Enicar Sherpa 600 Guide Mark III: An interesting backstory and an unexpected influence

While being relatively unknown to a wide spectrum of watch enthusiasts, Enicar is a brand with roots reaching back to the 19th century, Swiss clock making community of Granges near La Chaux-de-Fonds.  The Enicar progenitor, Ariste Racine, whose last name’s emordnilap bore the brand’s name, grew the company steadily into the 20th century when his robust pocket watches received wide acclaim and became favorites among officers in WWI. Furthermore, Enicar was the first to use Radium in 1914 to make their dials readable in the dark.

The manufacturer wouldn’t really hit its stride until it started manufacturing its own movements, which were ultrasonically cleaned to take away less oil, allowing for longer service intervals and a longer lifespan overall. 

Enicar Ultrasonic Ad / Source: vintagewatchinc.com

By the 1930s, Enicar started venturing into tool watches and set its sights on building watches that could be worn in any environment. Perhaps the Sherpa lineup was the most well-known Enicar offering, featuring a myriad of different models.

From the mid-forties, Enicar started developing its first chronograph models, five years later, the Sherpa Jet-graph, designed by the US Airforce, saw the light in 1951.

In May of 1956, a team of Swiss mountaineers summited Mount Everest after conquering nearby Lhotse, the fourth-highest mountain in the world. As a marketing tactic, the Enicar watches that they wore were renamed “Sherpa” after their courageous intrepid guides who made that wilderness their home. A perfectly suitable name that matches the qualities of the Enicar watch.

Pages from a booklet about the 1956 expedition published by Enicar / Source: enicar.org

Enicar also focused their marketing strategy on Divers, Racing and Pilot watches. In 1960 the racing pilot Stirling Moss promotes a Sherpa Graph MK I.

Jim Clark also wore the Sherpa Graph that has become a fan favorite.

Champions preferred Enicar: Stirling Moss ( top ) and Jim Clark ( bottom ) / Source: Enicar101.com

Over the years, Enicar leaned heavily on the Sherpa name, just when Rolex’s GMT watch was popularizing the travel complication amongst pilots and the jet set. The Sherpa Guide, on the other hand, offered a beefy tool watch that took things one step further and calling it a GMT would be an understatement. The watch is a package that successfully combined a date function, a dual time layout with an outer world time bezel that enabled the wearer to select a city of reference via an orange triangle and calculate the time in major cities across the world. 

 

 

The Sherpa Guide 600 GMT was released during the 1960s, and went through numerous different variations. The watch that we offer here is an example of the third variation or Mark III, dating from the late 1960s and featuring an original black matte dial that stands out with the iconic raised bronze Enicar Saturn logo and crisp text.

The raised indexes are wide and coupled with lume dots which are reversed at 6, 9 and 12 o’clock. The white baton handset features a long pencil Tritium inlay at the center of the minute hand and a broader lozenge shaped lume in the hour hand. The lollipop seconds hand also has a luminous tip.

Image by watchtime forum user: Quadrilette172 / TheSpringbar.com

 

 

 

The Sherpa Guide 600 GMT was released during the 1960s, and went through numerous different variations. The watch that we offer here is an example of the third variation or Mark III, dating from the late 1960s and featuring an original black matte dial that stands out with the iconic raised bronze Enicar Saturn logo and crisp text.

The raised indexes are wide and coupled with lume dots which are reversed at 6, 9 and 12 o’clock. The white baton handset features a long pencil Tritium inlay at the center of the minute hand and a broader lozenge shaped lume in the hour hand. The lollipop seconds hand also has a luminous tip.The rallye style checkered GMT hand adds a splash of color to the dial for enhanced readability. This hand can be used along with the two-tone inner rotating bezel operated by the 2 o’clock crown that allows its wearer to easily keep track of two time zones simultaneously. This rotating bezel is conveniently colored to depict daylight hours in faded white and nighttime hours in black.

The Enicar Sherpa Guide 600 beholds a Super-Compressor case referring to a patented sealing method developed by watch case manufacturer Ervin Piquerez. The 43mm case, with its thick beveled lugs and sharp sides, sits tall on the wrist giving it a substantial amount of wrist presence.

The design takes advantage of the water pressure the case is exposed to at depth to press the case back against the O-ring seal. More depth equals more water pressure equals greater seal. The bayonet case back  stands on its own with a different patent number than the threaded Super Compressor types and its outer side represents a clear Sherpa clamshell logo at the center and a lightly engraved text, whereas the inner side is stamped with the right nomenclature, from the signature diver’s helmet to the case’s serial numbers.

The watch is animated by the famed 24 jewel cal. AR 166, a very reliable self-winding movement with 12h and 24h display, center hands and a quickset date feature by pulling and pushing the Saturn signed crown at 2 o’clock.

The whole package comes complete with seldom seen, stainless-steel beads of rice bracelet that pairs very well with the watch and comes with its correct endlinks. The folding clasp is signed Enicar along with the Saturn logo.

During the late 60s and the 70s, Enicar took part in the Swiss consortium that developed the Beta 21 quartz movement to combat the influx of cheap Japanese quartz. Enicar did manage to put up a good fight during the quartz crisis as they enjoyed high quality and a competitive price point, however they were by no means immune.  In 1987, the brand went into insolvency and was sold to a Hong Kong investment company that still distributes its watches in Asia, a market where the brand had always been popular since it began distributing watches there in the early 20th century.

With its illustrious backstory and iconic influence, the flagship Sherpa line, stands out as the quintessential timepiece in the vintage watches lore due to its flashy colors, utilitarian feel and superior build quality. As for the Sherpa Guide, it’s become an increasingly valuable watch to those in the know. Prices still remain somewhat accessible, but values for good examples are continuously going up.

The present watch is in excellent original condition, in perfect working order, accurate and reliable and could be yours here

 

Stefan Traber

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