Christopher Ward: Your ‘New Luxury’ Watches
For old-school watch aficionados, buying a watch online is a big no-no. For them, the proper way to do it is to go to a watch store and physically weigh in on the pros and cons of buying a particular watch. But Christopher Ward, a British luxury watch company, has changed this notion.
Founded by three friends — Christopher Ward, Mike France, and Peter Ellis in 2004, Christopher Ward was the first online-only luxury watch retailer. Fifteen years after it has introduced its first watches online, Christopher Ward has now grown into a multi-million luxury watch company, manufacturing more than 20,000 watches a year at its own Manufacture in Switzerland.
At the rate its sales are going, the British watch company is projecting to double or triple its production in the coming years.
Designed in England and manufactured in Switzerland, Christopher Ward has that quintessential British flair combined with Swiss precision. And it’s taking the world of watches by storm.
Christopher Ward History
One fateful day in the Thames in 2004, friends and business partners Mike France and Peter Ellis, who just sold their previous company — a pre-school toy company called Early Learning Centre (ELC) — were enjoying their time on a boat. They were chatting up with the boat skipper, who happened to be Chris Ward, about watches — something that they have a common passion for.
They, too, were old-school watch lovers, but they recognised the looming presence of e-commerce and the inevitable power of the Internet. And together, they saw an opportunity to be able to dabble on something that all of them love — watches. At the same time, take advantage of the rise of the Internet.
At that time, both France and Ellis felt very eager to start a new business endeavour, having just sold ELC. But they both wanted a new business that’s not only lucrative but also gratifying and enjoyable. And manufacturing watches ticked all the necessary boxes.
“The initial motivation to create a watch company was pure boredom,” shared Ellis in an interview with Watch Pro.
“The intention from the start was to do something that was interesting to us, that was fun, and that we could make a profit with. That remains the case today. We are in the business of fun, profit, and doing things we love,” he added.
Christopher Ward’s Early Days
From a re-purposed chicken shack in Berkshire and with less than $100,000 initial capital, the three founders and a small team at Christopher Ward worked hard to be able to produce watches that they called: ‘the cheapest most expensive watches in the world’.
By June of 2005, Christopher Ward, with the help of a full-page advertisement on the Independent, introduced its first two watches to buyers online: the C5 Malvern Automatic and the C3 Malvern Chronograph.
The first few months proved to be very slow, with almost non-existent sales. And then all of a sudden, the brand was getting orders from all over the world. In its first year alone, Christopher Ward sold more than 500 watches from its own online shop.
The Power of The Internet
The brand had Dave Malone from Tasmania, Australia, to thank for its sudden recognition in the watch world. Malone was a watch aficionado and top watch reviewer on the online watch forum TimeZone.
Apparently, Malone saw their advertisement on The Independent and didn’t believe that Christopher Ward could sell a watch with that kind of calibre — a genuine ETA 2842-2 automatic movement — at such a price. He actually planned to expose the brand and post something about it on Timezone.
But as it turned out, when he got the watch and tried and inspected it, he was so impressed by it that he ended up giving a rave review about it on the website. He dubbed the new Christopher Ward watches the “best-value automatic watch in the world”.
Because of Malone’s post, the sales demand for Christopher Ward skyrocketed. And in less than six months after its launch, the brand has become the most discussed watch brand in forums online. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Creation of A Precise Movement
In 2008, Christopher Ward started working with Synergies Horlogères — an independent Swiss watchmaking workshop owned by Jörg Bader — to help them develop their own movement.
Starting with the brand’s first in-house movement, the groundbreaking Christopher Ward Caliber SH21. This iconic movement has a power reserve of 5 days and runs some of Christopher Ward’s best-selling watches, including the Christopher Ward C1 Grand Malvern 5 Day Automatic and the Christopher Ward C60 Trident COSC 600.
In 2014, for their 10th anniversary, they officially launched the Christopher Ward in-house Calibre SH21 movement. And that same day, Christopher Ward also announced that it has merged with its longtime business partner Synergies Horlogères, forming what is now called Christopher Ward Holdings Limited.
Creating Fair Competition in the Watch World
The launch of the new Calibre SH21 movement was a big deal in watchmaking history. For decades, the watch luxury industry has been dominated by a few Swiss watchmaker giants. And for a small, independent company like Christopher Ward to break free from the monotony and create its own in-house movement was a huge groundbreaking feat.
