Nearly a year ago Christopher Ward announced their game changing SH21 movement. In a single move, granted one that was many years in the making, C. Ward changed the watch industry, demonstrating that in-house Swiss-made movements with robust features weren’t just for haute brands and giant luxury corporations. They showed that at a price point where many luxury brands are still using Sellitas and ETAs (if they can get them) as well as quartz, that a relatively small on-line only watch brand could manufacture a 5-day chronometer… which is to say not just a movement, but one that would command a higher than average price. In the year since, they’ve taken the movement and used it in a few different models, starting with their 43mm C9 5-Day, then in a much requested 40mm model, they followed that with a limited edition 5-day diver, and lastly in a very ambitious special edition pilot’s watch.
It was in this last watch, the LE C8 P7350, that we saw the first of what is hopefully many variations on the SH21; a small-seconds display and a switch from automatic to manual. However, that watch came in at a much higher price point as it contained relics of a WWII Spitfire, making that watch less obtainable. Well, much to my, and hopefully your, excitement, C. Ward has just released a new watch featuring said movement at a much more reasonable price; and it might be one of the nicest C Wards to date.
The C9 5 Day Small-Seconds Chronometer 40mm, C9 5D SS-40 for short, takes the 40mm C9 case we’ve seen before, but rather than just adding a small-seconds to their existing dial, they went a new and quite classical direction. Touching on a marine chronometer style, which is befitting an English brand that has paid homage to John Harrison on occasion, the dial is crisp white with a primary index of printed black Roman numerals. The numerals are tall and slender, each rotating per the degree of the hour. Instead of a 3 numeral there is a date window that occupies the same amount of space, keeping the dial balanced. On the periphery of the dial is a railroad index for the individual minutes, with slightly bolder lines at intervals of 5. This adds a nice finishing border to the dial, and gives the watch a traditional feel.
Just above 6 is the small-seconds dial which is slightly recessed, featuring a simple index with black lines per second, longer at intervals of five. There are no numerals, keeping the sub-dial very clean and not over-weighting it on the dial as a whole. I’m a huge fan of small-seconds dials as I find they simultaneously simplify things, since central seconds aren’t really needed for telling time, while making a watch look more instrument like. Completing the dial, they smartly went with blued-steel leaf shaped hands that have fluid and elegant lines, which soften the overall feel of the watch, and make it more personable. One detail, or lack thereof, that I have to applaud them for is the modest use of text. No “5-day” no “COSC” no “Chronometer”… just a logo, “London” and the “Swiss Made” tag at 6; their standard attributes. Considering what’s inside, this shows quite a lot of restraint. I almost wonder if too much?
Inside, of course, is the SH21 SS caliber, with its twin barrels for a mighty 120-hr power reserve. Apart from the already noted details, the movement has 27-jewels, hacking small-seconds and a frequency of 28,800bph. In a move I like, though might annoy some, they removed the rotor making this a manual wound version. I like this for a few reasons. First, the act of winding a watch is enjoyable, and keeping it wound makes you interact with your watch more. Second, by removing the rotor and the automatic winding mechanism the bulk of the movement becomes more visible and the movement as a whole gets thinner. Lastly, since this watch in particular boasts such a large power reserve, the constant winding of a rotor seems redundant. Sticking with their true-to-British decoration scheme, the SH21 has flat-ground surfaces, for an almost brushed look. It’s worth reading their page on this approach, as people often consider the SH21 un or under decorated, when it’s a very intentional approach: SH21 Finishing.
Given the size and design of the movement, in this small-seconds, manual wound variety, the SH21 bares some similarity to the Unitas movement we more often see in this type of watch. It’s worth noting though that despite having the name “Marine Chronometer”, very few are actually chronometer rated (and none have the SH21’s reserve, a date and hacking seconds) making the C9 5D SS a gem for those who like the style.
The C9 5D SS-40 comes in at $1,785, with your choice of black, brown or blue gator-embossed leather strap with their signature Bader deployment clasp. That actually puts the price of this watch slightly below the automatic 40mm model, making it a truly remarkable value. Regardless, for an in-house 5-day chronometer, a price tag of under $2k is beyond reproach. With its classic and refined styling, appropriate sizing and powerhouse movement, the C9 5D SS-40 could very well be C. Ward’s best offering to date. This is one I could definitely see on my wrist.