Wristwatch restoration, servicing and repair

Eterna KonTiki Super (Eterna Cal. 1489K)…

Here’s a cool vintage diver, an Eterna KonTiki Super from the 1970’s.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Founded in 1856 by Dr Josef Girard and Urs Schild, the company initially specialised in producing pocket watches with alarms, but as the demand for watch movements of all kinds continued to rise, a subsidiary company “ETA SA” was created in 1896 to supply good quality calibres to other Swiss watch manufacturers. The name of the founding company was changed from Schild Fréres to Eterna in 1905.

Eterna had a number of technical achievements over the years, but their most significant innovation was undoubtedly the “Eterna-Matic” – an automatic winding mechanism featuring a ball-bearing rotor system which increased efficiency and reduced wear.

The Eterna-Matic was first fitted to a production watch in 1948 and was subsequently used in the majority of their watches. The mechanism was such a success that the layout of the five ball-bearings in the rotor became the logo for the brand.

The KonTiki range was created in the 1950’s as a tribute to the trans-Pacific voyage taken by the Norwegian writer and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl. Inspired by old drawings made by the Spanish Conquistadors, Heyerdahl and his team travelled to Peru and constructed a pae-pae raft from balsa wood and other native material, which he named “KonTiki” after the pre-Inca sun god.

On April 28th 1947, Heyerdahl and a crew of five set sail aboard KonTiki attempting to cross the Pacific Ocean. After 101 days and a journey of over 4,300 miles the raft crashed into a reef on August 7th off the Tuamotu Islands in French Polynesia. The crew all survived, and the adventure declared a success. (See here for more information).

Though Heyerdahl had no involvement in Eterna’s KonTiki range (you may read that Heyerdahl and his team all wore Eterna watches during the trip – it isn’t true), they proved to be very successful for the company, and are still in their collection today. As well as diver’s watches, the range also included dress watches, these two vintage KonTiki 20 models being typical examples;

On the caseback of every KonTiki model is an image of the KonTiki raft with the Eterna logo on the sail. Being a much softer metal than the stainless steel back, the medallions can wear smooth with extensive wear, and that is the case with the watch in this post.

Inside the watch is an Eterna Cal. 1489K which of course features an Eterna-Matic winding mechanism with the trademark five ball-bearing rotor system.

The watch was losing a significant amount of time when worn, but needed no more than a service to bring it back into line.

Another thing to notice about this watch is the bezel markings. Rather than the usual ‘countdown’ bezel used to time the length of a dive, this watch is an example with the rarer ‘decompression’ bezel.

In case you have trouble finding a vintage model, Eterna re-issued a version of the Super diver in 2010 to commemorate the original – albeit in a limited edition run of just 1,973 units. (Full details here)


** Many thanks to David Brenchley for letting me feature his watch on the blog. **

One Response to “Eterna KonTiki Super (Eterna Cal. 1489K)…”

  1. Bob Says:

    You always seem to be working on watches that interest me. I’ve been looking for a good Eterna-Matic for myself. Thanks for the info.