I know it’s a coffee equipment review wordpress site but it is also my personal site. I have observed that hi end coffee goes with other boys and girls toys, these include nice cars, cigars, fine whisky, mechanical watches stylish dress and other luxury goods.
So please indulge me in including my latest acquisition from Chris Ward watches. I have collected watches for over 25 years, I recently sold 2 watches from other manufacturers (not worn for 12 years since full service and refurbishment), they were for my kids…who showed no interest in them at all. Worth the price of a reasonable car, I felt I might as well sell them at a nice profit and enjoy myself with something I would wear often and just for me.
My attention was drawn to Christopher Ward relatively recently, I had discounted them before this as a sort of fashion brand with cheap movements in their watches or majoring in quartz timepieces. After another look at the company I realised they were a serious watchmaker and actually had a “proper” in house movement, not some modified external bought in standard movement renamed as in house. This was the real McCoy and something that is rare since the night of the long knives when quartz almost did for the Swiss watchmaking industry. I believe the first real new movement designed by a British company in a very long time.
The development of the SH21 began in 2010 by Johannes Janke, then employed by Synergies Horlogères (SH). It was financed by CW due to the extremely close working relationship with SH. Christopher Ward merged with Synergies Horlogères a movement maker in 2014 and launched calibre SH21.
As a collector I always liked in house movements, so I looked into the movement to find out more about it and there were quite a few things I liked about this particular mechanical movement.
- It’s a large movement, I like that, it gives you a big date ring (good visibility) and a robust movement. Thin, small movements often have to make compromises.
- A remarkable (possibly unique) 120 hour power reserve (5 days) using 2 (what look like slightly larger than normal) mainspring barrels. Some companies achieve long power reserves by slowing the movement down, not the SH21, it runs at 28800 beats per hour (bph) which helps give good accuracy.
- A serial connection of the mainspring barrels gives a thicker movement but has the advantages mentioned above, plus a more consistent power delivery and less potential for strain on components..
- A long power reserve is going to give a much wider band where the isochronous timing is maintained, in simple terms more accurate. Watches can run slower when they run low on mainspring power and vice versa (non isochronal).
- It looks easy to assemble, always a good thing because it means a more consistent movement quality and reduced costs
- A good heavy rotor that moves really easily, more so than many watches and even though it winds both ways I can actually feel the internal rotor going round, attesting to it’s weight. This is an automatic watch that isn’t going to stop even if you are relatively inactive.
- Every movement is COSC certified, in other words, every one is a Chronometer grade movement!
- Over 120 parts and stuffed with jewels (33), some have a few less depending on the complications installed.
- The same movement can come with various complications, due to modular design making the addition of a complication relatively easy. Things like date, small seconds, power reserve are all nice features.
- Future new complications can be designed as additions, I believe some are planned, but not sure what they are.
- It comes in a hand wound form as well as automatic. Hand winding is probably loved by those who are really into the retro stuff. I remember hand winding as a hassle when watches would only run for about 30 hours. Of course an SH21 can run for 5 days, hand winding moves from being a hassle to rather pleasantly tactile. I like the idea of one of the hand wound watches (with a power reserve of course)..
Every SH21 is Chronometer certified – so what?
It’s actually quite a big thing. Usually there are base movements and then much improved versions of a base movement that can make the grade in achieving chronometer certification. Better jewels and more of them and other little improvements. Every SH21 out of the box is good enough to go for certification, that’s quite something!
The certification process is quite rigorous and only a very small proportion of Swiss mechanical watch production gains COSC certification. It costs money for each certification and of course increases the price of the watch.
Sure there are mechanical movements that are not certified that may sometimes come close or even meet COSC standards for a while, although it’s rare in my experience. You will read on various watch forums that almost every owners mechanical watch runs with near quartz accuracy, this almost certainly isn’t true and sets a level of expectation that leads to great disappointment. In general mechanical watches (non COSC) are in spec at +/-20 ish seconds a day and with the Valjoux 7750 about +/- 15 s per day. Most that are well regulated will have around half that amount of error.
I have a little Oris with an ETA 2824-2 movement and the special Oris touches (probably just a better rotor). On the wrist, or off it, it runs around 7-8 seconds slow per day which is actually pretty good for that movement. In the watch winder though it gains about 2 seconds per day, perhaps if I were more active might only lose 3 or 4 seconds per day on the wrist. I’ve a cheaper mechanical watch with a simple Seiko NH35A Automatic mechanical movement and if worn (all the time) it loses about 2 seconds a day. If I remove it and place it dial up at night it will gain perhaps 2-6 seconds in 8 hours depending on it’s state of wind. These non certified movements are heavily influenced by wear over time, being on the wrist and also by state of wind. In the “olden days” you got used to your watch and knew whether you had to take it off at night, lay it face up or crown down etc..you adapted to the watch to try and get reasonable accuracy. Proper certified Chronometers are not affected so much by these things and will remain very accurate timepieces for 5-10 years between services. They represent the pinnacle of quality and accuracy in mechanical watchmaking.
Currently my C65 is running at about -1sec per day, so long may it continue. To put this in perspective the average quartz watch can be +/-15 to 20 second per month…my own mechanical watch will end up at around +/- 30 seconds in a month. Well that’s pretty rubbish I hear you cry but remember this is a mechanical device of springs, gears, jewelled pivots a hairspring and balance wheel. No fancy electronics here, this actually makes that level of accuracy quite incredible.
In a 30 day month there are 2,592,000 seconds and my watch will accurately count all but 30 of them! That’s an timing accuracy of 99.99884% in an all mechanical device no bigger than a 50p piece, a truly amazing marvel of engineering skill!
