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Over the past decade, explorer Jamie Maddison has lived and adventured with eagle hunters in Western Mongolia, ridden horses 800 miles across Kazakhstan, worked with nomads on the border of Afghanistan, ran with camel herders in Uzbekistan, found ancient artefacts in the high mountains of Tajikistan, come off several galloping horses, been irradiated, fallen down two cliffs, had a case of frost-related nerve damage, and exposed to who knows what on an abandoned experimental Soviet weapons testing facility.

As the newest addition to the Christopher Ward Challenger Programme, we caught up with Jamie to ask him a few questions about his wild adventures in Central Asia, and to get the latest update on his upcoming trip, a 100 mile ultramarathon across the Saryesik-Atyrau Desert in Eastern Kazakhstan.

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Hi Jamie. First up, what exactly does a ‘explorer’ do these days?

Good question! Well, you’ll often hear that the world has been explored and that there’s nothing left, therefore you can’t possibly be an explorer. I disagree with that. What I’m trying to do with my travels in Central Asia is to focus on pockets of the world where no-one back home knows anything about it. Take my 7 marathons in 7 days run across the Betpak-Dala; before that trip very few people in the English-speaking world had ever heard of it, and certainly no more than a handful had ever visited it in modern history.

What’s your background?

Nondescript to be honest! I was born in Lancaster Hospital, moved to Gloucestershire when I was about 8, attended Marling Grammar School for Boys and that’s where I did my first ‘expedition’ if you will, a four-week trip with World Challenge to Kenya. Then a degree in Journalism at Cardiff University, which sparked an intense love for rock-climbing and from that, ultimately, trips to Central Asia. I moved all around the country in between these expeditions too, living in Sheffield, Falmouth, Camborne, Newquay, Kendal and now finally London.

What was the favourite adventure you’ve done so far?

Far and away the trip I’m most proud of was my unsupported horse-ride across Kazakhstan. Myself and a friend, Matthew Traver, rode for over 750 miles from the north of the country to the south. The journey took us 64 days, and was fraught with difficulties, big sections of empty steppe to cross, a lack of food and sometime a lack of water too. It was the hardest challenge I’ve ever done, but I was very proud to finally finish it.

And you’re also quite a runner; what is it about running that you’re so attracted to?

Running is simply amazing for anyone with an obsessive, wilderness-loving mindset who find themselves confined to the big city. I started running because it seems like a great way of keeping fit in a time-constrained environment. But then I got really attached to the activity: you can literally step out of your door and subject yourself to that same flavour of physical and mental stress you’d expose yourself to on a big trip.

What running achievement are you most proud of?

Definitely the City of London mile race I did last year. It’s one single mile, 1760 yards, and I did it in 4 minutes 34 seconds. It was the hardest I’ve ever run; it felt like the world had caved in on itself by the time I reached the finish. Just pressure and pain.

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Jamie’s planned 100 mile route across the southern Saryesik-Atyrau Desert.

And now you’re planning the complete opposite; a hundred mile ultramarathon, right?

Correct. The plan is, this September, to run across the Saryesik-Atyrau Desert. It’s situated in Eastern Kazakhstan, underneath a place called Lake Balkhash. The route has been measured, it’s just under 100 miles, and I’m going to attempt to run across it in one go, all in under 24 hours. I’ll have a support vehicle with me, but I’ll be the only runner, and we’ll have to navigate as we go.

Christopher Ward are supporting you on this journey through the CW Challenger Programme. What is it about watches that you find fascinating?

I’ve been a fan of horology for a while now. I’m even taking a clock repair course at the moment, trying to figure out how it all works! But yes, I love the Christopher Ward range and I’m proud to wear a C60 Trident COSC 600. It never leaves my wrist and I do all my runs with it.

How has the programme helped you with this expedition?

Christopher Ward and the Challenger Programme have been instrumental in helping me bring this expedition to life. Not only have they supported the endeavour with funding for the logistics side of the trip, but the team have also completely inspired me.

Christopher Ward is a challenger brand, and I absolutely love their fighting spirit. It’s what I’m trying to emulate with this trip. I don’t have it all on a plate; I need to train harder than I have ever done before. I need to work hard and I need to hustle if I’m to create an expedition of true quality and merit. I think there’s a lot of crossover between our mission statements!

Okay, three quick-fire questions to finish: who’s your hero, name something interesting you’re working on currently (aside from the expedition), and what would your ultimate adventure be?

1. Douglas Carruthers

2. I’m currently writing a novel. It’s been ongoing for four years now; who knows when it’ll be complete.

3. A traverse of the legendary Chang-Tang plateau in Tibet. That would be a dream.

Thanks Jamie!

Jamie Maddison is a Christopher Ward Challenger and wears a C60 Trident COSC 600. You can also read more about the Challenger programme here.

As a company, Christopher Ward has always been committed to supporting the development of grassroots British watchmaking talent. That’s why on the evening of Tuesday 13th June, co-founder Chris Ward and Technical and QC Manager Andrew Henry travelled to Birmingham City University’s School of Jewellery to attend the department’s end of year awards.

Offering a Bachelor of Arts degree and a reputation as the most highly regarded horology course offered by any university in the UK, an evening at the department provided the perfect opportunity for Chris and Andrew to meet its 2017 graduates, as well as presenting a prize to recognise one student’s outstanding academic achievements throughout the academic year.

How did your relationship with BCU’s Horology BA course emerge?

Chris: It started about three years ago. Andrew (Henry, CW Technical and QC Manager) and I were invited up to visit the department, not only to look around its facilities but also to meet students studying on its Horology – BA (Hons) course.

We’ve always been motivated to help support grassroots British talent, whether its inviting students for work experience or helping people interested in making the move into watchmaking. Ultimately, these individuals and departments need as much as support as they can get, and part of our grander mission plan is to help as far as we can.

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Programme leader Jeremy Hobbins (left) with CW’s Technical and QC Manager Andrew Henry

What is involved in your relationship with the department at BCU?

Andrew: When we were invited up by Jeremy Hobbins (the course’s Programme Leader) for the end of year awards, we asked if could donate some older mechanical and quartz movements for his students to work on.

In the industry, due to a matter of time it’s normally more efficient to replace a part than fix it. In the case for these students on the Horology course, it’s a less pressurised environment; as the course is based more in practical theory, they can work as methodically as they like. Hopefully the movements we donated will give them a greater hands-on experience.

Chris: For the last couple of years, we’ve also donated a watch to the Department for their awards ceremony. This year, we donated a C60 Trident Pro 600 to a student nominated by Jeremy for his or her outstanding work throughout the academic year.

Who was the lucky winner?

Chris: It went to Samantha McAteer-Moreau, who received the award for technical innovation. She designed a skeleton clock with a large escape wheel [pictured in the banner above], with the outstanding aspect being her engineering of a 60 tooth wheel on the escape arbor, instead of a pinion. The delicacy of her work was mindboggling – to me, it reaffirmed why we need to continue supporting the department in the way we have!

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Co-founder Chris Ward presents outstanding achievement award winner Samantha McAteer-Moreau with a C60 Trident Pro 600

Is there any potential for BCU graduates to move to CW?

Chris: The growth of the business will require more technically skilled people, and BCU’s course allows its graduates to start work at the bench in possession of a great understanding of horology. We’ve already had a number of students on placement with us and as we grow, I’m sure we will be taking a number of these graduates on a full time basis.

Andrew: We recently had a sixth form student write to us and ask if he could undertake his work experience at CW, as his ambition is to apply for BCU’s course. Who knows – maybe we could help him on his way to winning their outstanding achievement award!

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