C65 Aquitaine GMT
The Best of Christopher Ward
The UK-based independent brand continues to create ripples in the watch world—actually, it’s more like tsunamis. Christopher Ward has become one of the major players in this niche of the watch market and it did for a good reason: it produces high quality watches with original designs that rival with most independent brands for their cost/value ratio. And it seems that the brand’s leadership does not plan to rest on its laurels anytime soon.
The brand’s latest release is better than any other Christopher Ward I’ve come across thus far: the Aquitaine’s case design is both unique and elegant, slim and well-finished. The dial is mesmerizing and the ceramic bezel a joy to look at and operate. While the Aquitaine line comes with divers and GMTs of various colors, today we are focusing on this cream dial GMT version.
Specifications are key with Christopher Ward watches as the brand manages to pack a lot into ergonomic cases. The Aquitaine GMT comes in with a case diameter of 41mm, a lug-to-lug distance of 46.68mm (a weirdly precise measurement,) a thickness of 12.70mm and a lug width of 22mm. The case is made of stainless steel and boasts 200 meters of water resistance thanks to its screw-down crown and case back. Inside beats the Elaboré Sellita SW330-2 GMT movement which beats at 28,800 BPH (4Hz) and comes with 25 jewels and 56 hours of power reserve.
Underneath the dramatically domed sapphire crystal, one will find a date at the 6 o’clock as well as—you have guessed it—a GMT hand. The GMT bezel is bi-directional and is made of a glossy piece of sapphire which produces beautiful reflections that got me hooked almost immediately. (I find myself staring at the bezel quite often.) Both the triangle at the 12 o’clock and all hour markers on the bezel are lumed, so are the applied indices and hands. All of which are filled with thick layers of SuperLuminova X1 “Old Radium” lume.
Christopher Ward watches do glow superbly.
And case design is the major player here as it has been with all divers from the brand in the past few years. Their trademarked “Light-catcher” case has been hugely revised for the Aquitaine to be thinner and more angular than before. The most striking design element of the case to me is the fact that there is a line running across the mid-case. This part of the case is brushed (the rest is polished) and protrudes out slightly and the effect is that it visually flattens the case. However, the Aquitaine GMT is as comfortable to wear as the dimensions may suggest. It’s incredibly flat and sits on the wrist just right. It feels like the Aquitaine was specifically designed for my wrist.
(Do I have this impression because I’m French and that the Aquitaine was designed and named after the famous French diver Jacques Cousteau who grew up in the Aquitaine region of France? Perhaps.)
Unlike most Christopher Ward divers where the markers are all of the same shape, the Aquitaine’s dial is adorned with three types of markers: a triangle at the 12 o’clock, tapered triangles at the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, and circular markers everywhere else. All markers are applied and complemented by a high-polish stainless steel surround. The color plays on the dial are interesting in that the lume more or less matches the color of the dial, except that the former is slightly darker than the latter. A pop of blue can be seen on the tip of the GMT hand which matches the color of the bezel.
Quick quibble: it would have been perfect if the color of the date wheel would match that of the dial. Although white does not create a dramatic contrast, we do see more or less three types of colors on the dial.
Perhaps the star of the show is the bezel with its shiny and reflective ceramic and domed profile. It truly looks like the old Rolex Bakelite bezels which vintage-inclined watch collectors are going to absolutely adore. When I first saw the watch, I thought it was a shame Christopher Ward didn’t add a dot to indicate the odd hours on the bezel, but when I started using the GMT function, I realized it wasn’t that important. It’s easy to tell whether the GMT hand is closer to say 10am or 12pm.
It’s these little details that make Christopher Ward watches so interesting to me. In one of his recent video interviews, CW’s CEO Mike France indicated that the Aquitaine is their best watch yet, and I can totally see why he feels this way. Another detail I like about the Aquitaine GMT is the flat crown with its deep knurling and embossed logo. It does feel vintage and elegant, like the rest of the watch. The version I was loaned came with a brown leather strap which is supple and soft to the touch. And I know from experience that the Christopher Ward bracelets are quite outstanding.
And do you know what? Christopher Ward listened to its fans and switched from pin and collar to screws! (Finally!)
The Heart of the Matter
After spending so much time gushing over the specs and design of the Aquitaine, you may wonder what is actually at the heart of the matter here? Well, it has nothing to do with the actual specs or design of the Aquitaine. Let me explain. Although the watch is beautiful and well-made, what I find interesting is the path the brand has taken in the past 10 years. It didn’t come within my purview until the C60 Trident Pro 600 series, and more recently with the C63 Sealander collection. That’s because I was happy to see that CW had finally changed the branding and made it more conventional. (Putting the logo at the 12 o’clock position instead of the 6.)
The position of the branding is itself not a deal-breaker, however—looking at this question from an objective standpoint. The brand decided to do something different and it obviously worked for many watch enthusiasts. We all encourage brands to think outside the box and maybe the position of the logo was not as important as the design when it comes to creating something unique and different. What I mean is that Christopher Ward was smart in changing the position of the logo in order to stop missing out on some customers, while concentrating their efforts on the design of their watches and the quality of their construction.
As mentioned in the introduction, Christopher Ward has built a solid reputation for offering high value watches. That’s the brand’s recipe for success. The first models of the brands were less original than they are now, (looking at you, Malvern) however Christopher Ward immediately impressed by offering well finished and elegant watches for much less cash than what we consumers were used to. Strong of this reputation, the brand started to push the envelope in terms of designs and especially that of the cases. I see the Light-catcher case as the result of continuous efforts to build the brand’s equity.
The Aquitaine GMT is beautiful and it packs a lot of interesting little details. The most interesting parts of the watch to me are the ceramic bezel and the smooth, almost pancake like case profile. It’s hard to believe the watch measures 41mm in diameter as it sits so flat to the wrist. This wearing comfort can not only be attributed to the case design but also to the short lugs and the dramatically domed sapphire crystal. Believe me, the watch is really, really flat and deliciously so.
But as you now know, I find that the Aquitaine represents much more than a well-made and beautiful timepiece. It represents a milestone in the brand’s evolution and indicates that it is galloping on the right path. I cannot wait to see what Christopher Ward will be doing next. Ah, I almost forgot: the Aquitaine GMT is in stock and its price ranges between $1,512 (on a strap) and $1,710 (on a bracelet.)
Thanks for reading.