Christopher Ward was founded in 2005; all its timepieces are designed in Britain and hand assembled in Switzerland. The brand sells directly to its customers online and passes on some of the distribution savings to the consumer. With almost every CW piece priced at less than £1,000, many for less than half that, these are indeed value-oriented mechanical watches — without the the middleman and with retail overheads, the company prides itself on offering a lot of watch for the money, including a five year warranty. The company has clearly found a group of watch enthusiasts who embrace its product offering and the brand’s self-hosted discussion forum is fairly active which is always a good sign. But as I say, the C900 monopusher chronograph seen here is far from the norm of Christopher Ward.
The C900 has an understated dial with a 3-9 bi-compax layout — continuous seconds sub-dial on the right and 30-minute totalizer on the left. I like the large chrono counters and their simple design. The polished steel case also has nice lines and nice size — 43mm case, 15.7mm thick. On the downside, the “Chr.WARD” logo is definitely a compromise on the brand’s full name. Or is it their new preferred logo? Other models use “CW” logo plus “Christopher Ward”. My point is that I don’t like it to see a brand using multiple spellings/variations of its name on different watches.
It is the extensively developed and adapted Unitas 6497 calibre — visible through caseback– that is perhaps more the star of the show. Designed and executed largely by CW Swiss watchmaker Johannes Jahnke, CW characterizes the JJ02 caliber as “supremely elegant, clean and, above all, ‘understandable’” while noting that it is possible through the caseback to see how the sliding gear, clutch and brake allow the chronograph to be controlled by a single pusher.
Although the finishing and other aspects of the mechanics appear to be a far cry from that of higher end brands (as one would expect), this caliber is worthy on its own merits. That CW has developed a monopusher chrono movement, and one that will sell for £2,450 (US$3,819), is an accomplishment. By way of comparison, Bell & Ross WWI Monopusher introduced this year sells for $7,600; the Longines Column-Wheel Single Push-Piece Chronograph 180th Anniversary Limited Edition is priced north of $10,000; Patek Philippe, Hublot, Montblanc, Roger Dubuis and others are priced, well, much much higher. The fact is that any chronograph let alone a monopusher is expensive to develop.
In short, the C900 a watch that is affordable enough to be worn, used and appreciated by a wide range of customers. Although this watch is by far the most expensive piece ever done by Christopher Ward — by my estimation it is easily two to three times the asking price of their average timepieces, I think it is a laudable effort. It is a good thing when watchmakers can bring mechanical complications that are typically the domain of high-end brands into the more affordable realm where they can be enjoyed and owned by more watch enthusiasts. Clearly Christopher Ward is proud of this achievement and they rightly should be.
Look for the C900 on sale starting August 2012 (pre-order) for October delivery — at http://www.christopherward.co.uk/. £2,450 (US$3,819)