After recent news, Christopher Ward is more likely to be known for their affordable in-house SH21 movement than anything else, but if you look our archives, you’ll find most of our reviews are of their pilot’s watches. We’ve looked at the C8 MKII, the C10, the C11 and the C1000 Typhoon, all of which offer something different. The C8 MKII is fairly classic pilot, reminiscent of IWC MK series, the C10 is a more formal, with a touch of navigator DNA, the C11 is a modern instrument panel-style aviator and the C1000 Typhoon is a dark and stealthy modern pilot realized in ceramic. Today, we’re going to take a look at a follow up to the C8 MKII; the C8 Regulator.
What sets this watch apart is indicated clearly in the name; it’s a regulator. This fairly uncommon complication splits the hour, minutes and seconds into 3 separate dials. Typically, as is the case with the C8, you have the hours and seconds as secondary sub-dials, and the minutes about the center. The concept behind this watch, as in why you are finding a regulator on a pilot’s watch, is that in WW2, regulator’s were supposedly used for timing bombing runs. With minutes being the most significant unit of time to pay attention too, it makes sense to emphasize them in this way.
In order to achieve this functionality, Christopher Ward outfitted the C8 Regulator with a Unitas 6498 manual movement with a bespoke regulator module. As is evident in their various collaborations with Johannes Jahnke, they are adept at creating in-house components. Now that they are partners with Synergies Horologères, a Swiss movement manufacturer, I imagine they will be playing with bespoke modules for their regular lines more often.
Of course, this done come at a price, literally, as the C8 Regulator comes in at $1,425 as shown in PVD. This is on the higher end for Christopher Ward, being more than twice the price of the C8 MKII, and higher than your average Unitas powered watch. That said, aesthetically, it’s one of their more finely tuned pieces, and quality wise, is well executed.
Christopher Ward C8 Regulator Review Case: PVD Steel Movement: Unitas 6498 w/ Regulator Dial: Black Lume: Old Radium Super-Luminova Lens: Sapphie Strap: Leather Water Res.: 50M Dimensions: 44 x 52.6mm Thickness: 11 mm Lug Width: 22 mm Crown: 8 x 5 mm Warranty: 60:60 Guarantee Price: $1,425
True to the pilot/flieger tradition, the C8 Regulator is a large watch. Measuring 44 x 52.6 x 11mm, it’s wide and flat, like its automatic brethren the MKII. The case shape and design are classic pilot, with slab sides, slender tapering lugs and a broad bezel. While it’s been a long time since we handled the C8 MKII, which is even thinner at 9.7mm, the 11mm thickness is striking. The bezel, central case and case back are nearly all the same, making for a very sleek profile.
Contrasting this is the large onion/diamond crown at 3. Measuring 8x5mm, the crown is long and wide. This makes it very easy to grasp for winding the movement or setting the time, but a bit jagged and unwieldy. Coming off of a 44mm case, it will bite your wrist throughout the day.
Flipping the watch over, you’ll be presented with a great view of the Unitas movement inside. The glass runs practically edge to edge, giving you a very full view the inner workings of the watch. Since Unitas’ are manual and everything is oversized, they are especially enjoyable to ogle.
As far as finishing goes, you have two options, the matte PVD shown or just matte steel. Though it costs a bit more, PVD works very well with this watch. The overall palette, which we’ll get into more when looking at the dial and strap, is dark, but warm, mixing black and brown almost like tortoise shell glasses. Though PVD can sometimes make a watch less versatile, here it completes the look.
The C8 Regulator takes a classic approach to the dial, utilizing the regulator layout and “old radium” lume to create something more interesting and dynamic. The primary index, which is minutes, consists of thick rectangles and small dashes, with numerals every 5. At 15 and 45 the numerals are removed for logos and a 30 and 60 they are removed for sub-dials, creating a sense of radial symmetry.
The sub-dials at 60 and 30 are for the hours and seconds, respectively. Both have the same simple design, almost mirroring each other, which emulates the larger minutes index. Separating them from the main dial, which is entirely flat, is a ring of circular graining under the linear portion of the index, with the numerals set in towards the hand. If I were to register a complaint about this dial, it’s that it is very flat, which is emphasized by its large diameter. That said, the flatness makes it look more like WW2 era military design, so it’s staying true to itself.
What makes it all come together is use of the “old radium” super-luminova. The burnt, creamy orange color looks amazing against the matte black surface. And where the lume is not used, such as on the logos and the individual minute marks, they have color matched paint so you can’t distinguish between them. The effect is both aggressive and stylish, which is further emphasized by the matte PVD case. The only downside to this lume is that it’s not as bright as white or green paints.
