All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril. Those who read the symbol do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors. – Oscar Wilde
Watches. Obsession to some and a simple way of telling the time to others.
One interesting thing about this particular obsession is that it exists equally at all the potential price brackets with people prizing cheaper, novel or outlandish watch brands just as much as the international household names. There are celebrity endorsements of almost all brands and a lot of time and money is made to convince us that these products offer us something over and above telling the time.
Branding skews perspective.
Obsessions that you share with others can never be judged rationally as you lack the context needed to see them from the outside. In order to see them for what they really are you need an example of the same thing in a new context that you don’t obsess over. So, I am going to briefly mention watch obsession in the context of a different product operating on the same lines and I suppose the most direct market comparison I can make is with that of wine.
Good wine, great wine. What is the difference?
Take wine costing, say, £3 per bottle. This price is made up of £1 on the glass, 50p on the branding, 50p on the distribution and 50p for the company’s profit, which leaves 50p for the actual growing of the grapes! Now take a bottle costing £6. All the prices for glass, distribution, etc remain the same. However here there is up to £3 to spend on the grape growing.
By doubling the price of the wine we have (potentially) increased the quality by 6! However, does this increasing of price continue to improve the quality?
No, take wine costing £500 per bottle. Is that extra going into the taste? Or into the branding of the Chateaux? Is it going in someone’s pockets while pretending to be going into total intangibles, hidden behind buzz words such as “Terroir”?
The point of this digression is to highlight two things:
- Expensive does not mean best; it only means that you bought the product for some other reason than any rational judgement of quality.
- The world of watches is just as crazy as that of wine. So, beyond a certain price to performance ratio you are gaining nothing tangible.
How crazy you ask? Well there is a watch on the market for serious money that… doesn’t have a visible face. The watch is just blank and I don’t mean that the face is blank until you do something or press something. The watch has no way of reading time on it! You just listen to it ticking and imagine time passing!
The perfect price / performance ratio, where quality and cost dissect I shall call the Golden Mean. It is the perfect meeting point of cost and performance.
The intangible and unquantifiable element is that of style.
I was reading the other day of a man wearing a £40,000 watch (a Patek Philippe Nautilus). My wife and I wondered what would be the motivation of such a man to spend so much money on a watch. I realised that for this man this watch did not signify telling the time at all. He had bought this watch after successfully selling his first company; he was an entrepreneur and his watch was the way he let other people know this.
Style is essentially personal. Each person’s style is unique to them. Some use it to signify membership of a certain crowd or clique. Others to signify that one is trying very hard not to be a member of any crowd, that one is an individual standing alone.
For men, the ability to differentiate one’s self from others is not easy outside of purely financial and class based indicators. Suits, shoes – clothes – can do this, but suits can easily all look alike and few men wear suits all the time.
This is why celeb’ endorsements work. We look to the rich and famous to “tell” us which brand is the best. This is all fine, except that most of the watches produced by this branding process seem to me to have little in the way of style.
Take the Omega Seamaster produced for the latest “official” James Bond endorsement; never has a classic and elegant watch been so messed up by endorsement branding.
For most men the only jewellery they wear is their watch. So it falls to this purchase, this one item, to mark them out and this urge is where watch obsession starts.
I was on this journey many years ago. I stood in Goldsmiths with 3 grand in my pocket and considered the “top brands”. Rolex Milgauss, Omega Moonwatch, Blancpain 50 Fathoms and the Bell & Ross Top Gun. I was very close to springing for an Omega Seamaster when I decided to “sleep” on it.
I was very glad that I did. That night I turned to the internet and found that there was another watch world outside the high street stores. A world where the Golden Mean still operated normally, a world that only exists on the computer until you hold it in your hands, a world of massive choice and quality.
I had found the world of Christopher Ward.
This review is of the Christopher Ward C60, but it is also an overview of the other watches in this bracket, a look at actually wearing the final watch choice, of strapping it to show it at its best and to show that you can buy a very good watch for not very much.
Buying online seems like a risk, in both terms of quality and of style, and I hope that this review will help you take the plunge with a little more confidence. I am going to show you the “Terroir” of Christopher Ward and then amaze you with the price.
£500 worth of wine for £6.
Firstly, my reasons for buying a new watch.
- Downsizing. I was made redundant last year and needed to pay the rent to keep the roof over the head of my young family. So, I sold off my small collection of watches. Then I landed a new job and the pressure came off. So, I split the funds, giving half to my wife, and bought myself something new to wear to work.
- Style change. All my personal electronics, bag, shoes, etc are now black. I wanted a watch that complemented that.
- Watch quality improving. Over the last 3 years the quality of a sub £500 watch has improved considerably.
About Christopher Ward.
