reserve: 46 Hours
- Material: Water Proof Leather
- Clasp: Pin Buckle
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