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Basic gear from mid-twentieth-century Italy: Cressi

Discussion in 'History of Diving Gear' started by David Wilson, Feb 9, 2020.

  1. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    The following image of the Ostrica mask appeared in the 1955 Cressi catalogue:
    CRESSI-Catalogo-1955---8 - cropped.jpg
    Italian: "OSTRICA. Sintetizza le caratteristiche di rendimento, praticità, estetica. Ha un ottimo campo visivo, volume e ingombro ridotti, aderenza e tenuta particolari (da cui il nome). E’ certamente la classica tra le maschere classiche e di impiego generale. In due misure: A (media), B (grande)."
    Official English Translation: "OSTRICA. This mask synthesises the characteristics of utility wear, practical use and appearance. It has an excellent visual field, reduced volume, with particular adherence and watertightness. It is undoubtedly the classic of the classic masks and is for general use. In two sizes: A (medium), B (large)."
    My English Retranslation: "OSTRICA. The epitome of performance, practicality and aesthetics. It has excellent visibility, reduced volume and size, grip and seal in particular (hence the name “Ostrica”, Italian for “oyster”). It certainly is the most classic of classic and general-purpose masks. Supplied in two fittings: A (Medium) or B (Large)."

    Note how the Ostrica now comes with a split strap.
  2. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    The Cressi Ostrica mask line had a long shelf-life, lasting well into the early 1970s. Here is the Ostrica in 1966, still available in two sizes, medium and large:
    A children's "Ostrica Baby" mask line began the same year:
    There were two versions, one with a styroglass lens, another with a shatterproof glass lens, priced L. 750 and L. 850 respectively.

    In 1969, the "Ostrica M" ("M" standing for "Minor") was launched as a mask targeting young people:
    Note the new metal band with top screw cover around the rim of the lens, while the "Ostrica Baby" of 1969 remained unchanged:
    The final year of the Ostrica line was likely to have been 1973. Here is the original version:
    Italian: "OSTRICA. Maschera semplice, in gomma azzurra e cerchietto in acciaio inox con vite de serraggio e coprivite in ABS in due misure, major e medium.
    Official English translation: "OSTRICA. Simple mask in blue rubber and stainless steel band closed with screws and screw cover in ABS. In two sizes, major and medium."

    And here is the Ostrica Minor of 1973:
    Italian: "Ostrica Minor. Maschera per bambino, di forma semplice con cristallo temperato infrangibile. Gomma azzurro cerchietta in acciaio inox con vite di serraggio e coprivite in ABS. Per tutti gli usi subacquei.
    Official English translation: "Ostrica Minor. Children's mask, of simple shape with tempered and shatterproof glass. Blue rubber, band in stainless steel with screws and screw cover in ABS. For all underwater uses.

    So much for the Cressi Ostrica line from start to finish. We'll review another Cressi mask next time.
  3. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    Thanks for the likes, АлександрД!

    In Cressi's 1953 catalogue, a diving mask derivative of the Ostrica, Italian for "Oyster", was inevitably called the "Perla", Italian for "Pearl":
    CATALOGO CRESSI - 1953 - 10 - cropped.jpg
    Italian: "Una mascherina simile all'«Ostrica», ma molto più economica, è la «PERLA» (fig. 15) più leggera e con ottima tenuta ermetica; anche questa è costruita in due misure: media e grande."
    Rough translation: "Though similar to the "Ostrica", the "PERLA" mask (fig. 15) is much cheaper and comes in a lighter weight and with an excellent hermetic seal. It is also made in two sizes: medium and large."

    Like the Ostrica, the Perla was made in the "Mediterranean camouflage" colour "azzurro", Italian for "light blue". A piece of kit matching the colour of the marine environment was reportedly less prone to scare the fish away when worn by a human being intent on watching or catching them. The Perla offered the watertightness of the Ostrica with the benefits of a lighter weight and a lower price.
    tridacna and Angelo Farina like this.
  4. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    The 1955 Cressi catalogue also featured the Perla:
    CRESSI-Catalogo-1955---8 - cropped.jpg
    Italian: "È da considerarsi l'utilitaria delle maschere: leggera, economica, di buona tenuta, adatta a novizi, per impiego di fondo limitato. In due misure: A (media), B (grande)."
    Official English version: "PERLA. This can be considered the utility mask: light, economical and very watertight, it is suitable for beginners and for use in limited depths. In three sizes: A (medium), B (large) and a special size for children."
    My retranslation: May pass for the utility mask in the range: light, cheap, watertight, suitable for beginners, to be used at limited depths. In two fittings: A (medium), B (large).

