Christopher Ward ought to be more or a thorn in the side of Swiss brands that charge £5,000 for watches costing low hundreds of pounds to make.
By selling online direct to consumers, the British watch business keeps the price of its timepieces down by eradicating the mark-ups that have to be paid to anybody involved in taking product market.
This means that, for £595 in the case of Christopher Ward’s new C63 Sealander Automatic, you get an immaculately made Swiss watch driven by Sellita’s ultra-reliable SW200 three-hand with date movement in a package likely to pass Rolex’s quality control.
Christopher Ward is overdue in making a sporty but classic automatic and the success of Rolex’s reworked Oyster Perpetual family last year has shown the demand for simpler timekeepers that give a lifetime of service without ever going out of fashion.
The problem with simplicity is that it is extremely difficult to get right. Every facet of a hand or applied hour marker has to be perfect.
Gloss white or black dials are unforgiving if there is the slightest blemish or spec of dust.
Steel cases, finished by hand with brushed and polished surfaces playing with light, add interest. Sapphire crystal needs to be used to avoid any scratches for watches designed to be worn for everything.
WatchPro visited Christopher Ward’s headquarters last week to see the new C63 Sealander Automatic along with a Sealander GMT and Sealander Elite, which launched alongside it.
Because Christopher Ward sells almost entirely online, most customers do not get the chance to see these watches up close before buying them, which is a shame because they really show their class through the magnification of a loupe.
Christopher Ward’s 39mm Sealander Automatic is the star of the collection, and bang on the luxury sport trend that drives the majority of sales today across the Swiss watch industry.
The £795 Sealander GMT is also clean and uncomplicated in its 39mm ‘lightcatcher’ steel case, despite the additional second time zone hand tracking around a 24 hour steel bezel. It uses Sellita’s SW330-2, which has the second time zone feature.
I am less of a fan of the 40mm C63 Sealander Elite for the very reason I love the Automatic and the GMT.
It does not look like it belongs in the same family because of the complexity of its textured dial, which has a prominent minute track in addition to hour markers, and cut-away holes between each hour that serve no purpose.
It is the top of the line Sealander, priced from £1,150, and perhaps wants to show its COSC-certification status through more complicated design.
It has a retractable crown that is said to make the watch more comfortable to wear, but for me just makes it less comfortable to look at.
Christopher Ward is known for a broad range of specialist watches in pilot and divers’ styles, but the C63 Sealander Automatic and GMT are likely to become bestsellers and a platform design for myriad spin-off styles.