It’s worth further adding that the beating heart of a mechanical watch is a little balance wheel pivoting between ruby jewels and driven by a train of gears powered by the mainspring. In a Calibre SH21 it rotates back and forth over 20 million times during that month. In a year the balance wheel will have oscillated more than 248 million times and between services every 5-7 years 1.2 to 1.7 billion times! Of course if you are not amazed and enthralled by this (perhaps even bored) and just want something that tells the time, go get a quartz, or use your phone.
With a mechanical timepiece you are not just buying a watch, you are buying an elaborate and complicated invention rooted in a time before modern electronics, still hand assembled by a master watchmaker. The Chronometer grade movement contains over 120 parts and a lot of jewels 33 in all. These little rubies are at every pivot and friction point, extending movement life to many decades with careful and regular servicing/lubrication. I suspect lots of these movements will still be running well in 50 years time.
Finally the C65 Trident Diver SH21 Watch itself
It’s taken a while to get round to the meat of it for many people. I don’t apologise for this because it is about my watch and what I personally like, value and look for. It has to be right inside and outside for me. Right click and view any images for a much larger high resolution version.
Some fun photos
The watch is a reimagined 60s diver and has the sort of modern retro features I like. Let’s be honest most of us wouldn’t go diving in a watch of this value, or even swimming with the leather strap. I’m going to list some of the key features for me and the full detail you can get from the Christopher ward website.
- Thick museum grade “glass box” sapphire Crystal* with AR coating, the way it comes up past the bezel really gives that vintage feel, whilst offering superb scratch resistance. It catches the light wonderfully giving interest to the case.
- High grade stainless steel (light catcher) case with different finishes, the highly polished ring is below the midpoint where it won’t get micro scratches so readily and gives a flash of brilliance that’s appreciated.
- The dial is a matt blue and the smaller sub dials have a sunburst effect. The blue is a sort of opalescent blue and similar to 60s slightly faded jeans. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a lovely blue, not gaudy and will work for dressy or casual wear.
- I went for the camel strap because for me, it perfectly matched the aesthetic of the watch. It’s a wonderfully supple strap, doesn’t feel cheap and will “break in” in no time at all.
- Complications are a (very readable) date, small seconds and power reserve indicator. The power reserve is especially useful and gives an accurate indication of how much of that 5 days power is remaining.
- The crown is push in rather than screw in, which might seem strange on a diver, but it’s how it used to be and I actually prefer a push in crown. Much less hassle when manually winding or changing the date every few months. You must not be ham fisted though, always gentle and careful when operating the “keyless works” (pulling the crown in and out, changing date etc.).
- Old Radium style Super-LumiNova on indexes, numerals and hands . This lume glows reasonably during the dark, not fantastically bright or long-lasting, but definitely usable and period correct
They have managed to reduce the case size and hide the thickness of the movement. At 41mm it wears well on all but smaller wrists.
The thin bezel is another joy, it’s not overdone allowing for dress and casual use. It’s made out of aluminium and has a wonderful matt blue micro Peened texture. It’s a ratcheting diver bezel but my main use for it will be as a short term parking/cooking timer…or a home time zone reminder when abroad.
Just for a little extra explanation a “glass box” sapphire crystal is another throwback to the 50s and 60s. As the dive watch thing started the glass crystals needed to be strong and the “Top Hat crystals” appeared. It’s where the edges of the glass protruded higher than the Bezel allowing them to get the extra thickness required. When Sapphire became more common in the late 70s and 80s, they could not make this type of crystal and the flat sapphire crystal was ubiquitous. Modern techniques allow a sapphire crystal with the rounded edge standing proud of the glass and even domed. The C65 has a very slight dome on it and the crystal is a perfect design touch that harks back to vintage watches of the time.
The aesthetic of the watch was designed by Adrian Buchmann, clearly a talented and knowledgable designer. He should be very proud of this particular watch, I feel he has captured all the good things about the vintage watches and none of the bad. He certainly is passionate with a lot of ideas for watch design and cares greatly about his creations. I expect to see more great designs from him in the future.
Christopher Ward has been through some growing pains as any company would that has grown so quickly. They seem to be finding their feet and listening to customers. The service element of a luxury watch brand is critical. It’s a hard and expensive area to get right, but they are beginning to apply their unique approach to this area and already having some success.
I have to respect the fact that they price transparently, working on a standard and disclosed markup. It makes their watches fantastic value for money compared to the competition but with the same or better engineering.
Of course if you want a certified Chronometer and not a Calibre SH21, you can get into one for just under £795 (unbelievable value) with COSC grade Sellita movements in their other ranges of watches. I especially liked the military range Cranwell (41mm) and Sandhurst (38 mm) Chronometers. When at their HQ I couldn’t help picking one of them up…kept Adrian busy cleaning it I suppose 🙂
If you read this, thank you for taking the time to share my love of mechanical watches and allow me to indulge another passion. If you decide to get a mechanical watch, always buy what you like, it needs to speak to you. Try and buy well and understand exactly what you are buying, don’t just buy the most expensive. I would always urge going for a Chronometer certified movement and ideally an in house one if you can stretch to it.
A watch should always be a marker for a memory, this particular watch marks 4 memories for me
- Ending my curatorship of 2 very expensive watches I didn’t wear any more
- A bad situation made good
- Shared time with a friend
- Meeting the designer of this particular watch
Is Christopher Ward the big name in watch making, of course not (yet), but they made the best watch for me and that’s what counts. If you want to get into some very decent mechanical watches at sensible prices, they are worth a visit.