Why the new all-black Abyss Collection is our most daring range yet
Words
Anthony Teasdale

When it comes to watches, legibility is everything.

White dial: black hands and indexes. Black dial: white hands, white indexes. Maybe the odd splash of colour with the seconds hand.

The rulebook (no doubt printed in Switzerland on the same press since 1755) is clear: there has to be a contrast between the dial and hands – otherwise, you can’t tell the time.

And while back in black might be fine for AC/DC, on a watch, who’d want a black case, black dial and black hands?

Well, it turns out, rather a lot of people.

Seeing the increasing popularity of all-black ‘stealth’ watches, CEO Mike France and head of product design, Adrian Buchmann spotted an opportunity. They decided to create one of their own: the C60 Abyss, launched in October, 2019.

A year later and C60 Abyss will now be joined by two further all-black watches: the C60 Abyss GMT and C60 Abyss SH21. Together they form the Abyss Collection.

After the success of the C60 Abyss, it made sense to expand it into an Abyss range,” says Mike France. “The use of monochrome tones offers a counterpoint to the vibrancy of some of our recent releases – particularly the C65 Super Compressor.

As you might be able to tell by its name, the C60 Abyss SH21 is powered by Christopher Ward’s in-house chronometer movement, Calibre SH21. And while the watch could be defined by its movement, it’s the ‘smoked’, translucent sapphire dial that will hit you first.

We wanted to build on what we’d learnt from the C60 Abyss Collection and use it in the C60 Abyss SH21,” says Will Brackfield, product designer at Christopher Ward. “The balance between seeing enough of the movement and making the dial standout took a few tries.

The dial provides a canvas for SH21. At 9 o’clock there’s a five-day power reserve subdial, which shows how long it can be worn without being wound up. There’s even a ‘danger’ zone for the last day, covered in bright red Super-LumiNova®, which you’ll also find on the countdown bezel.

The use of monochrome tones offers a counterpoint to the vibrancy of some of our recent releases – particularly the C65 Super Compressor

Another highlight is the date window at 3 o’clock.

“That’s actually a first for us,” says Adrian. “We’ve used a laser-cut date disc which enables the numbers to ‘float’ and lets you see even more of the movement behind. And if you want to see more of SH21, the smoked sapphire back provides an intimate view of the intricately decorated movement from the back.

Buchmann’s light-catcher case brings the ensemble together with black DLC (diamond-like carbon) used on the bezel and caseback ring, while the crown and middle case are forged in gunmetal.

If the C60 Abyss SH21 is a watch for horologists, then the C60 Abyss GMT is for international travellers – and the odd international man of mystery.

GMT watches are defined by the connection between the 24-hour outer bezel and the GMT hand, which lets you monitor the international timezone of your choice. And while on most GMTs, your attention is drawn to the fourth hand, here it’s the bezel. The reason for this is simple: as on other GMT watches it splits ‘day’ from ‘night’, but does so with contrasting matte black and tungsten-brushed stainless steel.

The mechanics of Calibre SH21 can be seen through the dial of the C60 Abyss SH21
The key is picking a light-enough grey for the printed elements on the dial so they’re readable at a glance

And, like the C60 Abyss, legibility on both watches has been achieved through careful testing and planning. Will Brackfield: “It’s a fine balance keeping the blacked-out aesthetics of the watches while also making them legible,” he says. “The key is picking a light-enough grey for the printed elements on the dial so they’re readable at a glance.”

For Mike, both watches represent the tension between abstract design and elite horology.

“They’re stunning,” he says. “Each watch offers that touch of surprise that gives an additional sense of delight when wearing it. As well as off-the wrist appeal, owners will be constantly taking the SH21 off their wrists to show it to admiring friends.”

The Abyss Collection: truly a triumph of the black arts.

Shop the C60 Abyss Collection