Watches. Why do some people take them far too seriously, spending unknown amounts of cash on seemingly over priced kit that doesn’t offer much more than telling the time?
For example, James Bond wears a £1200 Omega watch and has always personified the luxury watch lifestyle, but in the latest Bond film he has his purchase mocked by the love interest as an unfashionable macho attitude (of course he eventually sleeps with her as after all this is Bond we are talking about.)
So, if these “big man”, “look at me”, “I have a big… watch” type watches are out of fashion, what is there left for the modern manly man?
Why does this matter? Beefcake dies a death and good riddance yes? Well, I for one think that it is more important than that. Simply because, for the vast majority of men, their watch is the only jewelry that they wear. It is their only chance to express something about themselves. Hence the watch culture of Rolex and Omega. Much like buying a luxury car such as a Porsche, Omega sells an expression.
Buying into “cool” is everywhere now. I thnk that It has unfortunately become cheapened by this. Remember that FCUK and Burberry started life as high end brands full of expense and luxury. Now they are bog trotting, FHM garbage worn only by Chavs; a social grouping almost universally reviled.
The “Omega-style” watch is going that way. By being able to simply buy class, class loses all meaning as an identifier. David Beckham, X-Factor, Coleen, Paris Hilton, etc have all cheapened the experience of purchasing things as a route to class.
So where now? I found myself stepping into the very deep end of a very large pool that threatened at every turn to leave me with something I would not like.
Everyone takes a stance with their watch, what would mine be?
Consider that even wearing a cheap watch is a stance. I know a man who has a lavish lifestyle of wealth and hard won privilege and his watch is a 99p Casio. Why? Because he is making a statement?
What will be my statement?
If I wasn’t going to buy into the Bond, fast cars, super high end bullshit where could I go?
When discussing this article, someone commented to me, “What about your wedding ring?” Firstly, the ring was jointly chosen by my wife and I and matches hers so it is not unique, it is part of a matched pair. Secondly, the ring is not jewelry at all. It is actually a ward; for warning off single women, reminding them that I am taken. Thus, my watch is the only truly individual thing I wear.
For the last few years I have been wearing my beloved Citizen Pro Diver. Beloved for two reasons. Firstly, it was purchased for my by my wife as my wedding engagement present and secondly it is a brilliant watch for diving.
Not that I dive often, but I have qualified for diving and liked wearing it.
However, it was starting to wear heavy on my arm and over the last year or so, I have been working up the impetus to only semi-retire it and only use it for diving. I am much more a London city-man these days and I need a watch that reflects me in 2007.
With the “big man” watches out of the running, I came to consider the other major type of men’s watch; the military models.
I am an avid Airsofter, Fencer and Martial Artist. I am typically considered to be a man’s man and thus I wondered if the military world would offer me what I was looking for.
Military models tend to be low in specification but high in build quality. They have a large practical aspect that corresponds to the military need for ease and speed of use. They also generally have rugged features.
My search immediately hot upon a likely candidate, the Jack Bauer watch called the MTM Blackhawk. This £350 hardcore watch is time pared down to the most basic feature set; the time and the ability to see it. It lacks even a date feature, which is apt when you think about it as why does Jack Bauer need a date marker? Everything always happens in 24 hours!
Jack is a fantastic role model for a real man, as he cares about people and yet is a consummate professional who has amazing courage.
I was very excited about this watch for about a month, and then I took a closer look. It is actually ugly and hard to read. Sure it has a gimmick in that it lights up, but this was not enough for me.
So, distraught, I went searching into the city and eventually into a watch shop near Liverpool St, resigned to dropping over £1k to come out with something I would not be that happy with and my wife would kill me over.
Of course, the man in the shop saw me coming from a mile away. At this time of year the whole city is wallet bulging, spend-crazy and shop-me-happy due to the bonus cheques having come in. The man in the shop tried to sell me an Omega for half a hour, but he did not know my feelings I outlined above and so he failed.
I went back to my office, lost, and started to take a final look around the web…
Then I found it.
Christopher Ward is a watch maker of the old school. He doesn’t believe in high margins, or films stars wearing his watches. He only cares about two things quality and making an honest living,
We are a new watchmaker with a simple aim.
We want to put high quality luxury watches within the reach of everyone.
To achieve this we have inverted the usual business model used by brands such as Rolex, Cartier and Omega. Instead of their extremely high margin requirements and the myriad of middlemen and retailers in the equation, we take a small but fair margin and have the ultimate direct business with not a single middleman and no retailer other than ourselves.
We can’t begin to match the hundreds of millions spent on advertising campaigns, sponsorships and “A” list celebrities of our better known competitors. Instead, we concentrate our efforts on designing beautiful timepieces and relying on delighted customers to recommend the brand to family, friends and colleagues on our behalf.
This was like music to my ears. A watch maker that sells quality, but is still exclusive. That’s how I (like to) see myself. I care about refined quality sure, but I like to be savvy on price and not to buy my way into “cool.” Rather I try to let my own sense of style reflect itself through the watch. They say that the clothes make the man, but I would like to think different. A true man is practical, strong and elegant. Not a Metro-Sexual clothes horse. Like Tyler Durden commented to the narrator in the film fightclub,
The bus is crowded. As Tyler and Jack walk toward the back, the narrator studies the faces of OTHER PASSENGERS.