    Note the reference to limited-depth use. When new products are launched, every manufacturer will tend to follow the advice in Johnny Mercer's song lyrics:

    You've got to accentuate the positive
    Eliminate the negative
    And latch on to the affirmative
    Don't mess with Mister In-Between

    As a rule of business, any notice constraining a product's use can wait until sufficient experience has accumulated over time in the public domain to warrant or necessitate it. And when the caveat is eventually inserted, always "latch on to the affirmative" is the way to go.
    jale, tridacna and Angelo Farina like this.
  5. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    Cressi's Perla diving mask enjoyed a healthy shelf-life, surviving in the market place until the mid-1960s. Here's a Cressi price list from 1966:
    So there's the Perla, second from the left, on the top row of masks. Still in two fittings, medium and large. Priced at 900 lire, 100 lire less than the Ostrica (Oyster) that gave birth to the Perla (Pearl). Now there's a thought.

    More from the Cressi range of diving masks in several days' time. The Genovese company's Pinocchio line is the likeliest candidate for review then.
    Angelo Farina likes this.
  6. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    A few posts ago, I mentioned my indebtedness to Cressi, un leggenda italiana nel mondo • Ocean 4 Future [Cressi, an Italian world legend] for information about the early history of Cressi. Here is a rough translation of a few more paragraphs:

    The meeting with Luigi Ferraro

    We keep in mind that in those years diving is still in its infancy, practised by the military and by a few enthusiasts who enthusiastically, often without the knowledge of the fundamental principles of physics and physiology, immerse themselves in a sea still to be discovered. It is said that in 1947, during an underwater hunting trip, with the complicity of Marcante, he met Luigi Ferraro (above) intent on gathering mussels. Thus was born a friendship destined to last over time. Luigi Ferraro, thanks to the experience and knowledge acquired in the Gamma Navy divers and his uncommon inventor capacity, is immediately "enrolled" in the young company. From the meeting with Luigi Ferraro many ideas and products will be born that will become icons in the world.
    A world success is the Pinocchio mask (above) which was produced in the '52. When it comes out it has undergone an international success, with that funny rubber nose it allows divers to better compensate, abandoning the annoying nose clips. They are cutting-edge products that make Cressi Sub famous throughout Europe and America. Today everything seems obvious but, before the Pinocchio, there were only oval glass masks that contained the whole face and often made the descent phase slow and painful.

