On April 1st, we ran a joke post on Christopher Ward releasing a supercomplication for $10k… The crux of the joke being that C Ward has continually pushed the envelope regarding pricing and movement manufacturing in reality, and that an “affordable” super-complication would be the logical extreme… hardy har, we all had a good time :-). Well, this week C Ward announced the C8 P7350 Chronometer, which while quite different from a tourbillon, is still a version of them bringing a luxury concept into more affordable territory (“more” being the operative word, as it’s their most expensive watch to date). You see, the C8 P7350 not only contains a serious in-house movement, a new variety of their SH21, but also a historical relic; a piece of a WWII era Spitfire.
The C8 P7350 honors the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, a massive air campaign fought in 1940 by the RAF against the Luftwaffe. Christopher Ward commemorates this battle in two ways; first with a watch design based on the cockpit clock that would have been found in participating Spitfires, but also with a piece of Duralumin metal from P7350, the only remaining airworthy Spitfire that took part in the Battle of Britain. The small coin of metal, which has a silhouette of a Spitfire cut into it, is embedded in the case back, behind a sapphire crystal, keeping it preserved.
It’s this latter detail that brings this watch and C Ward into different territory. Use of historical materials in watches has been in vogue in the last few years, most notably by Romain Jerome, and C Ward’s British colleagues, Bremont. By showcasing an artifact from a historically significant object, whether it be moon dust or cloth from the wing of the Wright Flyer, the watch itself gets elevated. It’s not just a timepiece, but a vessel of history and an object that allows you to bring history along with you. Admittedly, this isn’t C Ward’s first foray into using artifacts, as they also have the C70 3527 GT Chronometer – Limited Edition, which contains a small piece of a Ferrari 250 GTO in it’s case back, but a part of a plane that fought in WWII is more epic and has obvious emotional significance.
The C8 P7350’s design stays in line with their other C8 pilots, such as the C8 Regulator we reviewed just a few months ago. So you can expect to find a 44 x 52mm case in PVD with a big onion crown and 22mm lugs. The dial is new however, drawing inspiration from the Smiths MKII A cockpit clock, it features very clean numerals, a railroad minute index on the periphery with triangular marks every 5 minutes, a large sub-seconds dial at 6, and classic squellete hands. The numbers alternate C1 and C5 lume, appearing green and white in light, green and blue in the dark, which hints at the two tone numerals on the Smiths. At first, the hands might not look like they fit, but the general design is accurate to the source material. The biggest difference being that the MKII A didn’t have a sub-seconds, but it did have a second set of dummy hands in red, used to mark take off time, which the seconds hand refers to. Rather than matte they went with a black sunburst dial, which dresses things up a bit.
The piece of Spitfire is certainly cool, if you’re into that kind of thing (it does come at a premium). The dial design is certainly nice, but as these things go, pilot’s watches all tend to be fairly similar and conservative, this being no different. But what makes the C8 P7350 stand out in my book is the movement. Inside is a manual wound version of their SH21 caliber, featuring small seconds. As such, it has a 5-day power reserve and is chronometer rated. This is the first variation on the SH21 we’ve seen, and it’s a cool one. It’s sort of a Unitas killer, if you will, as it provides a similar look and manual winding, but with higher specs all around. Considering C Ward now has the automatic SH21 available for $1,895 in their C9 5-Day 40mm, it’s conceivable that this movement will end up in more affordable pieces.
Which brings me to the most surprising aspect of this watch, the price. Coming in at $4,800, this is by far the most expensive C Ward to date. It’s a limited edition of 75, so I bet they’ll sell them all to British WWII buffs before the day is out, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is new and different territory. The customer of a $4,800 LE pilot’s watch is very different from that of a $800 pilot’s watch, and though the movement is far superior, the case and dial seem like standard C Ward fare. Which isn’t bad, it just isn’t what you find on a near $5k watch. So, the price is coming from the embedded relic, which is admittedly a “priceless” artifact. Of course, it still costs far less than it would if another brand using a 5-day chronometer were to have made it; perhaps by several factors.
It’s certainly a news-worthy piece as these things go, and I hope that it’s an indication of a new series of SH21 powered pilot’s watches. Sticking with the cockpit clock theme, many had sub-dials at 12 as well as at 6, so they could, while sticking to the theme, easily work another regulator in, or a 5-day power reserve… which I’m sincerely hoping they do in the near future.