They hold hand grips. the narrator looks up an ADVERTISEMENT; a CALVIN KLEIN ad featuring a tan, bare-chested MUSCLE STUD.
The Narrator (V.O.)
I felt sorry for the guys packing into gyms, trying to look like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger said they should.
(indicating the ad)
Is that how a man looks like?
Tyler looks at the C.K. advertisement and laughs.
Will CW have something that speaks in this voice?
Well, his current line up includes many types and it was this model that caught my eye,
The raven black finish that distinguishes the watches in our Corax collection is courtesy of our state of the art IPK ionic plating process that delivers superb looks and a diamond hard finish.
* Muscular 42mm IPK case and bracelet
* Advanced, Swiss ISA 8154-220 movement
* Uni-directional 60 ratchet bezel
* Engraved, unique serial number
* Risk free 60 day trial
* Ionic plated 316L stainless steel case & bracelet
* 9 Jewel Swiss quartz movement
* 12hr alarm
* Split-seconds / stop watch / tachymeter
* 5 year movement guarantee
* Screw-down case & engraved, unique serial number
* Screw-locked crown
* Cambered sapphire crystal glass
* Water resistant to 50 metres
* Uni-directional 60 ratchet bezel
* Super-Luminova indexes and hands
A fantastic feature set and then I saw the price: £175. That’s right, 1750 pence.
At this price, I can take the plunge and testdrive the watch with no financial worries. Truly CW has broken the mould that says, “you must PAY for entry.”
Checking around the web produced some very good reviews of CW watches, as well as a dedicated fan forum that was full of happy users and some preview content. This started to feel less like a watch purchase and more like a relationship between designer and wearer. Something that a corporation could never offer.
Satisfied and full of eagerness I ordered and two days later the package arrived, here are some mobile phone shots,
Wow, what a lovely watch. Smooth, sublime and very clean. Not super heavy, but having a definite weight. The face is very easy to read and well laid out with the small faces not blocking anything else. It is open, wide and the black and silver digit markers contrast fantastically.
The really great thing, at this point, was the strap. My previous strap on the Citizen was very chunky, which made it very hard to wear while typing, something that I do all day. In contrast the Corax sits very neatly against the wrist and is far more comfortable than the Citizen.
Another feature, and one that I was not expecting, was an alarm. The button on the bottom left controls the alarm on/off controls with a small beep/double beep and this was a very welcome addition. The alarm chime is gentile, not enough to wake me, but perfect as a reminder for things.
With a happy feeling I went to wear the watch for a week before writing this article.
Immediately I hit a problem. I wear watches quite low on the arm; right next to the wrist. The basic issue was that the pin that unclips the metal strap was too close to my hand and whenever I moved my hand down past 45 degrees the pin would get tapped and the strap would flick open. This happened every time I put my hands in my pockets, which as you can imagine, is not the time to have a watch muck you around. I am pretty sure that this is a problem personal to me. Many people will wear this watch in a different location, such as higher up the arm, and they will not encounter this issue. Further I am a very large guy, with big hands and thick wrists and I perhaps fall outside the design specifications.
Anyway, it was highly annoying and for me almost a deal breaker. Frustrated, I was about to take advantage of the 60 day, no quibble guarantee, when I spotted and decided to try out a leather strap.
CW sells a leather strap for the generation that the Corax falls into, but it is not designed for this special version. I ordered it wondering if it would do the job at all or even look correct. My fears were put to rest when it arrived. The leather strap is everything that metal ones were not. It hugs the wrist, is much more comfortable and will not come off. I love it, and think that the watch looks very elegant in this configuration.
Realisation struck me that I had been wearing my Citizen as part watch, part bracelet. This perhaps harks back to the jewelry aspect of male watch design, or perhaps to just my chavish upbringing. Nevertheless, The CW watch is all watch and all the better for it.
I have grown even fonder of this timepiece. The features are all easy to use and actually useful to my life. The watch goes with anything that I wear, which the Citizen certainly did not, and the leather strap has an understated elegance and softens the chunk of steel on my wrist.
It speaks the language of real men in the year 2007. We are not quite the aggressive misogamist monsters of the past, but similarly we are not the Metro-Sexual girlyness of David Beckham. We are a new breed. Similar to the ancient Samurai, warriors; yes, but also gentlemen. Poets and artists in everything that we do, our actions must speak for themselves and we would never sell ourselves short by spending obscene amounts to buy our way into a fictional group that exists only in the minds of marketing people.
This is the sort of watch my Granddad would have bought. WWII Airforce pilot and war hero, he would have liked the ease of use, the firm grip of the strap and the lack of pretension and that is more than good enough for me.
Over the Xmas break I have had a lot of comments on the watch and everyone is very impressed with the CW business model.
I am sure that when the future watches come out I will be buying more, as the price level lends itself to collection. There is a diver model in the pipeline that I especially like the look of.
Overall definitely a fine timepiece, one that grows on you and one that you can proud to wear.
If you too want a Christopher Ward watch then please click this link: Christopher Ward London Limited
The layout of the face,
Image taken from the manual and owned by CW.
The movement, ISA based:
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