Hands-On Review – Christopher Ward C65 Divetimer

The Skinny

  • Movement: Sellita SW210 Manually-Wound
  • Dimensions: Ø 41mm, lug-to-lug 47mm, thickness 11.5mm
  • Lug Width: 22mm
  • Material: 316L Stainless Steel
  • Water Resistance: 150m
  • Strap: Choice of stainless steel bracelet, leather or rubber/nylon hybrid straps
  • Price: $715 bracelet / $595 strap

The C65 Divetimer is a new, limited edition, manually-wound dive watch from Christopher Ward. Limited to 150 pieces, the watch was announced on the 1st of July and sold out within 24 hours. So let’s take a closer look at Christopher Ward’s latest limited release.

A Veritable Merry-Go-Round of a Dial

The Divetimer’s colorful dial is a result of its incorporating decompression times into the time display. These times inform a diver how how long, he or she must pause for a decompression stop on their ascent back to the surface to avoid the ‘bends’. The bends were named because minor cases can cause a diver to double up bending at the waist to alleviate the pain. Officially known as decompression sickness, it is a dangerous condition whereby nitrogen dissolved under hire pressure in the blood normally through respiration forms bubbles in the blood when the pressure decreases too rapidly. The bubbles can be lethal depending on how many and where they form.

Decompression Dials
Decompression Dials

Appearing initially in 1962, decompression dials were an occasional  feature of dive watches throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Vulcain even produced the ‘Nautical Cricket’ – a handsome alarm watch with similar dive tables on the dial and 300m of water-resistance. If there was ever a watch to save you from missing your early morning boat charter and then save your life from decompression, the Vulcain is it. Mido also produced a decompression timer which used a distinctive set of multi-colored system of timing rings. With the Divetimer, Christopher Ward opts for a slightly more muted series of blue and orange rings. The Christopher Ward watches I have reviewed in the past have always had good dial printing and this watch is no different. I don’t know if it the orange and blue work well during a deep dive when the decompression stops need to be taken into account and I certainly have no intention of finding out. I don’t dive currently and my idea of decompression is a gin and tonic on my deck watching the sun go down.

I am, however, an unabashed proponent of ‘desk-diving’ appreciating the history, aesthetics and modern practicality of highly water-resistant dive watches. No-one is realistically taking this watch diving and relying on the decompression scale so this watch is more a colorful reminder and based on the rapid sell-out, a very popular reminder, of those early pre-dive watch computer days when such features were vitally important.

C65 Divetimer Dial
The dial’s decompression rings

Clearly the decompression tables serve no practical purpose on this watch, but in case you are wondering, this is how they work. First one needs to know how deep one will dive – the watch has scales for 25m, 30m 35m and 40m. Once the depth is selected, simply follow the corresponding arc around to find first the time at that depth for which no decompression is required and then beyond that, the time required for the decompression stop if the if dive extends beyond that no decompression time. So for example a dive with 45 minutes at 40 meters requires a decompression stop of 60 minutes to remain safe.

Beyond the functionality of the rings, the dial is a colorful and attractive piece of modern design. The light blue and orange rings complement and contrast the dark blue sunburst finish of the dial background. The markers and minute track are reduced in size and pushed right to the edge of the dial to make room for the decompression rings. The overall impression of the dial is that it is clear and busy without feeling cramped. 

As deep as the watch will likely go during my ownership

In my experience, Christopher Ward dials always punch above their weight in fit and finish and this model does not fall short. The registration of the four different colors applied to the dial is perfect. The only small issue I can find is that the two orange paints used on the dial are not as opaque as I’d like with just a hint of the underlying blue showing in the center of the painted sections. This really is a minor complaint as the dial printing is really very good considering the price point. 

The applied stainless steel rectangular markers are filled with blue-glowing Super-LumiNova lume and are particularly well done. At 12, the marker is square and doubled up. The hands are familiar C65 baton hands in polished and bevelled steel with the same Super-LumiNova filling their centers. The hand lume is especially appreciated during the day because I often found the highly-polished steel hands disappeared against the dark blue of the dial with only the lumed centers visible. The same is true of the second hand with its trident counterweight that thankfully also has the lume on its outer third so it remains visible at all times.