    And the image above shows Luigi Ferraro himself wearing the Cressi Pinocchio diving mask he invented. According to Ferraro's official website at Pinocchio Mask | Luigi Ferraro: "Another of Ferraro's inventions that was destined to leave a permanent mark in the evolution of diving equipment, is the Pinocchio mask, which again, he designed for Cressi in 1952. The Monogoggle, the prototype of all masks, was a French invention that only covered the eyes and excluded the nose. For this reason, it was not able to compensate for external pressure. The next generation of diving masks improved comfort and were more effectively sealed but could not resolve the problem of pressure compensation as the nose was still covered by the glass. Ferraro was the first man to design a rubber face shield which is soft and, as it covers the nose, enables the wearer to easily compensate for external pressure on the eardrum. His invention was successful worldwide, not only because of the feature mentioned above, but also because of its reduced size, its excellent adhesion to the face and its good visibility. A veritable "cult" within the diving mask field, Pinocchio was the most famous mask in the world. Venerated by generations of divers, it was such an advanced design when it was introduced on the market that it is still valid today, over fifty years later. Pinocchio is still produced by Cressi Sub today and it is certainly the diving product that has been on the market the longest."
  7. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    The Pinocchio appeared in the 1953 Cressi catalogue with the following image accompanied by a detailed caption:
    CATALOGO CRESSI - 1953 - 10 - cropped.jpg
    Italian: "Ed infine l’ultima creazione internazionale in campo maschere é rappresentata dalla nostra nuova maschera «PINOCCHIO» (fig. 16) che con la sua concezione assolutamente originale ha permesso la realizzazione di altri importanti requisiti tecnici che sono: volume interno ridotto all’estremo, minimo ingombro, aumentata visibilità, facilità e necessità di minima compensazione contro la pressione dell’acqua durante le discese, possibilità, quando occorre, di realizzare la manovra del Valsalva (per equilibrare la pressione sul timpano nel modo più razionale e conveniente) stringendo direttamente il naso con le dita. È stato possibile raggiungere tutti i suddetti requisiti, per l’originale costruzione della maschera realizzata con un cristallo sagomato, che pur essendo unico, lascia il vano per la fuoriuscita del naso; questo pero non resta all’esterno, ma incluso nel complesso maschera, dall’apposito alloggio in gomma che si raccorda al cristallo e col bordo periferico di tenuta. Una razionale guarnizione interna consente di realizzare gli altri requisiti sopra descritti.
    Rough translation: "And finally, our new "PINOCCHIO" mask (fig. 16), which represents the latest international creation in the field of masks. Its absolutely original conception has enabled other important technical requirements to be fulfilled, i.e.: internal volume reduced to the extreme, small size, increased visibility, ease of, and need for, minimum compensation against water pressure during descents, the possibility, when necessary, of carrying out the Valsalva manoeuvre (to balance the pressure on the eardrum in the most rational and convenient manner) by squeezing the nose directly with the fingers. It was possible to achieve all the aforementioned requirements, for the original construction of the mask to be made with a shaped lens, which despite being unique, leaves room for the nose; the latter does not remain outside, however, but included in the mask complex, with the special rubber pocket connected to the lens and the peripheral sealing edge. A rational internal seal allows the other requirements described above to be fulfilled."

    So right from the start, the Cressi company was aware how revolutionary the Pinocchio mask design was and how important it was for easing the process of equalising pressure on the ears.
  8. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    The Pinocchio mask reappeared thus in the 1955 Cressi catalogue:
    Italian: "PINOCCHIO, costituisce la realizzazione tecnica piu completa e perfetta nel campo maschere, oltre il vanto di essere stata la prima ideazione del genere. La sua originale strutiura, ha permesso di ottenere un volume interno ridottissimo, minimo ingombro, aumentato campo visivo, facilità ed economia di compensazione interna, possibilità di stringere il naso con le dita per compensare la pressione sul timpano con un risultato assai maggiore, ottima tenuta dall’esterno e dall'interno per il suo bordo con guarnizioni, maggior precisione ed esattezza di visuale. È ormai dimostrato che questa maschera consente di aumentare notevolmente il normale rendimento che spesse volte viene raddoppiato o triplicato addirittura. Adatta per tutti gli impieghi tecnici, particolarmente per la pesca, per fotografia e cinematografia, ed in genere per l’esecuzione di lavori di impegno e precisione specie in medio e alto fondo. In una sola misura (media-normale). N.B. Di questa maschera, a richiesta, inviamo stampato con istruzioni dettagliate. Pinocchio vista di fronte. Pinocchio vista di profilo."
    Official translation: "PINOCCHIO. This is the most complete and perfect technical realization in the field of masks, besides being the first conceived of its kind. Its original structure permits great reduction of internal volume, provides minimum encumbrance, increased visual space and economy of inner compensation, and offers the possibility of holding nose with fingers to compensate pressure on eardrum with vastly superior results. External and internal adhesion is excellent because of the trimmed border and the visual capacity is of greater exactitude and precision. The glass is always in one piece. It has been proved that this mask allows an increase of the normal yield, which is often doubled or even trebled. Suitable for all uses, particularly for fishing, still and movie photography and in general for the execution of delicate and precise jobs in medium and deep waters. In one size only (medium-normal). N.B. - Printed matter on use of this mask is available upon request.
    My retranslation: "PINOCCHIO, is the most complete and perfect technical realisation in the field of masks, besides being the first concept of its kind. Its original structure has made it possible to obtain a very small internal volume, minimum overall dimensions, increased field of vision, ease and economy of internal compensation, the possibility of squeezing the nose with the fingers to compensate the pressure on the eardrum with superior results, excellent seal from the outside and the inside for its skirt edge, greater precision and accuracy of vision. It has now been demonstrated that this mask enables normal performance to be significantly increased, often doubled or even tripled. Suitable for all technical uses, particularly for fishing, for photography and cinematography, and in general for the execution of work of commitment and precision especially in medium and high ground. In one size only (medium-normal). N.B. On request, we will send printed matter with detailed instructions for this mask. Pinocchio front view. Pinocchio profile view."

