Elgé Genève super compressor

Elgé Genève watches were produced by the French manufacturer Ets Yola based in the large town of Annecy in the French Haut-Savoie region, which has a strong watchmaking tradition, in fact Annecy’s just over the Swiss border from Geneva. They were in business from the mid 1940’s until the early 1970’s and other Ets Yola brands comprised of Yola, Elga and Elgé. This particular example is a dive watch powered by the A Schild 1712 movement housed in an ESPA Super Compressor case. It’s in remarkable condition and the owner just wanted a full movement service, the lume examining and stabilising (it appeared a little fragile in the hands) and if possible the case made waterproof once more.

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Nowadays the term “Super Compressor” seems to have become associated with any watch that has dual crowns and an internal rotating bezel, but this is actually incorrect. Super Compressor is a trademarked name for specific case designs made by the case manufacturer EPSA (Ervin Piquerez S.A.). Their patented design utilised a case sealing method that actually became more water tight the higher the pressure that was applied to the case of the watch. In effect the deeper the watch went the tighter the caseback was squeezed against the case gasket. EPSA designed three different types of case ranging from the Compressor through the Compressor 2 to the Super Compressor as this period advert shows.

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With the caseback removed you can see the patent information on the inside underneath the divers helmet logo, also now on show is the low beat (18,000bph), 25 jewel, automatic A Schild calibre 1712 movement.

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A view of the calendar side with the dial and top plate removed.

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And a view of the train about to be removed.

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The movement was fully stripped ready for cleaning.

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A number of new parts were required, the time setting was a little notchy and gritty due to a worn winding pinion, you can see where the teeth have been worn down over time on the original pinion.

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The clutch was also very worn which didn’t help the setting, as well as the teeth being worn to a point, some were partially broken off.

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Also needed was a new mainspring.

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The watch was then reassembled, lubricating as I went. Here the motion work was installed ready to spring into life.

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The calendar side back together, ready for the dial to be fitted.

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The hands were inspected and you can see in this shot where the lume had shrunk over time and cracked in a couple of places. Nothing was lost but it was very fragile.

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Some fresh binder was applied to the rear of both hands and left to dry. This has the effect of strengthening the lume and holding it to the hands frames a lot more securely.

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Once dry the dial and hands were refitted to the movement.

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My attention then turned to the case to try and see if it could be made water resistant again. The problem with vintage super compressor cases is the crowns are very difficult to source nowadays and if the seals have degraded over the intervening forty plus years you’re a bit stuck. It didn’t look too promising for the crown seals if the caseback seal was anything to go by, when I attempted its removal it just turned to dust!

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And here it is completely removed, I’d given up on the crowns seals being any good by this point.

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However when I inspected them they still actually appeared to be flexible, I suppose it’s possible the crowns have been replaced during a service at some point in the past. Whatever the reason they were in pretty good condition!

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I replaced the caseback seal, silicone greased it and the crown seals then buttoned it up for a 6bar pressure test. The advantage of doing a pressure test with no movement present is if the case has become pressurised even by a tiny amount, when you release the pressure in the chamber the crown or crowns will blow out as there’s no movement to hold the stem in place. This means if you do a dry run first with no water present and the crowns stay in place, you can be pretty confident the case will be fine during the actual test. Here’s the case in the chamber and up to pressure.

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Wait 15 minutes and submerge the case.

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Release the pressure and the case is fine – no leaks!

P1010407aThe movement was then reunited with the case.

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A closer shot of the caseback, excuse the stray piece of lint, every watchsmiths nemesis!

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And here she is, now complete and looking fantastic. I’m very fond of super compressor watches and this vintage Elgé Genève example is exquisite.

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epsa-advert

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