Christopher Ward C9 5-Day SS Chronometer Review

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When Christopher Ward first announced the C9 5-Day SS Chronometer (SS for small seconds), I was immediately very excited. It took their awesome in-house 5-day chronometer movement, the SH21, modified it to be hand wound and feature small seconds at 6, put it in a modestly sized case, and styled it in the classic aesthetic of Marine Chronometers. In doing so, it combined a bunch of things I really liked into a very aesthetically pleasing package. To make things even more appealing, they gave it a very compelling price point of $1,780. Not cheap, but a solid value for what the watch offers. After all, no one else is offering anything close to a 5-day COSC movement at this price.

The watch is also was a bit of an interesting departure for the brand. While they’ve had the C9 line going for some time, the Marine Chronometer aesthetic is a change, but a very welcome one that makes a lot of sense for the brand. Other C9 watches are almost Art Deco in styling, but this watch speaks to a British heritage dating to John Harrison, who invented the Marine Chronometer in the first place. Thus, it sort of celebrates their own achievement with the SH21 as a milestone for the brand. No matter how you see it, it’s a very nice time piece, so lets take a closer look.

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$1780

Christopher Ward C9 5-Day SS Chronometer Review

Case
Stainless Steel
Movement
SH21
Dial
White
Lume
N/A
Lens
Domed Sapphire
Strap
Leather
Water Resistance
50M
Dimensions
40 x 48mm
Thickness
12.5mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
7 x 3.5
Warranty
60/60 Guarantee
Price
$1780

Case

The C9 5-day SS Chronometer features the same case design as other watches in the C9x line. This is actually the 5th one we’ve reviewed, but it’s the first time we’ve seen the 40mm version. The previous models we discussed had a hefty 43mm case. While still very handsome, it simply was too large for some people, and kept the watches from being svelte dress pieces. While 40 x 48 x 12.5mm is not exactly svelte either, it’s a much more subdued and comfortable size. More over, it made me appreciate the lines and finishing of the case more.

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The design is very attractive. It’s masculine but elegant, with broad lugs and sharp lines. The gentle curve of the lugs softens them just enough to prevent any harshness as they transition to the slab sides. The rounded bezel and lug top surfaces are mirror polished, while the case side has satin brushing. The quality of the brushing is very good, with enough grain to have texture, but still a clean look overall. The edges where the lugs transition to the sides are all precise and clear, exactly what you want to see.

Off of three is a 7 x 3.5mm crown with a cylinder shape. It matches the case well being equally simple but well executed. It features coining along its edge and a CW logo on the end. Since this is a manual wound watch you’re going to be using the crown a lot. Luckily the design feels good between your fingers and is easy to grasp.

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Flipping the watch over, you have a massive display window showing off the equally massive SH21 movement. I’ll talk more about it later, but it’s very enjoyable to get to see it here, especially as the manual wound version has no rotor blocking the view. Around the edge of the window you have a few watch details. The one to note is the “COSC Certified Chronometer” indicating that this watch has indeed been certified.

Dial

The dial of the C9 5-day SS is clean and classical, drawing from the Marine Chronometer style. Simply put, if you like that style, you’re going to love this dial, if not, you might want to look away. C Ward played it very true to the concept here, keeping things traditional and not adding much in the way of twists. For me, that works, for others, it might be too old-school.

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The dial surface is pure, matte white with perhaps the slightest egg shell texture. On it, you have an hour index of large black Roman numerals, surrounded by a rail-road type minute index. That’s basically it for the main dial, making all of the little details count. Details like the typeface of the numerals, which is thin and graceful, yet highly legible. And the slight increase in line width on the minute index every 5 minutes… just enough to make them stand out more, but not too bold either.

At 6 you have a nicely proportioned sub-second dial; a necessity on a Marine Chronometer. It’s slightly depressed into the dial and features a very simple index of black lines which are longer at intervals of 5. It breaks up the dial well, but doesn’t distract either. At 3 is a date window, which does break up the hour index. The date is displayed in a serif typeface in black on a white background. While it does break the symmetry of the dial, and create a bit of hole, the positioning lines up well with the Roman numerals, thus integrating better with the dial. At first, the window annoyed me a bit, but I got use to it after wearing the watch for a bit. That said, I would love to see a no-date option offered as well.