    So the Pinocchio's credentials as a general-purpose low-volume mask are duly reinforced. I'll leave matters there for today with more to come in a few days' time. We shall see how this small mask has survived decades of diving equipment development, remaining intact until the present day. We shall also find out how the original design spawned a whole family of masks for Cressi.
  9. Angelo Farina

    Angelo Farina Marine Scientist

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Parma, ITALY
    Thanks for the great posts, covering some epic years here in Italy.
    Two notes/suggestions:
    1) Luigi Ferraro did leave Cressi some years later, founding his own company, Technisub, together with La Spirotechnique by Yves Cousteau. In the seventies and eighties Technisub was one of the most innovative manufacturers, creating the first "offer" regulator (Inject), the prototype of Raimondo Bucher made in a commercial product. Remerkable also the spring-loaded reserve mechanism for the valve, avoiding that the reserve was pulled by error before the time. A new chapter of your historical presentations should be devoted also to Technisub (and to Mares, of course).
    2) Back to Cressi, the product which really launched the scuba diving popularity here in Italy was the the ARO, the pure-oxygen rebreather derived form the secret military apparatus used by incursors during WW2. An ARO was much cheaper than a air tank plus regulator, and had a much longer autonomy (up to 6 hours), meaning that it make scuba diving possible to many people and diving clubs, who could not afford the expensive compressed air tanks. You see the ARO usied by Luigi Ferraro in the photo you posted. Here another one, this is the very same model (Cressi 57B) which was widely employed during my initial diving course in 1975:
    Only difference is that for the diving course we were using it with a standard mouthpiece, instead of the full-face mask shown here above.
  10. David Wilson

    David Wilson Loggerhead Turtle

    Thank you for the positive feedback and the additional information, Angelo. In the matter of Luigi Ferraro, I will be coming to his own diving equipment company in a later thread: I have pairs of Technisub Ala and Wind full-foot fins in my collection of basic gear and I am aware of his premature introduction of composite fin technology in the shape of the innovatively designed but commercially unsuccessful Caravelle. As for Cressi rebreathers and self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, I have deliberately confined my posts to more basic gear throughout these threads, not only because fins, masks, breathing tubes and suits constitute the equipment with which I am most familiar (I'm a lifelong snorkeller, not a scuba diver), but also because I am persuaded by my reading of diving equipment history that regulators and rebreathers have been well researched online and in print, while the so-called "humbler" necessitiies such as fins, masks, snorkels and suits have been relatively neglected by diving equipment historians. My goal in posting these threads is to redress this balance.

    Now back to the Cressi "family" of Pinocchio diving masks. Last time we left the original Cressi Pinocchio model at the stage of the 1955 catalogue. For Cressi, the new design represented a veritable volte-face from the heavy high-volume Sirena of the 1940s to a new technology of low-volume masks with the ability to clear the ears by squeezing the nose. The catalyst was Luigi Ferraro, whose collaboration with the Cressi company not only led to the Pinocchio mask, but also, as we shall see later, to the Rondine fin, both widely imitated designs.

    Let's jump to the 1960s. Here are two manifestations of the original design from 1966:
    katalog-cressi-sub-1966-04a.jpg katalog-cressi-sub-1966-04b.jpg
    Note how the Pinocchio has already become "la classica maschera", the classic mask of the day. It is now available with a choice of lens materials: ordinary and shatterproof glass. The second product description above introduces two further options. One is the installation of a "clear-ease" valve, while the other is the fitting of a metal band to reinforce lens retention.
    jale and АлександрД like this.

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