For hands, they went with broad roman swords, which are very clear and well proportioned. They also went for edge-to-edge lume, rather than a bordered style, which also works very well on this watch as it’s more bold. The minute hand, as is expected, is very large, so you can’t miss it at a glance, while the hour and seconds hands are much smaller. That said, they are large sub-dial hands, thus being easier to read and glowing better.
The regulator layout is a bit off putting at first, but within a short amount of time you acclimate to it. Then, it’s actually very easy and fast to read. There is a logic to having the hours above the minutes, so you can read the same way we say the time… i.e. 12…30. Also, I find I am generally aware of the hour, so I tend to look for the minutes first, which the regulator makes all the more simple. More over, it adds a level of uniqueness to this watch that separates it from other pilots. Though the language is the same, it really has a different feel.
The Unitas 6498 is a workhorse manual movement of pocket watch descent that you’ll come across with some regularity. It features 17-jewels, manual winding, sub-seconds and a frequency of 18,000bph. In this instance, Christopher Ward created a module to separate the hours out onto a sub-dial, creating the regulator. The best thing about these movements is how large they are, making them great to look at. The balance wheel is huge, but beats fairly slowly, giving a hypnotic pulse. If you wind it while looking at the back, you can clearly see the mechanism in action.
They also often serve as canvases for elaborate decoration or partial rebuilding (like when a German brand might switch in a 3/4 plate). In this case, the decoration is minimal, but still well executed. Under the balance is a plate of perlage, which makes the golden wheel stand out all the more. The main plates then have Cote de Geneve, a standard, but attractive pattern. The screws inside are all polished on the top surface, which I believe is the same “flat polish” they use in their new SH21 movement. More of a subtle approach than blue screws, but handsome. Lastly, on the barrel, in blue, is the Christopher Ward London logo.
Straps and Wearability
The C8 Regulator comes mounted on easily the nicest leather strap I’ve seen from the brand. Called a “vintage leather” this 22mm strap has gorgeous coloration and texture. It’s a mix of mid-dark brown with highlights of tan and gold which appear in the crevices of the natural texture. The highlights resonate with the “old radium” lume, tying the two together. The contruction of the strap is impeccable as well. It’s thin, with a light padding, tapering by the edges. There is a matching brown stitch that runs down the edge and black/very dark brown edge inking that flows into the PVD case.
Accompanying the strap is their patented Bader deployant clasp. Designed by their new partner and founder of Synergies Horologères, Jörg Bader, it’s indeed an improvement over other designs. It creates a very clean, keeper free strap when closed, turning the leather into more of a bracelet. It then open with two buttons place on the top portion of the mechanism, rather than underneath where they can pinch your skin (something that annoys me often with deployants). The only potential downside is that for it to work, the straps themselves must be very thin in order to pass through the system. I personally prefer thinner straps, so that’s not a concern for me, but one couldn’t swap the strap with a 4.5mm thick piece of leather.
As expected, on the wrist, the C8 wears large. It’s big and flat, which further emphasizes the width, though makes it more comfortable than a tall and wide watch would be. The 52.6mm lug-to-lug isn’t too bad though, so I didn’t find it reaching over the sides of my 7” wrist. That said, this isn’t a watch for petite wrists or those who prefer smaller watches. Regarding comfort, the real offender is the crown, which does regularly push against the hand. I suppose you can get used to this, but it’s not very pleasant.
Aesthetically, this is probably my favorite pilot’s watch from Christopher Ward. It’s aggressive, well balance, and has a beautiful, masculine palette. The mix of black and warm golden tans and browns speaks to patina, rugged leather, machinery, etc… All things that just work with casual men’s wear. Putting this watch on immediately makes me wish it was fall, so I could put on my Iron Rangers, black jeans, a heavy shirt and a leather jacket, and enjoy this watch in its element.
The Christopher Ward C8 Regulator is a very cool offering from the brand that has a bit more personality than their other pilots. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve liked them all in this way and that, but this one comes together in all the right ways. Interesting functionality, well executed aesthetics and a proper amount of aggressive edge put the C8 Regulator in a class of its own. It also stands apart from what else is out there, only really competing with a Bell & Ross that costs much more (it’s gorgeous too, but that’s a different article).
The downsides are that it is big, which will make it hard to wear for some people, and costs a decent amount at $1,425 in PVD and $1,375 in steel. Though less than the C1000 Typhoon, it’s more than Fliegers from other brands, many Unitas 6498 powered watches and a fair portion of their own line. I assume the increased price cost is do to the added complication as well as rising costs on movements. As is always the case with C Ward’s it’s Swiss made, built and finished well and backed by their 360 warranty. So, in the end, if you are looking for a big pilot watch with a slight twist and a lot of style, and are willing to pay a bit more for that, you will like what you get.
by Zach Weiss