A Diver for Professionals
Over the past few years I’ve developed a passion for brands born in the 1950s that made ultra resistant tool watches. The types of watches that professionals use because they had a particular need for them. Whether it be a diver, pilot, or explorer type of watch. People who needed timepieces to function superbly under any condition and that was trouble-free. Although nowadays there are many brands that make capable watches that don’t cost an arm and a leg, it’s not everyday that we can come across a brand with 70+ years of history of making these types of watches. To me, these gems of horology are for professionals and connoisseurs.
So it’s nice to be able to talk to you about Circula and the SuperSport Petrol. Circula is a brand I didn’t know of until a few months ago when I met Cornelius Huber, the grandson of the brand’s founder, Heinz Huber at the 2022 edition of the New York City WindUp Watch Fair. Not only is Cornelius a total watch nerd, but he’s also just a nice chap who loves talking watches and who doesn’t hesitate to share about the brand and his grandfather’s story. While this article is not a profile story, I will nevertheless speak about Circula a little later in this review.
But first, let’s talk about the watch.
The SuperSport is a tool watch through and through. Starting with its dimensions: 40mm case diameter, 46.5mm lug-to-lug, and 12mm in thickness including the crystal. At first glance, it’s a very wearable timepiece and, as you could imagine from its dimensions, sits rather flat on the wrist. And yes it does. The case-back is more flat than curved, making the watch feel glued to the wrist like a suction cup. This is a good feeling to have for a super-compressor because of the way they are made. And yes, the SuperSport is a true super compressor and not a watch that looks like one. (There are too many of these out there and although I do like them, it’s nice to come across an actual super compressor timepiece.)
As any proper tool watch should, the SuperSport is equipped with a solid movement, the Swiss Made Sellita SW200-1 movement, but not just any version of it. Indeed, the SuperSport comes with the Elaboré grade of this movement which means better construction, accuracy, and longevity. Given the fact that this watch retails for roughly $900 on a tropic strap, you can already see how good of a deal it is. But there is much more than meets the eye. Unlike most super compressor style watches that are water resistant to 100 or 200 meters, the SuperSport boasts 300 meters of water resistance, which is impressive given its reasonable dimensions.
The inner rotating bezel is common on this type of watch, however what’s not here is its construction. More often than not, super compressor watches (both real ones and wannabes) have a bi-directional friction-fit bezel. I can’t say for sure why that is but that has been the standard for many years now. However, the Circula has a unidirectional 120-click bezel, making the SuperSports’ bezel a hybrid of a traditional diver and of a super compressor timepiece. The clicks are not springy, rather they are smooth and precise, feeling the German engineering at play here.
Personally, German brands make some of the best bezel mechanisms on the market.
What first popped when looking at the SuperSport Petrol is the playfulness and deliberateness of the dial colors. While I typically prefer monochromatic dials, I’ve got to say I thoroughly enjoy the alternation of colors, from the green on the majority of the dial to the poppy yellow on the seconds hand and the darker yellow on the inner portion of the dial and the first 20 minutes of the bezel. These colors work well with each other and they aid with legibility, highlighting different parts of the watch: each color has a different purpose.
Although I typically mention the lume in the “Specifications” section of reviews, this time around I’m going to mention it under “Design.” Why? Because the lume is a masterpiece of visual effect in its own right. The bezel and dial have two different colors of SuperLuminova, with C3 X1 on the bezel (which glows green) and BGW9 on the dial, which glows ice blue. The latter has a sandwich construction, and as you can see on the photos below, the lume is plentiful and neatly applied. Looking up close, you can see each marker and bezel markings separately. (That’s precision.)
As a proper tool watch, the SuperSport is equipped with a date aperture that is neatly tucked away at the 6 o’clock position. The color of the date disc matches the one of the dial, which shows the attention to detail Cornelius put in designing the SuperSport. Furthermore, the hour and minute markers are repeated on the center portion of the dial, inviting the wearer to experience time in two different ways. I would say that it is done in this fashion so that one can either read the time using the center of the dial or the outer markers, therefore keeping track of the elapsed minutes using the larger minute markers.
At least, that’s how I can see the dial being used.
