Christopher Ward has become a staple of the microbrand watch world in the past few years, or at least among younger brands. CW has made a reputation for producing watches with the best value by constantly hitting the sweet spot where great specifications, beautiful design, and equally fine finishing come together, a reputation not many brands can match. Their recently-released C63 Sealander GMT is a good example of what CW does best.
About Christopher Ward
Describing themselves as a premium watch company, Christopher Ward was founded 16 years ago by three friends—Mike France, Peter Ellis, and Chris Ward—who were casting about for a new project to work on. All three being into watches, they started exploring the world of watchmaking and discovered that most luxury brands were using the same components made by the same factories to produce much cheaper watches. This is not surprising, considering that only a few brands like Rolex can manufacture all of their components themselves.
To keep it simple, Christopher Ward has become a premium microbrand by offering Swiss-level luxury for much, much less cash. Not only do they know where to get their watches made well, they also were the first online-only watch retailer, which cut out the middleman so that they could sell their watches for a great value. Think of the long-ago times when a Submariner used to be sold for what is now $1,200. For that kind of money, you can get a superbly made watch by Chrisptoher Ward.
CW started off with a dress watch, the Malvern, which they recently reissued, but most of their catalog consists of sport watches. They created the popular line called the C60 Trident, a line of well-made and well-specced dive watches that became as ubiquitous as the Submariner. Other lines include vintage-style timepieces, Worldtimers, GMTs, and now the C63 Sealander collection. There is a lot to love about the brand collections, as each one seems to be an improvement on the previous one.
The C63 Sealander range—the Automatic, GMT, and Elite models—was released in 2021 and marks almost like a celebration for the brand by providing a range of refined watches endowed with great dimensions. The GMT has a diameter of 39mm, a lug-to-lug distance of 45.8mm, and a meager thickness of 11.85mm. Inside the full stainless steel case beats the Sellita SW330-2 Elaboré movement, a GMT powerhouse with 25 jewels that beats 4hz (28,800 beats per hour.)
The watch can be had on a variety of straps, but I encourage you to get the stainless steel bracelet. It is rare to see such a well-made bracelet for a total price (including the watch) of roughly $1,200, boasting fully-articulated links, solid end links, a proprietary toolless micro-adjust system.
Did I mention the links are held together with screws? Yes, as you can tell, you get a lot of bracelet for the money.
The hands and indices display thick layers of SuperLuminova Grade X1 BL C1 lume, a long-winded way of saying that it’s got great lume that shines very bright. I was impressed by the lume, actually, as it only needed a short exposure to the sun to be fully charged, and it lasts for a very long time. Not all lume is made the same, and not all watches are lucky to have been complemented by so many layers of the luminescent paint.
Let’s not forget to mention the thick piece of sapphire crystal adorning the dial and the see-through caseback that allows us to admire the beautiful movement, an Elaboré Colimaçoné Sellita SW330-2 (in French, a “colimaçon” is a spiral-shaped staircase or a seashell), and the Christopher Ward logo on the rotor. The Sellita may not be the most handsome movement to look at, but we all enjoy looking at the movement inside the watch once in a while.
The entire C63 Sealander line stands out from the rest of the Christopher Ward collection by being the perfect amalgam of what the brand has been doing well for the past 15 years, but on steroids. The trademark CW handset adorns the dial, with the hour hand confidently pointing at the indices and the minute hand reaching all the way to the minute track. Both the second and GMT hands have a touch of orange at their tip, and the second hand counter-balance has the traditional Trident shape. All hands seem to be floating on the beautifully lacquered black dial (the GMT range also comes in white, blue, and hunter green).
All of the design elements of the watch have a gentle aggressiveness to them that is very pleasing to look at: the pointy handset, the superbly angular case, the alternately highly polished and finely brushed surfaces, the multifaceted indices that also alternate between polished and brushed surfaces. Last but not least, the hands also have this dual finish. All put together, the C63 GMT is gorgeous to look at, as the light reflects in different ways depending on how the watch is held. Sometimes, for example, half of the hour hand disappears to make space for the lacquered dial behind.
There are a lot of visually interesting details one can find and look for on this watch. As mentioned before, the multifaceted indices add visual dynamism to the dial, the deeply embossed crown makes looking at the watch from a right-side angle pleasing, and so does the 24-hour engraved GMT scale on the fixed brushed bezel. The clasp, which is maybe a tad too long for someone with a small wrist like me, also shows a fine-brushed finish, giving this part of the watch a very tool-like appearance.
The Heart of the Matter
What’s interesting about the entire C63 Sealander range (and especially the GMT version) is the amount of watch you get for your bucks. It is not a secret that watches made in Switzerland are generally expensive, and it is even more well known that a well-made watch coming from Switzerland is too expensive for most watch collectors. The C63 range truly offers outstanding finish for the price you pay (again, $1,200 on the bracelet and roughly $1,080 on a strap). As always, photos cannot do the watch justice, regardless of how good the photos are. Look at the CW website and you will see some of the best photos out there for this model.
What’s even more interesting is the fact that the GMT was quickly linked to the famous Rolex Explorer 2, just because it has an orange GMT hand and because the 24-hour GMT scale is engraved on the fixed bezel. Saying that Christopher Ward was seeking to pay homage to the Explorer 2 as has too often been said is not accurate. This is not denying that Rolex was the first to use the GMT hand and bezel, but going to the lengths of saying that the C63 GMT was created in tribute means that many people have a very narrow view of horology. The C63 would have paid much more faithful tribute if the hour hand was a Mercedes hand, the hour markers round, and the date window was at the 6 o’clock position and had a cyclop.
Look at the ‘50s, ‘60s, and even ‘70s tool watches and you will notice that it was common practice to borrow elements from other brands. Broad arrow handsets, for example, were not only used on the early Speedmasters but also by brands such as Nivada Grentchen on their Chronometer and skin diver ranges. The 24-hour scale on the fixed bezel was used by other brands as well, a good example of this being the 1950s-era Glycine Airman. We must be mindful, then, that certain design elements of watches have been reused for decades, but some people still take issue when these elements are repurposed by smaller watchmakers such as Christopher Ward.
In a world where GMT watches can easily cost more than $10,000 (looking at you, Rolex GMT Master 2), there are not many options for GMTs less than $2,000 with an original design (yes, the C63 GMT has an original design). There are other brands that make affordable GMT watches such as Lorier and Baltic, but the finish of their watches does not match the one seen on the C63 Sealander, and it is important to note that the latter also uses a much better movement. Christopher Ward, therefore, truly occupies a niche within the watch community by providing affordable, well-made watches.
If you have never spent more than a couple hundred dollars for a watch, it would be understandable that you would hesitate before dishing out $1,000+ on a Christopher Ward. You must know, however, that the brand offers free 60-day returns on the watch and a 60-month movement guarantee. If you’ve been in the watch world for a while, you would immediately see the amazing value these guarantees represent.
When buying a watch from a young brand that uses third-party movement (which represents about 90 percent of watch manufacturers), it is important to know that you can easily get the watch repaired should anything happen to it, especially the movement. Let’s summarize this, then: for $1,200, you get a GMT watch with an original design made in Switzerland that comes with a 60-month guarantee on the movement and free 60-day returns.
No wonder why there are so many people trying to shut down Christopher Ward for paying “homage.”