Christopher Ward is a watchmaker with a vision for Swiss watches: make them quintessentially British, but with the highest quality components. His works are only available online and to those in the know, spread by word-of-mouth and most definitely not by celeb’ endorsements. The company has been around now since 2004 and have turned the traditional model of hype on its head by making a luxury product for a cheap price. Following the Golden Mean to the letter.
The cheapest most expensive watches in the world.
I have owned 5 Christopher Ward watches in my time and they have all been excellent. My past favourite was the Kingfisher diving watch that I took as my watch of choice on my year travelling around the world. Its build quality meant that it survived bungee jumps, skydives, 20 sea dives, Indian heat and dust, China’s highest heights and being slathered in DEET hiking the jungles of Thailand.
Through all that it kept great time and never let me down. I regularly received compliments on the watch and its classic design, swiftly followed by open mouths when I pointed out how little it cost.
The C60 is the “big brother” of the Kingfisher and I was expecting the same build quality from this design. I wasn’t to be disappointed!
This watch comes in a number of flavours, including GMT versions.
I have purchased the C60-TRI-SKBRG22 commonly known as the “C60 TRIDENT AUTOMATIC – NATO VERSION”. This is a special release:
This NATO strap edition harks back to the golden era of James Bond and is introduced to mark the 50th Anniversary of 007 on our screens.
The main difference being the NATO strap as standard. Other versions have rubber straps, metal bracelets or leather and different colours bezels. The orange bezel GMT model is nice:
But I went for the lovely black bezel automatic model.
“Swiss made” means that the watch movement is Swiss, the movement was put in the case in Switzerland and that the final inspection was done in Switzerland. The Swiss watch industry is by far the world’s most famous and this is a mark of high quality.
25/26 Jewel automatic movement
Christopher only encases automatic movements in this watch, which you get is somewhat the luck of the draw. It will be either an ETA 2824-2 or Sellita SW200-1 movement. The difference is negligible, other than the ETA is more famous. Automatic movements wind themselves when the watch is moved about and by the natural motions of the wrist. This is a fine balancing act to produce technically and such movements will need servicing every 2/3 years or they will not keep the same time as battery powered “quartz” movements. I personally like automatic movements slightly more than quartz ones because:
- The second hand movement is smoother, not a clunky “tick”, which looks lovely.
- The watch makes a slight creak/winding sound when moved, which can be heard when holding the watch to your ear.
While ETA movements are valued by watch “Otaku” higher than Stellia, actually given the Swiss’ attempts to tighten the market, it is going to be much easier to service the later movement in the future. Both are equal quality.
5 year Guarantee
One doesn’t like to focus on the guarantee for an item; the hope is that you won’t need it. But with most items sold in the UK having planned obsolescence built in (ever had something break just outside its 1 year warranty?) it is very special to have such a long guarantee on a watch movement. To buy from Christopher Ward is to invest in quality and for him to stand very firmly behind that. No other brand of the same class can offer this.
38 hr power reserve
This is how long the watch will wind before stopping if it is not moved. If you have a collection of watches then you can use a watch winder to keep it going. 38 hours is a good time. It also means that you shouldn’t need to wind the watch again before diving.
Marine grade stainless steel case
The case on a watch needs to be strong and tough. Christopher Ward cases are just that. This watch features a polished effect on the face of the watch and lugs and a brushed effect on the rest. After 3 years of wear my previous Christopher Ward had very few scuffs and marks, showing that this watch was made to withstand tough use.
The bezel on a dive watch is designed to back up your dive computer, not to replace it. However unlikely it may be that your computer will fail, it does happen and being 30ft under water is not the time to be wondering how long you have been out. The C60 is a quality instrument for this use. By turning only one way the bezel cannot accidentally move into a position that makes your dive anything but shorter. Some other makes have a bezel that turns both ways and this makes possible for the dive to go over. This may just cost you personally, medically and financially.
Screw-in crown and back plate
For a dive watch to properly function at depth, that is remain water proof, this feature is vital
30 atm (1000 feet) water resistant case
30 atm might seem a lot, but in dive watch terms this makes the C60 a watch for the diver at normal dive depths and this has been certified in the lab. There are a lot of special ISO ratings for dive watches and the C60 reaches or exceeds all the recreational ones.
Protects the watch from damaged from being dropped. Incabloc is the trade name for a spring-loaded mounting system for the jewel bearings only used on mechanical watches
4.0mm Anti-reflective sapphire crystal
The thickness of a dive watch’s glass is vital to its ability to survive under water pressures without the glass exploding off. Anti reflective coating means that the watch can be clearly read at all angles. Sapphire has a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale of measurement, but in real terms very few materials can scratch it, and even less that you are likely to come in contact with (diamond is one). The material can be smashed with enough force, but that force is going to have to be very high and focussed on a very small area (E.G. using a hammer and tungsten nail).
Adjustable bracelet with easy opening butterfly clasp
The model I bought comes with a James Bond NATO strap. Such straps are pure marmite and I will go into much more depth abou