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Our Story

Three Men In A Boat (Start A Watch Company)
With apologies to Jerome K. Jerome

It all started with three friends discussing going into business together during a gentle trip down the Thames in May 2004.

Mike and Peter, having sold their Early Learning Centre (ELC) educational toy brand a month earlier, were searching for their next challenge and, as chance would have it, Chris was also keen to move on from his clothing import business. All three had a love of watches and Mike and Peter had created a successful ELC website, so it wasn’t too many miles (or beers) before the idea of what eventually became Christopher Ward was hatched – the only problem was that although they had between them more than 75 years’ experience of retail brands, they knew next to nothing about the watch industry. Their first piece of luck was, fortunately, near at hand.

A mutual friend, who by now had become one of Adidas’s largest suppliers, had started his career in the Swiss watch industry, still had friendships at the very highest level in watchmaking and was happy to make the necessary introductions. A rare and vital insight and education into the art and science of Swiss watchmaking followed and the three friends made three important discoveries:

  1. Most of the Swiss brands were using the same or similar components, from the same manufacturers, to make their superb timepieces

  2. That the fledgling CW brand could access the very same components

  3. The mark–ups from manufacturing costs to RRP were high to staggering. In one instance, they discovered that one very famous Swiss brand was marking up by 34 times!
A mixture of incredulity, indignation and, to be fair, good old–fashioned nous kicked in and with the clarity provided by this lightbulb moment, the idea of creating premium quality watches at a fraction of the usual prices was born. The co–founders were on a mission from this point onwards to deliver what they called at the time, “the cheapest most expensive watches in the world” and give as many people as possible the wonderfully visceral pleasure of owning and wearing a truly fine watch. After the early meetings in an office at Soho Square in London, they moved with this high ideal in mind into Christopher Ward’s first, inauspicious HQ – a converted chicken shack on a farm in Cookham Dean, Berkshire.

The First Watches

On 2nd June, 2005, the first two watches, the C5 Malvern Automatic and the C3 Malvern Chronograph were launched onto an unsuspecting (and largely unaware) world via the website and a full–page in The Independent newspaper. For the first few months the sales were slow to non–existent and then, suddenly, business started to pick up with orders coming from all over the world, including rather bizarrely, the North Pole! Encouraged but mystified, the three co–founders only later discovered they had just enjoyed the second piece of extraordinary good fortune.

A Tasmanian Angel

Seeing the advertisement for the C5 Malvern Automatic in The Independent, Dave Malone, a lecturer and eminent horophile from Tasmania, was extremely surprised and more than a little suspicious to see the (obviously false) claim that a watch at the price shown could possibly be powered by a genuine ETA 2824–2 Swiss–made automatic movement. He bought one and was preparing to write a scathing review of the watch thereby exposing the three charlatans behind this new upstart brand, Christopher Ward.

To Dave’s credit and to our eternal good fortune, when he received his CW, opened up the back and realised he was in possession of the genuine article. Instead of posting an obituary, he posted a eulogy on what was then the world’s largest watch forum, proclaiming, amongst many other nice things about the C5, that he had unearthed the “best value mechanical watch in the world!”

As a highly respected member, Dave’s post caused a huge stir to the point that before Christmas 2005, fewer than six months after launching, Christopher Ward was being discussed on the world’s largest watch forum more than Rolex.

Dutch Courage

Encouraged by Dave’s post, others started to buy the C5 Malvern and many followed Dave’s lead and posted incredible reviews. Convinced that these posts were being paid for by CW (it’s called “schilling” in the internet world) Timezone started to ban many of these CW protaganists. A Dutchman, Hans Van Hoogstraten, was one such member banned from Timezone who was so impressed by his C5 he called us, told us the story (which was the first we knew of Dave’s post and the subsequent firestorm – indeed it was the first time we had even heard of Timezone!), and asked if could start a forum dedicated to all things CW. We had been going six months, we had two watches, so of course, agreed, with the proviso that it was completely independent of CW, and so the CW Forum started its active life. After nine years of fantastic work when the forum grew to a membership of more than 10,000 CW fans and hundreds of thousands of posts, Hans passed the forum over to us in 2015 (the man deserved a break, after all).

The Christopher Ward Forum remains one of the key routes, along with the CW Enthusiasts page on Facebook, for people interested in Christopher Ward to do their research on our watches – as well as participating in the often lively debates! We will forever be grateful to Dave Malone and Hans for their early support of the CW brand, and to our past and present day mods.

Maidenhead twins with Biel/Bienne

By 2008 with the business growing, a restless desire to keep pushing the boundaries of quality and watchmaking skills led the team to Synergies Horlogères (SH), a small, independent watchmaking atelier owned and led by Jörg Bader. There was an immediate chemistry between the CW founders and Jörg who instantly recognised the potential of the CW brand and its unique formula of high quality and accessible pricing. Within a year, SH became CW’s major supply partner and a year later the two companies were working together on the creation of their own movement, designed by SH’s watchmaking wunderkind, Johannes Jahnke. Calibre SH21, with its 5–day power reserve and chronometer status, was eventually launched in July 2014 on the same day that Christopher Ward and Synergies Horlogères merged to form Christopher Ward Holdings Limited.

It is hard to overstate the importance of a small, independent, British watch brand bringing its own commercially viable movement to market – after all, no–one had done it in more than 50 years – and in many ways July 2nd 2014, almost 10 years to the day since the boat trip on the Thames, was the day Christopher Ward came of age.

For the Many, Not the Few – Always!

We continue to grow (we have customers now in more than 100 countries) and whilst we have come a long way since those days in the converted chicken shack, everyone at CW, whether based in Maidenhead or Biel, remains totally committed to the art of crafting beautiful, premium quality watches that are accessible to the many, not the few.