BACKGROUND Located in the small Swiss town of Grenchen, Eterna, which today is owned by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, is one of the last remaining independent manufacturers. They have a rich watch making heritage that includes watches like the legendary Super KonTiki.
Named little over a hundred years after Eterna was first established (in 1856), the KonTiki takes its name from the celebrated balsawood raft, which in 1947 sailed across the Pacific Ocean from Peru to Polynesia; no mean feat.
Thankfully Thor Heyerdahl and his intrepid crew were equipped with the sturdiest and most reliable wristwatches that were available to them, these happened to be of Eterna design.
The watch was thus named in 1958 after their raft; and its design, which although has been periodically subject to a little restyling and an update or two eventually evolved into the watch we see today (the ETERNA Heritage Super KonTiki Limited Edition 1973), an almost exact recreation (size aside) of the 1973 Super KonTiki that was adopted by the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) for their divers. It is this design classic that Eterna have recreated.
AESTHETIC Simple, clean, smart and elegant; not quite a tool watch, not quite a dress watch, either, but somewhere in between. Its vintage styling very much in vogue, but in this case this is the real thing rather than an inspired aesthetic.
Pretty much every surface and facet of the watch has been finished with a high polish, yet the KonTiki remains subtle, not too showy and in no way could it be accused of being blingy, quite the contrary, it’s the kind of watch that your boss would approve of.
DIAL As with every design element of the KonTiki; Eterna have remained true to the original form. A black dial, with raised luminescent applied hour markers, a 3 o’clock date wheel (in white) and one the coolest and most distinctive handsets there are. Typically seventies in their design, but most importantly instantly recognizable from each other are the over sized minute hand and dwarfed hour hand. The only real differences with them are increased overall size and width, allowing for more lume; a good thing!
CASE The KonTiki has 44mm stainless steel barrel shaped case that has been highly polished. The case measures 13.7mm thick.
BEZEL The KonTiki has a round polished 120 click rotating divers bezel with a black aluminum insert marked out with alternating Arabic numerals and markers to measure elapsed dive time; its 12 o’clock pip in yellow enamel (so cool). Easily manipulated owning to its chunky grip, the bezel clicks beautifully round the dial.
CASEBACK The caseback features a lovely engraving of a KonTiki medallion. This beautiful deep etched engraving depicts the KonTiki raft on its voyage across the Pacific. Apart from this engraving and a second ‘ETERNA’ engraving, the caseback has been polished. There’re also some light engravings of its limited # of 1973 pieces and the usual; water-resistance (200m) and Swiss Made etc.
CROWN The KonTiki has a simple unsigned screw-down crown. The crown stem is nice and sturdy, no play no wobble. In my opinion it would have looked nicer signed with the Eterna 5 spheres logo, but in all fairness the original’s crown was also unsigned; I’m probably a heathen for suggesting it, but I love details.
GLASS Scratch-resistant, anti-reflective coated flat sapphire crystal.
BUILD QUALITY The overall build quality and craftsmanship of the watch is excellent. Each and every detail has been flawlessly executed; as one would expect from any high quality Swiss dive watch.
WATER-RESISTANCE The Super KonTiki is water-resistant to 200 meters (approx. 655 feet or 20 bars). 200m is the minimum requirement for a divers watch according ISO norms. Another 100 meters or so would have been preferable allowing for a slightly larger safety margin.
MOVEMENT A self-winding mechanical movement providing 38 hours power reserve; C.O.S.C certified with a decorated rotor.
BRACELET A polished stainless steel bracelet made from flexible mesh with diver’s extension and brushed steel safety clasp. The style of mesh used for the KonTiki far surpasses every experience I’ve had to date with mesh bracelets. This is one of, if not the lightest and most comfortable mesh bracelets I’ve worn; if like me you aren’t typically a mesh man; you’ll soon be singing a different tune after wearing this one. Super comfortable!
