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Review: Christopher Ward C8 Pilot MK II – Vintage Edition

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Featured | Review | 10.12.2011

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The Christopher Ward C8 Pilot MK II – Vintage Edition is an example of everything that’s right in the world of moderately priced watches.  For a fraction of the cost of a “luxury” watch, you get a superbly well conceived and produced timepiece that far exceeds your expectations for what a $500 watch can be.  If there is such a thing as your average $500 pilot watch, the C8 is not it.

Case: Bead Blasted 316L Stainless steel
Movement: Sellita SW200-1 26 Jewel Automatic
Dial: Black with Old Radium Super-Luminova Hands and Indices
Lens: Anti-reflective sapphire crystal
Case Back: Screwdown
Strap: Calf’s Leather with Tunnel Stitch and Deployment Clasp
Water Res.: 50 M
Dimensions: 44mm
Thickness:  9.7mm
Lug Width: 22mm
Warranty: 5 years

As I pointed to in my initial impressions, the C8 Pilot is a watch deeply rooted in the time-honored and traditional pilot watch.  Taking direction from the 1940 IWC B-Uhren (as pointed out on the C. Ward website), the C8 offers a clean, very legible face with a large, sweeping second hand and date function.  The hour and minute hands are a narrow sword shape that fit with the understated and simple look of the face.  There is some flash to be found though, with polished metal finish around the 12 hour and date indicator.  The “Old Radium Super-luminova” on the C8 adds to the vintage aesthetic, with the glow on the hour, minute and second hand being distinctly brighter than on the hour indices.

The case back is bead-blasted (matching the rest of the case) and features a stamped image of what I believe to be an outline or schematic of a plane’s wing.  There is also a small window displaying the movement’s balance wheel.  These two details, the schematic and small window to the “engine” of the watch, provide a bit of a utilitarian aesthetic the watch, while maintaining the C8′s clean feel by hiding these details on the case back.  The entire case has a very nice fit and finish, as do the crown and deployment clasp, each featuring a C. Ward logo.  The calf leather strap, in addition to being very attractive and appropriate for the C8′s vintage look, is quite comfortable, despite not being particularly soft or pliable. One detail that I especially appreciate are the polished screws holding the case back in place, which provide yet another small detail that elevates the C8′s overal feel of quality and refinement.

Within the C8 body is a Sellita SW200 automatic movement, a Swiss movement that provides the same functionality of an ETA 2824-2, including the ability to hand wind the main spring.  This function may very well be the reason the C8 features an onion crown, for greater tactile response.  Sellita movements are becoming much more commonplace today,now that the Swatch Group has cut-off distribution of all ETA movements to non-Group manufacturers.  But have no fear, Sellita movements are well reviewed, trusted and of a very high quality.

Wearing the C8 has been a pleasure.  The watch has a very nice weight to it – a bit on the heavier side, but appropriately so.  It measures 44mm in diameter, but wears much smaller than that.  That may be due to the C8 measuring only 9.7mm tall.  All told, the C8′s slender fit, refined design and versatile styling have made it a joy to wear.  It pairs well with jeans or a suit (I’ve had to occasion to wear it with both), and for the right audience, it garners some attention.  Wearing the watch for the past few weeks, multiple people have taken notice and asked about the piece, and few watch nerds in my office have already asked where they can get one.

In the C8, Christopher Ward has created a watch that simultaneously meets your every expectation for a pilot watch, yet far exceeds what you think a $500 watch can be.  On paper, the C8 is a watch with limited complication, but in application its so much more than that.  The build quality is outstanding, the design is refined and it features a true Swiss movement.  Meanwhile, the longer you spend with the C8, the more you appreciate its thoughtful design.  From the Old-Radium lume, to the unique case back, to the superb feel of every element of the hardware, it is clear that an incredible amount of effort went into the C8′s fit and finish.  The quality of the C8 far exceeds its price tag.  Take this into consideration with the C8′s spot-on pilot watch aesthetic, and you have a pretty strong case for it being the go-to, and possibly only traditional pilot watch in your collection.