A smart new dress watch from Christopher Ward with oversized moonphase complication
The last few months have been a bit of a purple patch for new Christopher Ward watches. I’m not sure what they’re putting in the water over in Maidenhead, but new pieces have been announced with scarcely-credible frequency. They have included a new pilot’s collection; gold PVD and bi-metal versions of several references; new Trident diving watches; a down-sizing to 40mm on its flagship watch, the C9 5-Day Chronometer; new motorsport-influenced limited editions and some actual literal purple patches (well, purple dials).
As you can probably gather from that list, such is the brand’s level of activity that it can be hard to tell the significant from the superficial. (For the record, we think taking the 5-Day down to 40mm is a majorly smart move).
The latest release is another one to chalk up in the “significant” column. This is the C9 Moonphase, a watch that’s keeping no secrets with its name. According to director Mike France, a lunar complication has been the most-requested watch on the Christopher Ward forums since the brand began. In the early years, they weren’t able to get access to a moonphase complication, but a few years ago the brand’s talented young watchmaker Johannes Janke set his mind to the task. “Initially, we looked at modifying a AO7.161 Valgranges calibre, but it’s a big movement. 43mm is about the smallest case size you can get it into,” explains France. “We knew we had to hit a sweet spot of 39mm-41mm for a dress watch.”
The C9 Moonphase checks in at 40mm – the same as the revamped 5-Day Chronometer, although it doesn’t use the brand’s own SH21 calibre. “At some point in the future we will maybe have a moonphase with the SH21,” says France “but other complications are coming first. This, we wanted to get done sooner.”
So the Moonphase instead uses a modified ETA 2836-2, with a moonphase module designed by Janke. It takes two new gear trains from the four wheels on the calibre, and adds two new wheels for a clever and highly accurate setting system. It won’t need the moonphase adjusting for 128 years – which puts it up there with A. Lange & Sohne and Audemars Piguet for reliability (although some way short of the frankly terrifying Andreas Strehler Moonphase, which is good for more than 2 million years).
The bespoke in-house module Janke developed allows the C9 its party trick, however, which is continuous setting of the complication. Typically, a moonphase disc will advance in increments, controlled by a finger within the movement that slowly moves round on an hourly or daily basis and “jumps” the moon round a few degrees every time. Christopher Ward’s complication is geared directly to the main train of the watch, and so advances continuously throughout the lunar cycle. It means that – however much this matters to you – the phase of the moon remains strictly accurate at all times. Given that moonphases have always been less about practicality and more about romance and style, it’s a nice horological fillip to have one that moves smoothly and constantly.
To set the watch, then, you pull the crown to second position for the time, and first position for the date and moonphase; winding clockwise advances the date as might be expected, while winding anticlockwise in first position moves the moon (backwards) into position, allowing you to set it at the precise time of the new moon when the disc disappears behind the left hand side of the guilloché centre dial.
Which brings us onto the design. We started out by saying this was a smart dress watch and it is. The size is just right and the watch isn’t overly tall off the wrist – something a lot of the brand’s watches definitely are. The lugs look a little chunky for the case – being a scaled down version of the larger 43mm case shape – but on the wrist are pretty unobtrusive. The sapphire has a very slight dome to it, and the leather strap with its lighter accented stitching also helps. These aren’t make-or-break features but attention to detail is crucial on a dress watch.
The dial itself is the watch’s strong point, though. It’s a deep, rich blue with a custom guilloché pattern in the centre intended to evoke waves of the sea, linking back to the moon’s tidal pull. The 22mm moonphase disc itself is a bold centrepiece; if anything the nickel moon outshines the hour markers and hands (which I didn’t mind at all), but we’re told the final production model will dial down the brightness of the moonphase disc just a touch.
The watch is available in two main versions – the “Midnight Silver” that we’ve seen, and a white-dialled, golden moon version (above) which we haven’t seen in the metal. Both come on the option of a steel bracelet or blue, black or brown leather straps. In my opinion the bracelet’s not needed on a dress watch, but the brand’s ethos is very much to cater to all tastes and you can’t really argue with that.
The C9 Moonphase is available to pre-order here now, and will be exclusively revealed to the public at SalonQP on 12 November.
Christopher Ward will be exhibiting at SalonQP 2015 – the UK’s leading luxury watch show, held November 12-14 at the Saatchi Gallery in London. For more information, click here.