One of the hottest brands in the vintage market, Enicar, has a shorter history than most, all but collapsing after the Swiss quartz crisis. Although established by Ariste Racine, it should not be confused with the Racine Watch Co of Gallet collaboration fame, a close relative. It’s a bit confusing but, hey, the Racines were a watch family. It was actually Ariste’s wife Emma Racine-Blatt who suggested reversing the family name to create Enicar—an emordnilap for Racine—in an attempt to avoid confusion. Ariste and Emma began producing pocket watches in the sunroom of their La Chaux-de-Fonds house with only three technicians. A short and successful three years later, the two rented a portion of Ariste’s mother’s home in Longeau, Switzerland to expand operational capabilities and, in 1918, purchased the entire property. A year later, Enicar built its first factory in Longeau with mother’s house proving to be a bit small.
Enicar cruised through the next few decades, steadily growing under the leadership of the founding couple, Ariste’s brother Oskar Racine, and, later, Ariste Racine Junior joining the firm in 1934. After successfully competing for a few military contracts through WWII, Enicar built a new and improved factory in 1953 that allowed the brand to focus on serious research and development. In this state-of-the-art facility, all Enicar movements were cleaned ultrasonically, a cutting edge practice. The word ‘ultrasonic’ led marketing campaigns and was stamped on each Enicar movement of the period. The brand’s first waterproof wristwatch was introduced in 1955 as the Seapearl; on the caseback was an image of an openmouthed oyster with its pearl—possibly a jab at Rolex’s Oyster case. Enicar was just hitting its stride in 1956 when it outfitted a Swiss expedition and their Nepalese Sherpas with Seapearls to guide them on a summit attempt of Everest. On May 22, 1956 the attempt was successful, this the second summit of Everest, and the Enicar Sherpa was born, touting this achievement in many models for the next three decades. Sadly, the company was hit extremely hard by the quartz crisis, only limping into the 1980s and officially going bankrupt in 1987. Enicar was possibly the most successful brand, previously, to not survive the introduction of the quartz watch. Hard to believe the Swatch Group never came knocking.
Up for sale is an Enicar Sherpa Guide 600 Mk IV dating to likely the early 1970s. The Sherpa Guide, along with the Sherpa Graph, Sherpa Jet, Sherpa Dive, and so on, was a model produced by Enicar celebrating their involvement in the Swiss Everest summit of 1956. This variation of the Sherpa line stands out as the quintessential Enicar in the eyes of vintage collectors today due to its flashy color but utilitarian feel and superior build quality. Most obvious are the two crowns and two functions, GMT as well as world time, a common thread of all Sherpa Guides. Produced throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s, the model went through four generations, referred to as Mk I, Mk II, Mk III, and Mk IV. Our example is a Mk IV, distinguished by its “short lug” or cushion case shape. More information about the Enicar Sherpa Guide can be found here.
While collector attention is most often drawn toward the earliest Sherpa Guides, the Mk IV makes a great case for being the best of its kind, especially in the dial variant seen here. For starters, the short lug case is not only the least common, produced for only one generation, but arguably wears more comfortably than its long lugged brother. The Mk IV case clocks in 1mm or 2mm smaller in diameter than the others, making a larger difference than the pure measurements imply and generally hugs the wrist better. Furthermore, the blue dial and 24-hour ring of our example stand out as uncommon among Guides; most were produced with either black or white dials.
The Case and Bracelet
The overall condition of the example for auction is excellent. The case is in excellent condition with few small scratches and nicks such as that between the short lugs at 12 o’clock. This watch looks like it was rarely worn and sports its original starburst finishing on the case’s top surface. We believe the case to be unpolished and completely original. The correct Enicar signed crowns are fitted and, given the condition elsewhere, they appear to be original.
The caseback condition is in worse condition than the rest of the case with wear to the lightly stamped text as well as large scratches from a removal attempt at some point. Our example’s bezel appears original and has faded in a few spots. The crystal shows little to no scratches.
The original Enicar signed stainless-steel bracelet pairs very well with the watch and is in matching excellent condition.
The Dial and Hands
The striking blue dial of this Sherpa Guide is in good to great condition with no significant flaws to note. Some imperfections do appear, possibly just dust. The lume plots at each hour marker are full but have aged to varying degrees. The luminous material also appears a bit dirty.
The handset is in average condition and is completely correct for this reference. What is left of the lume in the hands does not match the lume of the dial.
The Enicar caliber AR 166 is in running condition, service history is unknown.
|Location||New York City|
|Model||Sherpa Guide 600|
|Movement||Automatic, AR 166|
|Case Material||Stainless Steel|
|Band Material||Stainless Steel|