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The shape of things to come from Christopher Ward

The C1 Grand Malvern Power Reserve – which launches at SalonQP next week – offers the clearest glimpse yet of Christopher Ward’s new design style. James Buttery takes a closer look

The C1 Grand Malvern Power Reserve is something of a pivotal watch for Anglo-Swiss watchmaker Christopher Ward.

The brand has launched a number of watches since it revealed its new transparent persona that, the founding British trio and their Swiss counterparts at Synergies Horlogéres informed us, was free from generic watch branding traits or, more to the point, some of the bad habits picked up over the course of 11 years in business.

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It might be suggested that, with the launch of the brand’s modular, in-house SH21 movement in 2014, the brand had surpassed its previous achievements and needed to live up to what possession of an in-house movement represents. The faux-classical ‘Chr. Ward London’ branding simply didn’t offer an accurate portrayal of the company any longer. It also offered the brand an opportunity to answer nagging ethical dilemmas such as dropping all alligator straps from its line-up because of welfare concerns.

But none of these new watches have offered a line-of-sight view from which to comprehensively measure the brand’s new design language. Some, such as the SH21-based C8 Power Reserve Chronometer, have been genre pieces and too encumbered by the trappings of aviation, while others like the rakish C65 Trident have been based around third party movements.

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This is where the COSC-certified C1 Grand Malvern Power Reserve (£1,550), to be shown for the first time at SalonQP next week, comes in. It appears to be the first occasion that Christopher Ward’s senior designer Adrian Buchmann has been given a blank sheet of paper without the need for a watch to fulfill certain requirements, other than accommodating an automatic SH21 movement with power reserve.

The most obvious advancement is the movement decoration. Christopher Ward co-founder Mike France has admitted in the past that the brand misjudged the industrial-finish of the SH21 used from launch. The SH21 movement is now finished with a combination of colimaçoné, sunray brushing alongside a stamped twin-flag motif that’s also imprinted onto the crown. It’s well-judged and feels a comfortable fit for a contemporary brand that is neither wholly British nor wholly Swiss.

Buchmann set out to create a case that “felt English”. How one goes about that I’m not entirely sure, but the result is a soft yet structured, highly polished 40.5mm steel case with contrasting brushed caseband.

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But it is the dial that threatens to steal the show here, the white opaline number more so than the black or blue sunray options. It’s incredibly clean and balanced and its granular texture sets off the highly polished applied indices incredibly well. Buchmann’s choice of an understated, two-layer power reserve indicator at the nine o’clock also pays off, allowing the new sans serif Christopher Ward logo to act as counterbalance at the three o’clock.

On the whole people don’t like having to adjust to change; Christopher Ward’s own forum went into meltdown when it announced the rebranding – it’s third distinct look in 11 years. But if this new C1 is the shape of things to come then there’s much to look forward to from Christopher Ward.


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