The second hand has a lume-painted end to aid visibility at all times

A Slimmed Down Lightcatcher Case

The Divetimer is a noticeably 2.5mm slimmer than recent Ward releases containing the taller automatic Sellita SW200 movement. This reduction in height has had a knock-on effect on the design of the signature ‘Lightcatcher’ case. The alternating polished and brushed layers are thinner than usual on the Divertimer and the curve of the lugs is less pronounced starting from a point closer to the wrist. The design is still attractive and the detailed finishing is appreciated but I don’t feel the design is quite as successful as it is on the taller watches and maybe comes across as a little fussy at the reduced height.

A slimmer version of the signature lightcatcher case

The unidirectional 120-click bezel has a beautifully printed blue aluminum insert that is quite narrow by modern standards which emphasizes the vintage feel of the watch. A feel accentuated through the use of a vintage-stykle sapphire box crystal. The click action is crisp and while there is a small amount of play in the bezel, it is in keeping with other sub-$1000 dive watches. The crown screws down and so far it has proved to be a little recalcitrant. At full-wind the crown was impossible to re-thread onto the crown tube. With no rotation available in the normal crown position, I could not get the internal spring to disengage until the mainspring wound down a little. At less than full-wind the crown does thread-on but sometimes the spring within the case issues some strange noises while doing it. After trying several attempts the advice is just to be very slow threading the crown back on the tube and then only when the mainspring is not fully wound.

The Divetimer comes on either the standard Mk2 Trident stainless steel bracelet, the blue hybrid rubber/nylon strap first seen on the C60 Sapphire Blue or on a beige leather strap previously seen on the C65 Chronograph. I personally love the beige Italian leather strap and so I ordered my watch with that. The choice is made easier knowing that replacements and alternatives can be ordered from the website with the bracelet retailing at $195 and the hybrid rubber and leather straps all priced at $75 should one change one’s mind.

A box crystal adds to the vintage vibe

A Manual Choice in an Automatic World

The Sellita SW210 inside the Divetimer is the manually-wound version of the 28800 vph automatic SW200 that Christopher Ward normally uses. The choice of the manual movement was apparently down to the desire to reduce the height of the watch. Certainly, the 210 is thinner by 1.25mm but that is not much and does not fully explain the 2.5mm reduction in height of the Divetimer over the regular SW200-based watches. I do wonder if the choice was partially made to utilize an off the shelf no-date caliber. A date window would clearly interfere with the Divertimer’s distinctive dial design. The SW210 is the only non-date caliber Sellita currently lists in the 200-series so any no-date, automatic SW200 movement would have to be a bespoke manufacture for this watch pushing the price higher. Therefore, I suspect providing a no-date watch at a surprisingly low price point was the real reason for this movement choice.

Nothing to see here

Having a manual caliber in a watch with a screwdown crown is clearly not ideal, especially when the SW210 provides a rather mundane 42-hour power reserve and part of me wonders if this is why Christopher Ward made this a limited edition. Perhaps, there was not the confidence that a manually-wound dive watch would sell well in this day and age. I can understand this careful approach but given the choice of a manually wound movement, why can we not see it through an exhibition case back? Manually wound movements put so much more on show for the user, with no large rotor and associated reversing wheel to get in the way. It seems a shame to me that we cannot see the movement as the SW210 is quite an attractive movement and I’d like to see it on show.

It is a well-proportioned watch

Conclusions

I had been holding out buying a Christopher Ward watch, I came very close to purchasing the C65 Chronograph and while I thought it an excellent value proposition, I had other fish to fry at that time for my expanding watch collection. This time however, the purchase seemed a good choice. Not only was the price extremely reasonable, I loved the idea of a modern take on the old decompression dialed watches. And while it is an odd choice of movement, and the case architecture is not quite as impressive in the thinner size, the watch is still a knockout winner for me in terms of value for money, the quality of the product and the unusual dial design.

It is not hard to see why the Divertimer sold out so quickly and I feel very lucky to have secured one in the early hours of the morning while I could not sleep and just happened to see the watch on my Instagram feed. I am sure the rapid demand for the watch has not gone unnoticed by Christopher Ward and I would not be surprised to see another version of this watch in the future perhaps with different dial colors. I also wonder if there might be the possibility for a special edition C65 Compressor with a decompression dial. Now that would be a very cool proposition.