Hands On Review – Christopher Ward C65 Chronograph

The Skinny

  • Size: 41mm (41.5mm inc bezel)
  • Height: 15mm
  • Movement: Sellita SW510 BHa
  • Water Resistance: 150m
  • Price: $1800

Christopher Ward have had a prolific 2020 despite COVID-19. First, there was the C60 Sapphire that brought technical innovation in the form of the 0.3mm sapphire dial. Then, came the C65 Super Compressor with its innovative case spring. Now, we have the colorful, vintage-inspired C65 Chronograph.

First Impressions

There is no missing the latest edition to the C65 range. It’s big, bold, in your face and multi-chromatic. On the wrist, this watch was immediately noticed by everyone in my household and everyone’s comments were also complimentary – a rare occurrence in the Flett household.

The watch clearly draws inspiration from the regatta timers of the 60s and 70s. Regatta timers are chronographs with markings or dials that place special emphasis on the first 5 minutes of timing. Regattas are started by two guns, five minutes apart to account for the fact that maneuvering sailboats for a sudden start is simply not practical. The first gun goes off to signal that the starting gun will be fired again precisely 5 minutes later to actually start the race. For that 5 minutes the boats vie and jockey for position, all knowing precisely when the race will start so that they can all be in the best possible position to go when the second gun fires. 

Watches design specifically to time regatta starts therefore either have a series of one minute markers that countdown the five minutes or use part of the regular chronograph minute register to highlight the five minute period. The C65 takes the latter approach with a bright blue segment for the five minutes of the pre-start followed by a red segment signifying the real start. I am not a sailor and therefore cannot say if people still use mechanical chronographs to time their starts but for the landlubbers amongst us, it certainly add a welcome splash of color. The dial reminds me of a number of vintage Brietlings in layout but also classic Heuer chronographs, particularly the Skipper, with its blue colorway and specifically of the  Royce vintage regatta chronograph which used the minute sub dial treatment.

The Dial

The dial is a sandwich of a dark blue top layer with a sunburst finish above what looks to be a bare machined aluminum lower layer with black printing. Polished markers are applied on the top surface and are ‘cut’ where they would interfere with the two full-sized sub dials. Minute markers are printed in white on the blue top surface and again are nicely ‘cut’ to make way for the large sub dials with small dots every five minutes painted red from 0 to 20 and white for the rest. As we dig down in scale more and more details become apparent. There is a very small tachymeter scale on the chapter ring. There is small print indicating a depth rating of 150m / 500ft and the obligatory text at 6 declaring the C65 to be Swiss made. 

A calendar window at six and the familiar logotype at twelve completes the dial. There is a lot going on here but the dial does not look busy. Partly this is because the C65 has a large dial that measures 28mm in diameter but it is also because great care has been taken to keep things in proportion. There is sufficient space between all the elements to keep everything separated, even if it means make some elements quite small. Overall the dial is detailed but well balanced and the execution is good. The only slight flaw in the dial I found was that the two applied parkers at 12 were not completely level on my example.

The minute hand is common to other C65 models, such as the Dartmouth but the hour hand is a baton hand in the same style rather than the more usual large arrow hand we are used to seeing on Christopher Ward watches. The chronograph hand is a large, narrow painted triangle in the style of vintage chronos from the past and is absolutely in keeping with the style of the watch. It’s bold orange paint is well applied and gives the hand a nice depth, a look which is repeated on the minute register using the same orange paint. The only slight disappointment with the handset is the running seconds hand which looks a little bare with no paint applied to disguise that the tiny hand on my example is not quite flat. 

The Case

The case is the familiar ‘light-catcher’ case first introduced with the C60 Trident, slightly modified two make space for the two extra chronograph buttons. There is not much to say that has not been said before when describing this case design other than to confirm, as expected, that it disguises the height and size of the 41mm chronograph very well. The subtle curves and alternating polished and brushed sections lends the case an unexpected elegance and refinement.  

The crown and pushers all screw down of course yielding the 150m water resistance rating. I do far more chronograph-assisted baking than I do swimming in November, which means I left both unscrewed most of the time. I appreciated that the crown in particular has plenty of thread on it meaning it was quite straightforward to screw and unscrew it. The pushers look good screwed fully in or fully out.  

The bezel has a small polished coin edge and painted aluminum insert, consistent with its vintage vibes. The insert is painted the same shade of blue as the dial with minute marker and numerals unpainted. There is a single lumed inverted triangle at 12. The bezel is thankfully thin, finely surrounding a vintage style boxed sapphire crystal. In my view, one aspect that vintage-themed tool watches often get wrong is the bezel sizing; often fitting the same thick, modern bezel used on the rest of the makers range. Christopher Ward has opted for a thin 3 mm bezel the slopes steeply from the vintage crystal to the case and it perfects the watch’s vintage look. 

The C65 Chronograph can be ordered with a brown leather strap, a blue rubber ’tropic’ strap or a stainless steel bracelet. The choice affects the personality of the watch significantly with the bracelet tempering the vintage vibe and adds a touch of elegance and refinement while the blue rubber tropic emphasizes the vintage look and provides water-resistant practicality. 

The leather option represents the middle ground aesthetically and I expect it will be a popular choice for those ‘desk-captains’ not planning to take their watch on or in the water. The leather band is both comfortable and well-made and began to attractively age to a darker tan in the two weeks I wore the watch. 

The Movement

The vintage vibe continues to the movement, in a manner of sorts. While the movement is a thoroughly modern Sellita SW510 BHa movement, the SW510 itself is based on the venerable 1973 Valjoux 7750 with powered a many different Swiss chronographs in the 1970s. The Sellita movement beats at a frequency of 28800 vibrations per hour and has a 48 hour power reserve just as the 7750 did. The chronograph mechanism is unchanged with the same lever and cam-operated action. Activation of the start button is a little stiff in the style of all 7750 movements but the action is quick enough and I find using a mechanical chronograph is always satisfying regardless of whether it operates via a column wheel or cams. 

The familiar movement is visible through the C65’s glass casebook under the Christopher Ward decorated winding rotor. The movement has the standard Sellita finish with no polished bevels and no additional machining on the bridges. The timegrapher results for the C65 were exceptional and impressive with 0s/day error both dial up and dial down and +1 s/day crown down. The measurements were the same whether the chronograph was running or not with good amplitude and negligible beat error.

In Summary

The C65 choreographer represents another watch on the development and evolution of Christopher Ward’s range. Building on the success of this years C60 Chronograph with which it shares the case and movement, the C65 leaves the motorsport influence of the C60 behind and fully embraces vintage nostalgia to create a welcome addition to the range. While it takes significant influence from vintage chronographs this is no mere homage. The C65 Chronograph brings the strong Christopher Ward values of value, quality and accuracy to the sub-$2000 Swiss chronograph sector and combines them in a bold design that punches above its price point.