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The hands C Ward went with were a great choice. Rather than the Breguet hands often found on dials this style, they chose thin leaf hands in blue steel for the hours and minutes. Perhaps a bit less bold or masculine, the leaf hands work very well playing off of the Roman numeral typeface. The sub-seconds hand is then a thin stick with a counter weight. I like the contrast here of the seconds to the hour/minute. The seconds hand feels more like part of an instrument or tool, which Chronometers essentially were.

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Movement: SH21

The SH21 is no small achievement for the brand, and with this watch, they are beginning to show its versatility. With the massive 5-day/120-hour power reserve, I always felt that making it hand wound would make the most sense. After all, it’s not like you need to constantly wind it with the concern it will die. A good winding once every 5 (perhaps 4.5 to be safe) days and you should be good to go. So, I was very happy to see this watch was made with a manual version, as well as with a small seconds.

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As mentioned before, you get a great view of the SH21 because of the huge case back window, but also because it is unobstructed by a rotor. You’ll immediately notice that the movement is quite different looking than most, with a single large plate in an odd, organic shape. Through cutouts, you can clearly make out the two massive barrels that are in series, giving the watch its large power reserve, as well as the balance. Everything else is hidden beneath the plate.

In terms of decoration, the SH21 might seem at first glance to be under decorated, but C Ward actually just went with a very classic, albeit not flashy approach. The large plate and the balance cock have been flat sanded by hand, rather than machine grained with more typical decorations like Cote De Geneve. While a subtle decoration, it’s very traditional and, according to their explanation, requires a high level of expertise. The large plate also has polished beveled edges, which catch the light nicely. Additionally, rather than the blue screws one often finds in higher end pieces, C Ward went with “English silver” screws which are flat polished on top. Sure, it lacks the wow of stripes and blue screws, but I very much enjoy knowing there is real craft in play here, as well as seeing something different for a change.

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The SH21 features 27 jewels, date, hacking seconds, a frequency of 28,800bph and the already mentioned 5-day power reserve. Using it is the same as any other watch. Pulling the crown into first position allows you to change the date by turning it counter clockwise. Pull it out one more stop, the seconds hacks, and you can set the time. Simple as can be.

Straps and Wearability

The C9 5-Day SS Chronometer has 20mm lugs and comes mounted to either a blue, black or brown faux-croc leather strap, or a metal bracelet for an additional price. Clearly we have the blue strap here. It’s a good quality strap with nice edge painting, padding, etc. The faux croc embossing gets the illusion across, though at the price of these watches, I would have preferred genuine crocodile. My one issue with the strap is that the blue was a bit bright for me, coming across as somewhat synthetic (not that there are blue crocodiles… I think). The strap also features C Ward’s Bader deployant, which is my favorite deployant by miles. It has a very elegant clasp with nice finishing, works very well and is simply more comfortable than standard ones (you can see it better in video).

 

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On the wrist, the watch wears very well. The 40mm case has well tuned proportions, making it fit the wrist comfortably and look right. I recall the 43mm case wearing better than expected too, thanks to the proportions, but everything that was ok there, is great here. This is a watch you could easily wear all day comfortably. With the Marine Chronometer style, you also expect the watch to be a bit larger than a dress watch. In fact, 40mm is smaller than most, so it’s a nice balanced take on the concept.

It looks great too. It’s clean and reserved, but nevertheless has a lot of presence. It’s bold and masculine in a pleasant, not over-the-top or trying too hard kind of way. What’s great about Marine Chronometers is that they are fairly versatile watches. They are formal enough for the office or to be worn with a suit, despite their size, yet don’t look odd with more casual attire either.

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Conclusion

The Christopher Ward C9 5-Day SS Chronometer is probably my favorite watch from the brand. The horological stars aligned when they made this, as it works aesthetically, but also conceptually. It’s a polished take on the Marine Chronometer with a very well executed case, a well-balanced and traditional dial and a superb in-house caliber for a very fair price. It’s also a Marine Chronometer that is actually a Chronometer! If you’re a fan of the style, what more can you ask for? It was also smart of them to use the SH21 in a style that differs from the other C9’s, which while attractive to some, others didn’t find appealing. This watch has a classic appeal that will likely please a wider crowd.