The clasp is also ultra light, it locks by means of seat-belt type buckle, which closes and is then secured by a strong spring hinged lock. The clasp is the only part of the watch that has a brushed finish; a smart move considering how easily light scratches and swirls are picked up on clasps. The steel has then been stamped and pressed with the Eterna logo.
DIVERS EXTENSION The Super KonTiki comes supplied with an additional length of mesh bracelet and clasp to accommodate a divers wet suit. Not just a cool accessory, but a very useful item for those that will actually take it diving! Simply attach it to the open end of the clasp and voila, you're good to go!
FUNCTIONALITY Time, date, 120 click rotatable divers bezel with elapsed dive time scale, water-resistant to 200meters, luminescent applied hands and markers.
WEAR-ABILITY Considering its size and it being on a stainless steel bracelet, this is an extremely comfortable watch to wear; much is owed to its lightweight mesh bracelet and clasp.
DURABILITY Highly polished surfaces although pretty are prone to light scratches, this is the only real drawback (design-wise) of this watch. Eterna had no real choice considering the very direct route that they took with its recreation. The original models were also polished. The watch has a screw down case back and crown.
Unlike its ancestor this watch was made with intention of being enjoyed as a collectors item rather than a military diver; not that it wouldn't be up for the job; I'm sure it would hold up beautifully in the water. But I’d still have the up most admiration for anybody who would take it diving, then again why wouldn’t you? ;)
LUME I would rate the Super KonTiki’s lume at good. Only the hands and markers have been coated with luminescent compound, there is no lume on the bezel pip either.
VALUE CHF 2,950 € 2,175 a reasonable price a watch of its caliber and pedigree. It's also a limited edition of 1973 units.
ALSO CONSIDER If modern recreations of Swiss vintage dive watch icons are your thing and you love the look of a mesh bracelet you might also consider; either the Omega Seamaster Ploprof 1200 (CHF8'000) or the Breitling Super Ocean Heritage (@4'000CHF). Both watches fit the bill. The 1200m Ploprof is more of a professional diving tool, where as the 200m SOH leans more towards a dress diver. The SOH would be a more comparable alternative to KonTiki given its price and spec.
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS If ever there was a dive watch for the discerning gentleman, this is it (did I already say that?). It will no doubt be enjoyed every bit as much by owners and admires of the vintage models as those who have only just recently discovered it and have a new found appreciation.
I recognize and respect the fact that the Eterna design team hasn’t messed with original design and applaud for them for that; the watch will no doubt find favor among many for its pure design; but I can’t help wondering if Eterna have really brought the watch into the 21st Century . . .
[WARNING (for purists) STOP READING NOW] How would the 2010 Super KonTiki have been received if Eterna had put the 'super' back into Super KonTiki; an increased 1000m depth rating, a slightly larger case with brushed sides complete with obligatory HEV, extra thick domed sapphire crystal, either a ceramic or sapphire lumed bezel insert and supplied with a professional rubber divers strap?
At the end of day this isn’t the route that Eterna took with the watch; but it’s certainly a consideration for a new KonTiki a year or two down the road; technical updates don’t necessarily mean bastardizations, do they?
I still have much to learn about vintage divers; in fairness I just wasn’t aware of these great icons until I started reading about and collecting contemporary dive watches over the last 15years. Many vintage pieces caught my eye in particular the Super KonTiki that was used by the IDF, however these watches were always rare items, especially good examples. Then there are all the headaches that can come form vintage watch collecting; fakes, Franken watches (made of parts from this watch or that watch), damaged watches, repairs, restorations etc. Also, vintage watch dimensions are for the most smaller than we like to wear these days.
So if you can have the exact same look, but with reliability of a brand new watch, and it can be of a fair size, too, then why not? Kudos Eterna, the Super KonTiki Limited Edition 1973 is the ultimate vintage dive watch resurrection; it's kind of like finding brand new old stock Vintage Super KonTiki only better if it that were at all possible . . .
Many thanks to all my good friends at Eterna.