With the launch of its in-house movement, Christopher Ward helped create fair competition in the stiff watchmaking industry.
Christopher Ward Today
Today, Christopher Ward is one of the most respected British watch companies with a turnover of around $10 million.
With headquarters and design offices based in the United Kingdom, and its manufacture based in Biel, Switzerland, Christopher Ward enjoys what each country has to offer.
In 2016, Christopher Ward announced a general rebranding, including introducing a new logo, new watches, and a brand new website. From “Chr.Ward” all watches now bear the complete “Christopher Ward” logo, showcasing a simplified typeface.
The watches also now have a singular look and a more coherent design scheme across all collections. According to the brand, re-branding was necessary to attract new buyers. This turned out to be a successful move as more than 50% of all the watches it sells are to new buyers.
Today, Christopher Ward has buyers from 109 countries, with a majority from the UK and North America. In North America alone, the brand is selling about 5,000 watches.
Christopher Ward’s Marketing Philosophy
Shying away from celebrity endorsers and expensive sponsorships, Christopher Ward has stayed true to its fair marketing philosophy of giving watch lovers high-quality Swiss watches through honest and fair pricing.
According to the brand, whatever the cost of the product of the watch, they multiply it by three, including taxes, and that’s the selling price of the watch. And this philosophy has been successfully working for them for the past 15 years now.
They’re able to do it because number one, they don’t engage the services of expensive celebrity endorsers and sponsorships. And number two, they directly sell their watches online to their customers. This removes additional price margins from distributors and expensive retail premises.
Christopher Ward Best-Selling Watches
From dress watches to diving and military watches, Christopher Ward offers an array of high-quality timepieces at a reasonable price. As the first-ever luxury watch company to sell timepieces online, Christopher Ward was built on trust and transparency.
Below are some of its best-selling watches available on their online platforms.
Christopher Ward C1 Moonglow Moonphase Dress WatchPrice: $2,690
The Christopher Ward dress watches are known for their elegant style, with options from minimalist to intricate designs. With a 41.5mm 316L stainless steel case, this Christopher Ward C1 Moonglow highlights two 3D moons on its dial.
The moons — coated with Grade X1 GL C1 Super-LumiNova — sit opposite each other, giving off an ethereal ‘moonglow’. On its black dial can also be seen a date ring along its edge, as well as Super-LumiNova-filled hands, indexes, and numerals.
Running on the Christopher Ward Calibre JJ04 movement, the Ward C1 Moonglow watch features the moon phase at 12 o’clock, while the second moon remains obscured through smoked glass. The watch has a power reserve of 38 hours and is water-resistant up to 30 metres. A black Italian Shell Cordovan strap with Bader deployment finishes the stylish Christopher Ward Moonphase watch.
Christopher Ward C1 Grand Malvern Worldtimer Dress WatchPrice: $1,550
Photo from Christopher Ward
Dubbed as Christopher Ward’s first true Worldtimer watch, the Christopher Ward C1 Grand Malvern Worldtimer dress watch features an updated version of Calibre JJ03. This movement now powers a 24-hour GMT ring that sits along with the watch dial, featuring both a world map and an international cities ring. This function allows the wearer to read the time at a glance anywhere in the world.
The watch features an elegant blue and white theme. This helps keep the design more streamlined and understated despite its busy Worldtimer dial.
The Christopher Ward Swiss-made automatic Calibre ETA 2893 movement with JJ03 module gives the watch a power reserve of 40 hours. The dial also displays brushed and polished SuperLuminova-coated steel hands and a rotating 24-hour bezel.
A blue Italian Shell Cordovan strap with Bader deployment complements the elegant Christopher Ward dress watch.
Christopher Ward C60 Apex Limited Edition Dive WatchPrice: $5,595
The next one is a sophisticated dive watch made in collaboration with Swiss skeleton watchmaker Armin Strom. The Christopher Ward C60 Apex Limited Edition watch features an exhibition case back, helium release valve, and power reserve indicator.
It is created to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Christopher Ward Calibre SH21. Dubbed the ‘first commercially viable movement by a British brand in 50 years.
The brand’s second Apex model highlights a transparent caseback. This allows wearers to admire the workings of its Calibre SH21 movement. Water-resistant up to 300 metres, the 42mm 316L stainless steel watch boasts 120 hours of power reserve.
