Ambitious, powerful and ultra-colourful – say hello to Christopher Ward’s most proudly extrovert timepiece yet
Words
Anthony Teasdale

There was a point in the late ’60s and early ’70s when watch design went wild. You could see it in the case shapes, an era of squares and ovals, TV-screen crystals and barrels. You’d also find it in the strangely shaped sub-registers, odd stripes and finishes.

And, most of all, in the explosion of colour.

Before then, dials had been black or white, silver or gold. Now they were just as likely to be oranges, reds or rich blues – and sometimes all three at once. This was the age of the racing dial, with everything from Omega Speedmasters to entry-level Timexes sporting chequerboard patterns; of Breitling Top Times and Yema Rallygrafs with strangely shaped panels across their faces; and of incredible divers from Doxa, Mido, Vulcain – or a hundred other makes – all shouting loudly, resplendent in the weirdest, wildest colours and patterns. Sometimes it was as if you were wearing the Banana Splits TV show – on your wrist.

None of which sounds much like Christopher Ward’s C65 Trident range, which up until now has referenced an earlier ’60s cool, one sharper, more businesslike, more monochrome; reminiscent of Sean Connery-vintage James Bond.

Well, with the launch of the C65 Chronograph, they’ve just gone Roger Moore.

In true ’70s style, much of that fun comes from the bright colours on the dial: a rich dark blue on the bezel and face, then white sub-dials with distinctive blue and red sectors on the 30-minute register. To top it off, the chronograph hands are bright orange.

It’s a look that references many watches of the period, but in particular the regatta–style pieces made by Lemania, Memosail and Aquastar designed for yacht racing. One of the best known, and the watch that most directly influenced the look of the C65, was the Heuer Skipper, with bold red, white and blue – or sometimes orange, green and light-green – sectors on its 30-minute subdial. Details that were designed to help competitive sailors manoeuvre into the best position at the start of a race.

Not that the C65 Chronograph is intended for yachting. Mike France: “In many ways, in the late-’60s watch brands were simply reflecting the optimism and psychedelia around them,” he says. “And with bold colours trending across the industry again, the C65 is the perfect vehicle for those out-there retro looks.”

With bold colours now trending across the industry, the C65 is the perfect vehicle for those out-there retro looks.
The red-on-white date numerals are a retro touch

Of course, the C65 Chronograph doesn’t pretend to be a heavy-duty dive watch – it’s only water-resistant to 150m, but it does display some exciting features that most C65s don’t. Most notably the screw-down crown, alongside a pair of screw-down pushers.

“We want to introduce more screw-down crowns to the C65 range,” says CW head of product design, Adrian Buchmann, “bringing that extra bit of security and quality to each watch. You don’t need one for a watch to be water-resistant – thanks to double gaskets and clever case construction, it can be safe to dive to more than 300m – but people like them anyway as they give off a feeling of safety.”

This is just another part of Christopher Ward’s ongoing mission to add extra value and quality to watchmaking. For instance, though the C65 Chronograph has a vintage look, it’s built to reassuringly modern standards.

Sellita’s SW510 BHa movement can be seen through the back

Period ’60s dive watches tended to have acrylic crystals, but here you get a glassbox sapphire crystal. While original dive watches had solid steel backplates, on the C65 Chronograph the movement is visible through a display caseback. Something that’s always entertaining on a chronograph because you can see which parts move when you press a pusher.

Pleasing elements abound. Thanks to its quick-release mechanism, you can swap between the standard C65 leather strap and a stainless steel bracelet in seconds. Not to mention the light and comfortable C65 Tropic rubber strap. And then there’s the date wheel, which Adrian is particularly pleased with.

“One of the coolest things is a tiny little detail on the date wheel,” he says. “We’ve changed it so that the background is white with the number in red, a period touch that’s unusual in a modern watch.”

The C65 Chronograph is the sort of watch that David Bowie might have worn

In fact, across the board, this is a watch the Christopher Ward team are seriously excited about. “I’m thrilled that much of the design was done by Will Brackfield, CW’s new product designer,” Adrian says. “He’s been here for almost a year and shows a real knowledge of – and passion for – the products.” Then there’s the fact – alongside the C60 Chronograph – this is the first bicompax mechanical chronograph Christopher Ward has ever done, and the company’s first automatic chronograph since 2016.

“Think of it like this,” Mike France says. “The ’60s are coming to an end, the ’70s are looming, and everything’s become a little louder. We’re heading towards glam rock, and the C65 Chronograph is the sort of watch that David Bowie might have worn.”

The C65 Chronograph is available now from £1,695 / $1,935 / €2,030