The more I talk to brand owners the better I understand how difficult their job is. Designing a watch is not easy as one has to find the perfect balance between how it looks and how it functions. The SuperSport is a tool watch and as such it must be easy to read, to operate, and sustain bad treatments on land and underwater. It’s a legible watch that is not deprived of interesting visual effects—as we’ve seen above regarding the colors—that can also be seen in the sunburst effect on the dial. The SuperSport, by the way, comes in three dial variants: Petrol (this one,) black and a limited edition in red.
The Heart of the Matter
At the heart of the matter here is the fact that Cornelius, just like his father and grandfather, runs a brand that’s in the business of making solid tool watches for discerning collectors and professionals, and that for over 70 years. In my eyes, Circula is a boutique brand where professionals shop to get the proper watch for their needs. I imagine James Bond and Q talking gadgets in a secret garage, or a spy getting to his hideout to get new gear and picking up a SuperSport for his next underwater mission. He wouldn’t go for a Rolex because it’s too costly and shiny, but for a SuperSport that is discreet, legible, and certainly robust.
However, you may not have heard of Circula before. I must admit I hadn’t before I met Cornelius in the flesh, so let’s talk a little bit about the brand.
Circula was founded in 1955 by Cornelius’ grandfather, Heinz Huber and is located in Pforzheim, Germany. The watches are made and assembled in Germany, as it has been the case for several decades. Circula is part of a rich history of German watchmaking that rose to success at the beginning of the 1950s and 1960s by making solid tool watches. While a collector would buy a Rolex Submariner, a professional would turn to a brand such as Circula to buy a proper tool watch. I did mention the price of the SuperSport earlier—$900 on a tropic strap—which is a small price to pay for what you get.
Having grown up in a family of watch enthusiasts, Cornelius forged his own path into the industry as a young boy selling G-Shocks during recess to earn pocket money. His family had been in the business of watch retailing since 1925 before creating the brand, so it was only normal for Cornelius to find his own way into the business. Cornelius took over the brand in 2018 and has since found a lot of success carrying the torch of this family heritage. Before being at the helm of the brand, however, Cornelius expanded his original—and casual—business of selling G-Shocks at school to doing so to the benefit of the greater watch community.
What perhaps best explains the brand’s recent success is the fact that Cornelius turns to the brand’s community to drive the design of its new models. That has been the case for the SuperSport in that Cornelius surveyed 4,500 watch enthusiasts before getting to the drawing board. When a brand designs a new model in isolation—most of the time based on the brand owner’s personal preferences—the watch comes out beautiful and unique, but more often than not it would be deprived of certain details and features that a majority of people would hope to have.
What transpires through the community-based effort to design a new proper diver can be seen in the SuperSport in the use of unique colors on the dial. I have never seen a combination of green and yellow in this fashion, and this daring mix of colors remind me of the iconic orange dials of the Doxa professional divers. Furthermore, the sandwich construction of the hour markers is rather unusual for a diver, so is the addition of an inner circle in the middle of the dial. (Again, I can only speculate as to its use.) Lastly, the 120-click unidirectional inner rotating bezel has a unique construction for a super compressor diver, something that could have only been done by involving the watch community in the design of the SuperSport.
Conclusion: A Watch for Connoisseurs
A connoisseur is an expert in a field, any field. So when I say “A Watch for Connoisseurs” I should be more specific and say this: “A Watch for Proper Tool Watches Connoisseurs Who Are More Interested in Quality and Purpose Rather Than Name and Price.” Because we can get a proper tool watch for under $1,000, busting the myth that only one that costs several thousands of dollars can make the cut. I for one have a psychological sweet spot of $1,000 and less when buying a watch, so the Circula SuperSport is totally within my preferences. Because a proper tool watch—and yes, I do see the SuperSport as being a proper tool watch—must meet two essential qualities: reliability and legibility.
The SuperSport is legible thanks to its signpost hands and wide hour markers as well as the large numerals on the bezel and the extraordinary amounts of lume the entire watch is endowed with. Reliable because of the Sellita movement within, the 300 meters of water resistance, the true super compressor construction, and the split hands that guarantee long-term usage. (A small detail that is only found on tool watches meant to be used and abused and not those who are only meant to be looked at and kept safe in a watch box.)
If you are curious about Circula, I recommend you check out their website here. Thanks for reading.