Christopher Ward Gets Back to Form with the C1 Grand Malvern Power Reserve

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It’s been a bit of a bumpy road recently for Christopher Ward. Their peculiar re-brand was met with a less than savory response, which was followed by the release of a few higher priced relic-based watches that just didn’t feel like the brand we know and love. Things got better, however, with the release of their new C8 Power Reserve and UTC models, which built off of their existing pilot line, taking things into potentially new and interesting territory. This was particularly true with the Power Reserve model, which featured their most fancily decorated SH21 in-house caliber yet.

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They’ve followed that release with what could be called a new flagship model, and a watch that shows that while C Ward might have hit a bump, they didn’t lose their way. The new C1 Grand Malvern combines the spirit of their first the watch, the beloved C5 Malvern, with their bolder and more horologically significant C9 line. The result is something more handsome and unique than either, speaking to what is the brand’s new design language. If their is one criticism I’ve had for the brand over the years, it’s that their designs, while enjoyable, have often bit derivative. The C1 (and C8 pilots) have begun to address this.

Jumping into the watch itself, the C1 features a new case design that is their sexiest to date. They’ve dropped the bland, but handsome slab-sided 40 or 43mm case found previously on their C9 line, instead going with a 40.5mm design with unique geometry. From above, it keeps much of the classic lines of the former version, but from the side tells a very different story. The slab-sided mid-case is gone, making way for a more parabolic overall shape and a dramatic arcing side. They use this aerodynamic swoop to bisect the finishing, featuring horizontal brushing above and polishing below the line. This should also help break up the 12.45mm case height.

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The dial draws on the C9 5-day, but immediately feels more refined and modern. Gone are the stuffy roman numerals, making way for large, applied arabic numerals at 12 and 6. In a move that could almost be called playful, the other hours alternate between thin printed lines and applied polished batons. The result is less classical and more mid-century than previous designs. It has a lighter and friendlier personality, and is frankly less bland.

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At 9 is the namesake complication, a power reserve. This is the second time we’ve seen them put a power reserve on their SH21 movement, though it’s the first time on an automatic. The execution here is very attractive, with an arcing, beveled cutout that reveals a rotating disc, rather than a traditional hand. It has lower visual impact on the dial, and plays off of the more modern sensibility of the design in general. To balance the reserve, they put the new Christopher Ward two line, left justified logo off of three. On this model, the horizontal arrangement makes sense. Yes, there is a bit of emptiness below 12, but that large numeral carries its own. My only nit-picky issue is that the logo feels a few nudges to far to the right. Curiously, they didn’t include the date on this model, which I’m not complaining about, but I wonder if the logo location interfering with the window was a concern. The dial comes in white, blue sunray or black sunray. The white, with its blued hands and steel markers, is the winner in my eyes.

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Inside of the C1 is Ward’s SH21 120-hour, dual barrel, COSC certified-movement. We’re big fans of what they are doing with the SH21 movement, offering something “in-house” with great stats at incredible prices. In the last couple of years, they’ve also delivered on their promise to use it as a platform for complications and other variations. So, we’ve seen it with and without date, with and without sub-seconds, automatic and manual, and now with power reserve as well. A power reserve is arguably the first complication they should have gone for, showing off their 120-hour/5-day reserve, but better late than never. I will say though, having a power reserve on an automatic is less “needed” than on a manual, and they could have saved some height on the C1 by ditching the rotor (the new C8 pilot is 11mm vs the C1’s 12.45mm).

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Apart from complication, they are now starting to push their decoration. First, they had the incredibly sleek, blacked out version on the C8 PW, and now on the C1, they have a more complexly skeletonized and laser etched variety, speaking to the C1’s dress aesthetic. The rotor has lost a significant amount of its mass, with a huge cutout that shows the mechanics underneath. It’s a great looking rotor, with bowing lines, a deeply etched logo and what appears to be heavy brushing. Underneath, the bridges have been opened up, revealing far more of the gear train and barrels. The bridges have then been decorated with Ward’s new cross logo… I like the use of pattern and texture as an alternative to traditional decoration, but I don’t particularly like that logo itself, but to each their own. Gone is that massive, flat sanded plate that spoke to traditional British watch making. I know that was something that people used to gripe over, saying the movement looked “undecorated” when it definitely was, but I always appreciated that there was a philosophy behind it. Clearly they are ditching the traditionalism all around, but I hope they come back to it for certain timepieces. Here, the more modern, fun decor makes sense as it speaks to their new branding and will likely help sell watches.

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Another new addition is that of a Shell Cordovan strap. Previously, Ward used genuine Gator on their higher end watches. They were gorgeous straps I always enjoyed wearing, but they definitely had a certain, classic/stuffy look. Cordovan is far more trendy (hey, we sell it too) and gives the straps an understated, modern look, but a luxurious texture. It’s the right paring for this new model. The C1 is also available on a Milanese bracelet.

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Overall, the C1 Grand Malvern Power Reserve is an exciting release for the Christopher Ward brand that I think fans of the brand old and new will be happy to see. Sure, things have changed, and this definitely feels like the watch of a more modern version of Christopher Ward, but it’s the kind of watch they should be making, and it’s the first time the new logos seem to fit. It’s more original than previous models, and speaks more towards a brand concept that should distinguish them further from the crowd. As the watch that will “define the identity of Christopher Ward’s entire collection” (from the press release), the C1 offers a distinct case, a handsome dial aesthetic and an impressive movement. We’ll see what this means for their other lines in the months to come, but I think it’s an exciting premise. The C1 is currently available for preorder, delivery in November, with a price range os $2,060 – $2,100 depending on strap choice. It goes without saying, but for a watch with an “in-house” 120-hour, COSC rated movement, that price is unheard of.

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Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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