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More over, it’s just a great value. Sure, $1,780 isn’t cheap, but for what you are getting, it’s a bargain. A 5-day in-house chronometer is not something that is typically associated with watches under $5k, let alone under $2k. It’s a lot of watch, and while the brand’s name might not date back 100 years, and they aren’t plastered on bus stops on Madison avenue, you are getting a great watch you can enjoy for a long time. They also back everything with a robust guarantee, which is also a rarity.

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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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15 responses to “Christopher Ward C9 5-Day SS Chronometer Review”

  1. TrevorXM says:

    When you see a watch like this at this price point with an in house five day chronometer movement, executed this well, you realize how much pure profit there is built into the pricing of many similar watches from the big names. Sure, the finishing may be more elaborate or there might be a small premium on materials, but they become harder and harder to justify with each extra grand added to the price.

    • Korz says:

      Hardly. Were this piece from a larger brand and priced a bit higher, you’d see transferred indexes, perhaps hand-applied as well.

      You’d also see better finishing on the movement, with better technology. Omega, as an example, offers in-house movement with much more technology, better finish, and a more robust watch. Yes, their entry level in-house watch is roughly three times the price of this watch, but it also is at least three times the watch when you’re talking about finish, and the comparison of customer service is laughable. I doubt that CWard offers boutiques to try on their watches all over the world, where you can sip champagne or espresso while trying the watch of your choice on.

      All of these things factor into the buying experience and cost involved in the watch. So yes, while you can get a COSC chronometer (which many other companies have stricter regulations, btw) for cheaper in this watch, there are definitely other considerations that you can get for your money.

  2. mandimemike says:

    Great write up, and IMHO the pick of the brand’s current offering. Interesting to see C.W. break from tradition regarding the Roman numeral IV rather than IIII. Makes me wonder if Harrison did the same? (fun research project!) Regarding the date window, in this case it makes sense as I could see myself making a mental note with it when to wind it next. Really, my only suggestion is to reduce the brand font size. This would imbue the watch with a sense of quite confidence reflecting it’s accomplished mechanics and classic aesthetics.

    • TrevorXM says:

      I agree with you that a reduction in the size of the branding (frankly, half-size) would really elevate this watch. There’s a typo, but you mean quiet confidence, and you’re right. I am reminded of Patek and the mistake they made in enlarging their logo and how it seems to cheapen their watches. I also agree that the use of proper Roman numerals is interesting and I think it’s much better. The incorrect ones for some kind of sketchy “aesthetic reason” just doesn’t fly when you look at this watch.

    • somethingnottaken says:

      I prefere IV over IIII. If your going to use IIII instead of IV, why not use IIIIIIIIIIII in place of XII?

      • steve Toomey says:

        IIII was used over IV to balance the dial traditionally I believe. Its to mirror the heavy type of VIII on the opposite side of the dial

        • somethingnottaken says:

          I’ve also read somewhere that it was to avoid confusion between IV (4) and VI (6)

  3. David Tyne says:

    Lose the date and replace with a power reserve indicator. Orient did just that, in house, with the Monarch and at a fraction of the price.

    • Nelson says:

      With the 120 power reserve, this watch is a bargain. I think Orient Monarch just has around 40 hours reserve so the price is much cheaper. I also think this Christopher Ward looks much more elegant. Just the position of the date aperture is a bit annoying.

      • David Tyne says:

        I agree it is a good looking watch, looks very much like my late father’s Services pocket watch, but for me I can do without the fiddly tedium of changing the date every 2 months.

  4. NotoriousAPP says:

    Love it. Could do without the date on thus one but at least the date window looks big enough.

  5. Никита says:

    $1,780 isn’t cheap, but the watch represents great value. 120 hours power reserve, COSC certified in-house chronometer – simply WOW! However, I find Stowa Marine more elegant and attractive from the front:

  6. steve Toomey says:

    So torn between this and the Nomos Tangente 38 for my next watch.

    • Korz says:

      The NOMOS is leagues ahead of this watch. Who knows if CWard will even be around in a decade to service this watch; NOMOS has the history to stand behind their creations.

  7. Porter Hudson says:

    Beautiful watch design with a logo that screams for a redesign and reduction in size on the dial. The Chr. abbreviation is silly and pretentious. Looks like the typesetter underestimated the space and shrugged it off with a period. Slapping it on this elegant design is like a bumper sticker on a Bentley.