Its hands, indexes, and bezel are all Super-LumiNova-coated for maximum readability underwater. To finish its sophisticated design, a Marine-grade stainless steel bracelet compliments the whole package. Limited to only 100 pieces.
Christopher Ward C60 Trident Pro 600 Dive WatchPrice: $1,080
Ten years after the Christopher Ward Trident dive range was first introduced comes the upgraded-version C60 Trident Pro 600 Mk 3. The dial, crown, and bezel have new refined and improved features. Not only that, but the new Christopher Ward C60 Trident Pro 600 dive watch also now comes with a 600m water resistance.
The 42mm all-blue, elegant dive watch runs on the Christopher Sellita SW200-1 (or ETA 2824-2) movement. This gives it a robust 38 hours of power reserve.
Its royal blue dial displays SuperLuminova-coated indexes, bezel marker, and hands. Meanwhile, a date display also sits at its 3 o’clock position. It also features a navy blue Cordura and rubber hybrid waterproof strap with a Christopher Ward buckle.
Christopher Ward C8 Birkin’s Blower TMB Motorsport WatchPrice: $3,110
Photo from Christopher Ward
The Christopher Ward Christopher Ward C8 Birkin’s Blower TMB Limited Edition watch is a product of a collaboration between Christopher Ward and TMB Art Metal. It is a tribute to Sir Henry “Tim” Birkin’s record-breaking accomplishments in his car, Bentley Blower No.1.
At the heart of this motor sport watch runs a hand-wound version of the Christopher Ward in-house movement Calibre SH21. It boasts a power reserve of 120 hours and a robust 44mm 316L stainless steel case. Its black dial features Blower No.1 rev counter-inspired hands and markings coated with SuperLumiNova.
The C8 Birkin’s Blower TMB is complemented with a vintage oak leather strap for an added rugged charm. Limited to 90 pieces.
Christopher Ward C7 Rosso Corsa COSC Motorsport WatchPrice: $1,550
The Rosso Corsa, or Italian Racing Red, is known as the international motor racing colour of teams from Italy. And the Christopher Ward C7 Rosso Corsa COSC Limited Edition watch is an ode to the iconic Italian Racing Red.
The 42mm 316L stainless steel and aluminium case features a red dial and bezel. It also comes with a black soft-touch leather strap with an engraved dress clasp. It has polished hands and indexes filled with SuperLuminova for improved legibility. Meanwhile, a date display sits at 3 o’clock.
Powered by the Swiss-made chronometer ETA 2836 COSC calibre movement, the watch features a 38-hour power reserve and 100m water-resistance.
Christopher Ward C65 Dartmouth Series 1 Military WatchPrice: $1,240
The Christopher Ward C65 Dartmouth Series 1 is licensed by the UK Ministry of Defence to carry the Royal Navy’s Naval crown on its backplate. It takes its inspiration from the Omega Seamaster 300 ‘Big Triangle’, a watch commissioned during the 1960s by the MOD to comply with their 0552 diver’s watch specification.
The 41mm Christopher Ward C65 Dartmouth Series 1 watch features a distinctive ‘wedge’ at 12 o’clock. The blue matte-finished dial also displays SuperLumiNova-filled hands and tapering indexes.
The self-winding mechanical Sellita SW200 COSC-certified calibre movement gives the watch a 38-hour power reserve. It is also water-resistant up to 150 metres. Finally, a vintage oak leather strap with Christopher Ward-engraved dress clasp finishes its rugged design.
Christopher Ward C8 ‘Al Deere’ TMB Pilot WatchPrice: $4,665
In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force (RAF) of the UK, Christopher Ward introduced the C8 ‘Al Deere’ TMB Limited Edition watch. The watch also pays tribute to RAF’s most esteemed pilot, Al Deere. Many consider Deere as one of the most distinguished pilots in World War II.
The highlight of this watch is an engraved disc of aluminium from Deere’s Supermarine Spitfire X4276 engine. The black matte dial displays a Spitfire cockpit instrument-themed small second subdial at 6 o’clock.
Running on the Calibre SH21 hand-wound chronometer (COSC) movement, this 44mm Pilot’s watch has a robust 120-hour power reserve. A canvas webbing strap with black DLC sandblasted clasp completes the watch.
Finally, this watch is water-resistant up to 50 metres.
If you’re into Swiss-made watches, check out our feature on the best Swiss watch brands of all time. Read it here.